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SPRINGFIELD—Members of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform heard feedback from witnesses on rules for state officials and employees in an effort to determine best practices and close any possible loopholes.

“We must address the crisis of confidence in our government by holding state leaders and employees to the highest of standards,” said State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago), who co-chairs the commission. “That includes, reviewing the rules and seeking input to find solutions which will hold bad actors who betray the public’s trust accountable.”

At the hearing, witnesses from the Secretary of State’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, Comptroller’s Office, Common Cause, Change Illinois, the Better Government Association and other advocacy groups testified.

The Executive Inspector General and Legislative Inspector’s General also participated in the hearing. The Executive Inspector General is an independent state agency that investigates misconduct of the executive branch and state agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Children and Family Services and Department of Agriculture. The Legislative Inspector’s General investigates complaints against members of the General Assembly and their employees.

The majority of the witnesses either must abide by the State Officials and Employee Ethics Act, or are responsible for enforcing it. For that reason, their input is crucial to bring light to any possible issues with the current ethics guidelines.

“It must be made known that individuals serving the state in any capacity will face consequences for breaking our ethics code,” said State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), co-chair of the commission. “To truly restore the public’s faith in government, they need to know we are tightening our ethics and disclosure laws, including tougher enforcement.”

Category: Press Releases

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Members of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform sought input on what could have been done to prevent recent high-profile conflicts of interest and what more must be done to hold lawmakers accountable at a hearing Thursday.

“We’re here to make systemic change, close loopholes, and root out opportunities for corrupt behavior that have been identified in recent media reports and investigations,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, who co-chairs the commission. “Yesterday, the governor talked about restoring public trust and cleaning up government. He specifically talked about dealing with disclosures of conflicts of interest, revolving door laws, and limitations on lobbying. Looking around the room as the governor talked, I was happy to see he got a rousing ovation for these three items. From the House, from the Senate, from Democrats, from Republicans. That’s a very good sign for our work. But these proposals are only as good as their details, and it is our job to fill in those details.”

Brad Cole of the Illinois Municipal League and former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon encouraged members to update and improve the financial interest disclosures legislators are currently required to file. Cole reiterated the need for more complete lobbyist disclosures, including disclosure of lobbyists being paid to influence local governments. Aside from state government, only a handful of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government have any kind of disclosure requirements for those seeking to influence decision-making by public officials.

“People deserve to know that their lawmakers are voting in their communities’ best interests, not in their own interest,” said Sen. Elgie Sims, co-chair of the commission. “We look forward to continuing to engage with experts and stakeholders in these critical discussions.”

Category: Press Releases

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SPRINGFIELD—State Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr. (D-Chicago) released the following statement following the governor’s State of the State address on Wednesday:

“I am pleased that the governor discussed the steps he would like to take to change the culture in Springfield. As co-chair of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying reform, I too am committed to doing the work necessary to restore the trust of the people of Illinois.

"We have to hold accountable those members who engage in unethical behavior. Rooting out corruption under the dome is essential to gaining the confidence of our constituents.

"Few things are more important than the members of our community knowing that the leaders they elected are truly working in their best interests. I commend the governor on his pledge to restore faith in government, and I look forward to working with him on ethics reform in the future.”

Category: Press Releases

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CHICAGO—A plan to give students time off to vote was signed into law on Wednesday.

State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) led efforts to pass legislation, which allows students to vote during school hours. This comes after push back from school administrators during a “March to the Polls.” Students from those schools rallied to pass the new law out of committee last year, and some were there to see it signed into law.

“I was proud to stand with the same students who fought for this bill’s passage as it is signed into law today,” Sims said. “It is crucial that voting is accessible to everyone, including our students. Their voices are just as important as state workers’, who already have time off to vote. And of course, I encourage private employers to extend this allowance to their employees wherever possible.”

Senate Bill 1970 amends the Election Code to allow students who are 18 or older to leave school for up to two hours to vote in a primary, general or any other election in the state that requires a popular vote.

The school can decide which hours students can be absent to vote.

The plan is modeled after current rules for employers and employees.

“Together we are breaking down a barrier that has long made it difficult for our young people to make their voices heard during elections,” Sims said. “I hope this will excite students throughout the state and encourage them to take their civic duty as voters seriously.”

The new law will be effective on June 1, 2020.

Category: Press Releases

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