This editorial was published in Bloomington Pantagraph.
Passing a bill denoted as “ethics reform” is a feel-good maneuver. Legislators can congratulate themselves for keeping their house clean. Voters can be proud of themselves for voting for people who are honorable and principled.
The ethics legislation OK’d by Illinois has some positives. But as happens all too often, it stops short of adding significant reforms that need to be made.
The reform bans some legislator-lobbyists, and requires disclosure of lobbying consultants.
But Illinois still doesn’t have independent oversight of the legislature.
Former lawmakers are banned from lobbying for six months, and there’s no waiting period at all for ex-legislators lobbying a new General Assembly. A dozen states have prohibitions of two years, and 36 states have prohibitions of at least a year.
After months of talk about how things are going to be different now, the Illinois legislature has shown it’s not particularly interested in making things significantly different. Any optimism about change has been crushed by decisions made in the final weeks of the legislative session. Any positive thoughts about change have dissolved into another last-minute crush of bills voted on even as they had no opportunity of being properly reviewed and vetted.
Some lawmakers have said the reforms are just beginning. The ongoing series of reversals from campaign pledges gives us skepticism, as does the Democrats’ tone-deaf ignorance of voting results from the 2020 state elections, specifically the overwhelming rejection of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “fair tax.”
Reforms were also promised in the aftermath of the governorships of George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. We hope otherwise, but can’t help but suspect the more things change, the more they’ll remain the same.