State Representatives Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis), who serve on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, offered their reaction to a press conference held by Illinois State Senate and House Democrats today touting a “new” package of ethics reform legislation.
The legislative fixes suggested by Senate and House Democrats include multiple ideas already introduced and sponsored by House Republican Caucus members. These include legislative fixes under three categories: lobbying reform, legislative reform, and leadership reform. Specific items include:
- No legislator lobbyists
- Revolving door prohibitions
- Clearer definitions of “lobbyist”
- Fuller disclosure of outside income for legislators
- Establishing an official censure process
- Strengthening the office of the legislative inspector general
- Ending the exemption for GA Employees from State Human Rights Act
- Establishing term limits for legislative leaders
- Allowing for temporary removal of leaders from leadership positions or committee chairs if they are indicted
“Senator Manar actually said the Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying Reform is working hard, when in truth, we haven’t met since March 5th! We haven’t met in person and we haven’t met on Zoom. Other state committees, commissions and panels have met multiple times since early March, but the Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying Reform has not. We did not finalize our work and we did not finalize our report,” said Rep. Wehrli. “Today’s press conference was completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. Every House member that took part in today’s press conference voted to put Mike Madigan in the Speaker’s chair and voted to accept his Rules of his House. While I applaud those who went on the record again today saying the Speaker should resign, this is mere political theater and window dressing. Until these members demand that the Governor call a special session to address ethics legislation and take real steps to remove Mike Madigan as Speaker, this is all just political cover.”
State Rep. Patrick Windhorst says he led an effort to send a letter to Ethics Commission Co-Chairs Senator Elgie Sims and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats.
“I think Rep. Wehrli and I were well ahead of our colleagues in asking for the Ethics Commission to resume its work. We haven’t met since March,” Windhorst said. “Many of the legislative fixes proposed by House and Senate Democrats today have been introduced in bill form since November 2019. I just wonder where they have been. Corruption in Springfield has been rampant, and the House Speaker is implicated in a serious scheme involving bribery for taking official action. I believe we should return to Springfield in a Special Session to address the state’s serious plague of public corruption.”
Rep. Wehrli and Rep. Windhorst joined State Senator John Curran and State Senator Dan McConchie sent a letter requesting the resumption of meetings of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform on July 24 and have not received a response.
On July 24, the Republican members of the General Assembly serving on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform issued a letter to the co-chairs of the Commission requesting to meet to finish its work and finalize its report that was due at the end of March.
The contents of the letter are below:
July 24, 2020
House Majority Leader Greg Harris
1967 W. Montrose
Chicago, IL 60613
State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr.
8233 S. Princeton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60620
Dear Co-chair Harris and Co-chair Sims,
The Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying Reform has not met since March 5. While none of us could have imagined the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic would limit our ability to conduct state business in person these last few months, we have all found creative ways to work around the risks associated with COVID-19.
Some state panels are now meeting in person, including the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), with proper precautions in place, and many other groups are utilizing online apps like Zoom to conduct business. In fact, many groups have been meeting via Zoom throughout the entirety of the health pandemic. There is no reason why the Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying Reform cannot complete its work.
Recent news only highlights the importance of our collective work to establish better ethical standards for those elected to serve the public. This most recent breach of ethics involving ComEd and the Speaker of the House requires our immediate attention.
As the Republican members of the General Assembly serving on the commission, we are formally requesting that you reconvene the Joint Commission on Lobbying & Ethics Reform, either in person or through an online meeting service, within 30 days of the date of this letter, to complete our final report, including policy recommendations for comprehensive ethics reform.
Our group was doing good work prior to the stay-home order associated with the COVID-19 response. We must complete our work and follow through with several legislative remedies to combat the corruption that has stained our state and continues to erode the public’s confidence in its government. The blanket of mistrust in state government will only be lifted when policies are put in place that force elected officials to meet the highest levels of conduct.
State Senator Dan McConchie
State Senator John Curran
State Rep. Grant Wehrli
State Rep. Patrick Windhorst