CHICAGO – With a month left before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today urged lawmakers to pass ethics reform legislation that she drafted with government watchdog groups. Senate Bill 1361, sponsored by Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), is currently awaiting Senate passage.
“In these remaining weeks of session, members of the legislature are continuing to address a number of important challenges; however, they cannot allow ethics reform to fall to the wayside,” Simon said during a public policy luncheon at the City Club of Chicago. “I thank Sen. Kotowski for his leadership on this important transparency bill, and I look forward to continuing to work with his colleagues to send this legislation to the House.”
SB 1361 proposes a revised disclosure form, known as a Statement of Economic Interests, which must be filed with the secretary of state’s office or postmarked annually by May 1. The revised form would require filers to list outside sources of income, lobbyist relationships and loans made or accepted on terms not available to the general public, for the first time. It also closes loopholes that allowed filers to answer “not applicable” to almost all of the questions on the current version of the form introduced 40 years ago.
Simon said the goal of the new form is to help Illinois residents determine if elected officials, high-ranking employees and candidates have conflicts of interest. The new form will also be easier for filers to complete thanks to the plain-language questions, definitions of terms and clear connections to information found on tax returns and investment statements.
“Residents of Illinois should not have to wait any longer to find out whether their elected officials are working in the public’s interest or their own self interest,” Simon said. “I urge lawmakers to do the right thing by sending this legislation to the governor’s desk.”
The Illinois Constitution and Illinois Governmental Ethics Act require elected officials, high-ranking government employees, and political candidates to complete a Statement of Economic Interests each May. State government workers file with the Secretary of State, while workers for local units of government file with their county clerk. The forms are supposed to expose existing or potential conflicts of interest, but the documents use such vague and cumbersome language that the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has called them “woefully inadequate” and “a waste of paper.”
Last month, Simon and members of her senior staff released an annual financial disclosure form that goes above and beyond what is required in the state’s Statement of Economic Interests. Simon’s staff form is modeled after those used by federal officers and notes income greater than $200, investments and debts.
This is the third year that Simon and her staff have released their detailed financial statements. Find the documents here.