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Lawmakers should no longer serve on Ethics Commission

Lawmakers, lobbyists and political party leaders would no longer be allowed to serve on Illinois’ Legislative Ethics Commission, under legislation being sponsored by Senator Tim Bivins.

Senate Bill 2263 updates existing law to stipulate that appointees to the Legislative Ethics Commission can’t be members of the General Assembly, registered lobbyists, or political party leaders.

“In light of recent numerous complaints and allegations, I believe the prudent thing to do is make the Legislative Ethics Commission as independent as possible,” Bivins said. “If we are to attempt to restore trust in the system, then we need to change the appearance of legislators sitting in judgment over other legislators. This is the same standard that many legislators have demanded be applied to law enforcement.”

Senator Bivins says current law allows lawmakers to serve on the Legislative Ethics Commission. Potential appointees are currently only barred from serving if they:

·         have been convicted of a felony;

·         have lobbied in the last 12 months;

·         are related to the person appointing them; or

·         are a State officer or employee.

Senate Bill 2263 updates the membership requirements to stipulate that potential appointees are not eligible to serve on the Legislative Ethics Commission if they:

·         have been a State officer, State employee, or an employee or member of the General Assembly in the last 10 years;

·         have been a registered lobbyist in the last 10 years;

·         hold a partisan elected or political party office, or are an officer or employee of a political committee or political campaign;

·         have been convicted of a felony; or

·         are related to the person appointing them.

Recent allegations of sexual harassment and improper behavior in and around the Illinois Statehouse spurred legislative action and renewed calls for the appointment and confirmation of a Legislative Inspector General, a post that had sat empty since 2015. On Nov. 4, Julie Porter, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed to be a new temporary Legislative Inspector General.

Late last month, legislative leaders called for yearly comprehensive sexual harassment training for legislators, staff and lobbyists. That legislative proposal focuses on defining sexual harassment, outlining how to report allegations of sexual harassment, and explaining the consequences of violating the prohibition on sexual harassment and for filing a false report. That measure would specifically add a prohibition on sexual harassment to the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and the Lobbyist Registration Act.

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