CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed into law the toughest, most comprehensive ethics reform package in the state’s history. At a ceremony in Chicago’s Bilandic State Office Building, the Governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Dan Hynes, legislative leaders, the bill’s sponsors and representatives from good government organizations.
“Today, I am signing a bill into law that finally gives Illinois revolutionary ethics reform,” Blagojevich said. “We are not just tinkering at the edges, tweaking here and tightening there. Today, we are reestablishing the primacy of principle over politics, and in Illinois, that is real change. We are renewing the promise of public service. And I hope it’s a step in the on-going process of giving people a reason to start believing in their government again.
“Getting here was not easy. It took nearly a year of hard work. It took two ethics bills. It took cooperation from all four legislative caucuses, and from virtually every part of the Executive Branch of government. It couldn’t have happened without the efforts of good government advocates, who through the years, have been lonely voices in the wilderness – and who have fought for change and finally made it happen.”
The Governor signed Senate Bill 702, which was sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Susan Garrett and in the House by Speaker Michael Madigan and Minority Leader Tom Cross, and overwhelmingly passed by the legislature during the recently concluded fall veto session. It contains comprehensive reforms to supplement changes contained in the original ethics bill passed in the spring and approved in late November. Taken together, the ethics package provides more definitive rules regarding what constitutes improper use of state time and resources, improves ethics training and reporting procedures, and establishes strong enforcement mechanisms to ensure ethics rules are followed.
The state ethics package signed by the Governor will immediately:
STRENGTHEN ETHICS RULES FOR EMPLOYEES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS
- Require ethics training for all state employees.
- Ban taxpayer-funded public service announcements, newspaper or magazine ads, bumper stickers, billboards, buttons, magnets and stickers that feature the image, voice or name of constitutional officers or members of the General Assembly.
- Close the “revolving door” in state government by prohibiting state workers from leaving government employment and immediately accepting jobs with companies that they regulated or were involved with in awarding state contracts worth more than $25,000. The prohibition lasts for one year after an employee leaves the state payroll.
- Strengthen the Gift Ban Act by removing numerous exemptions, including those for golf and tennis, and by limiting lobbyist spending on food and drinks to $75 per state employee or official per day.
- Boost the integrity of the state’s boards and commissions by prohibiting lobbyists and individuals with a personal financial interest in state contracts from serving on boards or commissions.
- Improve government transparency by requiring unpaid advisors serving on behalf of constitutional officers to file Statements of Economic Interest, and requiring disclosure of all ex-parte communications involving state regulators and licensing agents.
- Strengthen prohibition against using state employees for political work, and bans accepting or making political contributions on state property.
EXECUTIVE BRANCH ENFORCEMENT
- Establish a nine-member Executive Ethics Commission to review and determine appropriate action in cases brought forward by the executive inspectors general and represented by the Attorney General. The Governor appoints five members, each of the other four constitutional officers appoints one; no more than five may be from the same political party. Commission members cannot be state government employees, and will receive the same part-time salary rate as members of the State Board of Elections (set by the Compensation Review Board).
- Require each constitutional officer to appoint an executive inspector general (EIG) to review complaints of corruption or wrongdoing within each respective office. EIGs will be empowered with subpoena authority and will report to the independent ethics commission as well as the constitutional officer who appoints them. Previously, only the Governor, Treasurer and Secretary of State had inspectors general, and only the Secretary of State’s inspector had subpoena power.
- Protect those who report wrongdoing from retaliation by supervisors.
- Establish stiff penalties – including Class A misdemeanor charges, possible dismissal and tough fines – for those found guilty of impropriety by the ethics commission.
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH ENFORCEMENT
- Establish an eight-member Legislative Ethics Commission to review cases of wrongdoing within the legislative branch. Each legislative leader appoints two members.
- Creates the position of Legislative Inspector General, who will be nominated by the ethics commission and confirmed by the General Assembly.
“Our determination to change a system of corruption, and a culture of cynicism, will require constant struggle,” Blagojevich said. “It may meet with some setbacks along the way. But in the final analysis, if we are vigilant, and if we value honesty, reward integrity, respect the taxpayers, and start to treat their money as we treat our own, we can change a culture of corruption, cynicism, and misplaced priorities, and replace it with a government dedicated to helping people build better lives.”