Monday, October 15, 2007

Ethics Delayed, Ethics Denied

Carol Marin did a nice job on Sunday in shining a new light on a piece of legislation that I introduced, and then passed out of the House on April 25th.

She sums it up pretty well, so here you go:
It's Day 172 of a hostage drama playing out in Springfield. You may not have been aware of it given all the other crises looming on the landscape down there.

The hostage in question is House Bill 1. It's a straightforward piece of legislation. A simple declaration that would make "pay-to-play" politics illegal in Illinois.

HB1 would throw an obstacle in the path of that kind of politics. It would require anyone who bids on a state contract of more than $10,000 to disclose whether they've given campaign contributions in the last couple of years to the public official handing out the contract.

It would stop businesses that hold more than $25,000 in state contracts from making political contributions to the state officeholder with whom they made a contract deal...

It passed the House 116-0. And in the Senate, 46 of the 59 members are co-sponsors.

Free HB1. Free it now.

Those who pay attention to Springfield politics are well-versed in what should be known as the 'Springfield Shuffle', the art of trying to bottle up ethics legislation by saying something along the lines of 'it doesn't go far enough' or 'we don't have time to deal with it' or 'we have a better idea'. And sure enough, that's the dance being done with this bill.

Never mind that every major paper in the state supports HB1, that it passed the House unanimously, that 4 out of every 5 Senators are co-sponsors of the bill, or that it has likely been the biggest campaign issue in the state for years.

Never mind that it would do wonders to not only to bolster public confidence in state government, but would actually improve the honesty and integrity of a state government that could drastically use the help about now.

The bill remains bottled up in the Senate.

Earlier this summer, the Governor called a special session to demand that the Speaker call a gun bill in the House, even though the bill's own House sponsor didn't want the bill called because the votes weren't there to pass it. The Governor's position was that it was positively un-American to bottle up a bill in one chamber that was passed by the other.

At a budget meeting at the Governor's Mansion, I brought up the untenable nature of the Governor's argument to him as it related to not pushing for Sen. Jones to call HB1. The Governor's reply? Essentially, 'it doesn't go far enough', 'we don't have time to deal with it', and 'we have a better idea'. This from the office that promised to 'rock the system' of state campaign laws over two years ago.

I'm far from naive, but I truly find it difficult to fathom that there is still a belief that the political damage that results from refusing to call HB1 and end pay-to-play politics in Illinois is justified by the fundraising permitted in its absence.

Yet here we are 173 days later.

And counting.


At October 14, 2007 at 11:39 PM, Anonymous John said...

I also don't think HB1 goes far enough.

Not that it isn't a good start...

But my position is that you guys are going to get only 1 shot at this thing. Make it be something that goes all the way.

Kinda like the Gov's health care plan. Everyone wants to go part way, half way. I say - the lobbyist are only going to let you get one shot at it. Go all the way, so I commended him for that.

I also commend the HB750 folks - for going for the big bite of the apple.

At October 15, 2007 at 9:10 AM, Blogger fedup dem said...

I regret to inform you that those comments of the Governor's are further evidence that he is losing touch with reality. I fear we are approaching the point where for sake of the people of the entire state, certain measures will have to be initiated. I trust that you are well-versed enough in the provisions of the Illinois Constitution to know what I am talking about.

At October 15, 2007 at 9:21 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

I respectfully disagree with John though I'm with him on health care -- with Mike Madigan in the house the tougher bill will be killed out of spite (though Jones could offer to bring it to a vote if Madigan reciprocates).

Marin's good article left me with a question: does the Illinois Senate have a discharge mechanism, a la the U.S. senate? Then we could press our individual senators to do more than just "support" the bill.

At October 15, 2007 at 9:50 AM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the sage words of a reader who e-mailed me essentially the following:

"Maybe we can use the moment of silence to pray for the passage of HB1"

Be funnier if it wasn't so sad.

There is no rational explanation for the actions + inactions of the General Assembly this year.

At October 16, 2007 at 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets see too much power in one persons hands maybe before we pass house bill no 1 we need to pass a bill that does not allow an Emil Jones to bottle up good legislation. How would that work?

God speed to house bill #1 wether it goes far enough or not.

thanks for the good work John.



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