Ethics and Lobbying Reform

In the wake of federal indictments and raids, and elected official resignations, a special legislative panel heard testimony during the week addressing ethics and lobbying legal loopholes.

Representatives from local governments and good-government organizations spent nearly four hours meeting with the bipartisan Senate and House Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform on January 15.

The witnesses testified about the existing ethics rules and perceived shortcomings in state law.  Arguments were made for closing the so-called “revolving door” loophole that allows elected officials to immediately begin lobbying after leaving office.  Illinois is one of a handful of states that allow such activity. 

Witnesses also noted that reforming ethics and lobbying rules should include guidelines allowing for the greatest transparency for citizens.  They also said while there are legitimate “lobbying” efforts as part of an elected official’s normal duties, getting paid to lobby while holding office crosses the line and should be prohibited.  Many local governments, including the City of Chicago, have strengthened ethics rules in recent years, including prohibitions against paid lobbying by current office holders and instituting waiting periods to combat “revolving door” activity.

Since the start of the 101st General Assembly a year ago, more than a dozen ethics/lobbying reform measures have been introduced, including four separate bills in the New Year.  The Senate and House Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform was created in the wake of several federal raids, indictments, and ongoing investigations.  Two state legislators have since resigned. 

The panel was created during the fall Veto Session.  The Commission is empowered to issue periodic reports on its activities, but is tasked with presenting a final report on its review and recommendations by March 31 to the General Assembly, Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, and Secretary of State.

January: Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January has been designated as Human Trafficking Awareness month in Illinois to promote awareness of and to combat the exploitation of hundreds of Illinois children each year.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) investigated 225 allegations of human trafficking of children in Fiscal Year 2019.

In 2018, a task force of Illinois legislators issued a report on the crisis stating: “According to a 2018 Human Trafficking Statistical Summary published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Adams School of Social Work, the top venues for sex trafficking in Illinois were hotels, residence-based commercial sex, illicit massage businesses, escort services, and online ads.  The top venues for labor trafficking were traveling sales crews, domestic work, agriculture, retail, and begging rings.  Between December 2007 and December 2017, 1,148 human trafficking cases, consisting of 2,832 identified trafficked persons and survivors in Illinois, were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.”

DCFS says there are signs or indicators of possible child trafficking, which include children who:

Have an adult control them by speaking for them;
• Seem out of place given the time of day or night;
• Look disheveled or dressed in clothes that they could not afford to buy;
• Show signs of physical abuse such as bruising or red marks;
• Do not possess any form of identification;
• Perform inappropriate work for their age and are not being compensated.

The Illinois DCFS hotline to report child abuse and neglect, including suspected trafficking, is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).  The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline is 1-888-373-7888.

Illinois State Police are hiring

The Illinois State Police (ISP) have extended the application period for the next Cadet class until January 31.

Candidates who successfully complete the Recruitment Examination will be invited to participate in a mandatory Physical Fitness Inventory Test in late March, with training to begin this summer.  Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college course work.  Prospective candidates can apply online at IllinoisTrooper.com.

Last summer, ISP reinstituted its “Fast Track” program, which offers current certified police officers the opportunity to join the ISP following an accelerated 13-week training program.  The Fast Track Cadet Class is expected to begin this spring.