Senate Week in Review: January 24-28, 2022

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Republicans are serious about meaningful ethics reform and have outlined a series of common-sense reforms that would improve ethical standards and clean up state government from a variety of angles.

Meanwhile, a personal finance website again ranked Illinois near the bottom of the list of good places to retire.

Senate Republicans Unveil 2022 Ethics Package

Senate Republicans are once again pushing for tougher ethics reforms that will hold politicians more accountable and better equip officials to investigate public corruption.

On Jan. 27, they announced several much-needed and long-overdue reforms to help restore Illinoisans’ faith in their state government. State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) is cosponsoring the reforms, which were filed as Senate Bill 3636.

Stewart says Senate Bill 3636 will help ensure that lawmakers are looking out for their constituents rather than special interests, and that it will give prosecutors and the Attorney General enhanced tools to effectively investigate and prosecute public officials who break the law.

Specifically, Senate Bill 3636:

  • Prohibits a General Assembly member, their spouse, or any immediate family member from lobbying as long as the individual is a member of the General Assembly.
  • Prohibits a legislator during their term of office from negotiating employment with a lobbying firm (such as a job after their term of office), if that firm lobbies the General Assembly.
  • Strengthens the revolving door for General Assembly members to prohibit them from lobbying for 12 months after leaving office (currently 6 months).
  • Limits a lobbyist’s political activity so that anyone who is a lobbyist cannot be an officer for a candidate’s political committee or be a candidate supported by a political action committee.
  • Expands the authority of a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict offenses involving the corruption of a public official, to include theft, fraud, extortion, or a violation of the official misconduct and public contracts articles of the criminal code of 2012.
  • Expands Illinois’ R.I.C.O. law to include bribery, official misconduct, solicitation of misconduct, and legislative misconduct.

The announcement of Senate Bill 3636 comes on the heels of the resignation of former Legislative Inspector General (LIG) Carol Pope. Currently, that position remains vacant after Democrat members of the Legislative Ethics Commission failed to accept the recommended candidate brought forward by an independent search committee and instead want to hand pick their own candidate.

On Jan. 6, following Pope’s resignation, Senate Republicans announced Senate Bill 3030, which would give the LIG more power to investigate potential corruption.

Neither of the two bills – Senate Bill 3030 or Senate Bill 3636 – have been released from the Senate’s Assignments Committee.

Illinois Ranked Near the Bottom for Best Places to Retire

In the most recent rankings by WalletHub, Illinois was ranked 45th in the country in a study of the best places to retire. Forty-seven different indicators related to retirement-friendliness were considered, including quality of life, affordability, and healthcare access.

In the taxpayer ranking, Illinois came in dead last, and in the ranking for health care facilities per capita, Illinois came in 48th.

According to the study, only Oklahoma, Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, and New Jersey ranked lower than Illinois overall. Florida, Virginia, and Colorado were ranked number one, two, and three in the study.

Senators Continue to Collect ‘Valentines for Seniors’

In 2021, members of the Senate Republican Caucus collected and distributed more than 45,000 Valentines statewide for senior citizens living in nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, and in long-term care settings.

Stewart is asking students from public and private schools, church groups, Scouting organizations and other groups to create homemade cards that will be delivered to assisted living centers, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities across the state.

Cards, poems, and other well-wishes will be collected between now and Feb. 7 at Stewart’s 45th District office, located at 50 W. Douglas St., Suite 1001, in Freeport. Cards can be delivered in person or also mailed to the district office. Call 815-284-0045 for more information.

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