State lawmakers out of Illinois, nation during break

State lawmakers out of Illinois, nation during break

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SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Illinois legislature are collecting some last-minute frequent flier miles before they return to the Capitol in two weeks.

From House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, some lawmakers are either out of their offices for personal business or on vacation as the clock ticks down on the start of the Oct. 22 fall veto session.

Information about the various voyages is sparse.

“He is in Italy at his own expense,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said when asked of his boss’s whereabouts.

Brown wouldn’t say whether the visit is a personal vacation or some kind of legislative function.

“I don’t have any knowledge that it’s a function,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t go into any explanation.”

Accompanying Madigan is powerhouse lobbyist Mike McClain, a Quincy Democrat who once served as House majority leader. Among his clients are ComEd, Anheuser-Busch, Walgreens and Comcast.

Bradley’s district office manager Jim Kirkpatrick said he was not authorized to discuss the whereabouts of the Southern Illinois lawmaker. He added that he had no way of reaching Bradley to pass along a message.

“He left his phone here,” Kirkpatrick said.

It is not uncommon for some lawmakers to head out of state or overseas when they are not in session in Springfield.

Since adjourning for the summer in June, dozens of members of the General Assembly have been in Turkey, China and Italy.

A number of lawmakers went to Italy earlier this year. Among them was state Sen. Gary Forby. Campaign records show the Democrat from Benton made a deposit of $600 as part of the voyage.

State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, contributed $1,100 out of his campaign fund for the trip to Sicily, which he described as an educational trade mission that could someday pay dividends for Illinois.

The group met with mayors from seven towns, as well as the agriculture minister and officials from the art and manufacturing sectors.

“They have a lot of the same problems we do,” Mautino said, pointing to the state’s fiscal and employee pension woes.

He said a group of Italian agriculture officials could be coming to Southern Illinois in the near future to view the region’s burgeoning winery scene.

A group of lawmakers also went to Turkey this summer. Campaign records, for example, show state Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton, purchased a $1,434 airline ticket in June for a trip to the country.

Voters often don’t learn about the trips until after they are over. When Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno was among a number of lawmakers who went to China in July, a spokeswoman was reluctant to discuss the trip until the group returned.

The program was a bipartisan cultural education mission hosted by the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs.

The globetrotting is not limited to legislators.

Unlike his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, Gov. Pat Quinn has made a number of oversees trips, including visits to Israel, China, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Spain and Brazil.

Mautino stressed there was no state money involved on this summer’s Sicily trip.

“Times like these, it wouldn’t be wise to use state funds,” Mautino said.

kurt.erickson@lee.net

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