CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today introduced a package of ethic reforms that would force elected officials in Illinois to comply with ethics requirements that would be among the most stringent in the nation. The reforms include everything from changing the way legislative pay raises are issued to strengthening campaign contribution laws.
“I have waited more than three years to get the Illinois General Assembly to send me a vehicle that I could act on that would reform a system that takes care of itself at the expense of the people,” Governor Blagojevich said. “We are long overdue for laws that place restrictions on campaign contributions, end the tradition of legislator double dipping, shine a light on legislative pay raises and strengthen disclosure laws.”
“In order to achieve real change, ethic reforms must be applied across the board to include all state elected officials,” the Governor continued.
The reform package includes an Executive Order that establishes strict guidelines on companies that do business with the State. The Governor’s order prohibits campaign contributions from businesses, their affiliates and affiliated persons, with state contracts totaling more than $50,000, to state constitutional officers and members of the General Assembly or any candidate for those offices. The Executive Order ensures implementation of ethics reforms even if the General Assembly fails to take further action.
State procurement bidders will certify compliance with the Executive Order, and the Inspector General will maintain oversight.
Along with the Executive Order, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2009, Governor Blagojevich will use his amendatory veto power to improve House Bill 824 with a number of ethic reforms. Among the changes:
· Requires legislators to affirmatively accept pay raises: Unlike the current system, legislative pay raises would have to be passed by both houses in order to take effect.
· Bans double-dippers: Outside employment by legislators with any unit of state, county or municipal government would be prohibited. Exceptions are provided for teachers, school counselors, university instructors, police officers, firefighters and local elected officials).
· Full lobbying disclosure: Lawmakers and their spouses must disclose lobbying activity for boards, commissions or units of local government. Legislators would be required to disclose their client, who they lobbied, and their fees.
The Governor’s action today is the latest effort by Blagojevich to bring transparency to State government. The Governor passed the most comprehensive ethics reform package in Illinois history in 2003.
Those reforms included creating an independent inspector general, establishing an Ethics Hotline, mandating ethics training for all state employees, banning taxpayer-funded advertisements featuring constitutional officers or members of the General Assembly and keeping state workers from leaving government and immediately accepting jobs with companies that they regulated or helped award state contracts.