On the final day of the fall session last week, both the House and Senate passed a last-minute package of ethics reforms. A measure creating a task force to research what kinds of other ethics reforms are needed to be passed with minority Republicans opposing the move in the Senate. A package of bills enhances lobbyist regulations, economic disclosure and creates a central database with information on such activities. Representative Dan Swanson says with regards to ethics reform, it’s a step forward – and possibly two steps back. “I think in the past spring session, and then coming down for veto session, we had over thirty pieces of legislation – and we proposed to clean up some of the ethics (reforms),” Swanson told WGIL. “Right now, those of us in office are getting a bad rap because of those that are corrupt. We saw two people in the Senate who were found to have some corruption charges and now we’ve got one over in the House. It’s time we cleaned up our act.” Ethics reforms included changes to the Economic Interest Form and a task force to review ethics. The task force will be made up of appointments from the majority and minority leaders from both chambers and the governor.
Last week the Illinois House also passed a bill to consolidate Illinois’ 649 suburban and downstate police and fire pension funds into two funds as part of an effort to maximize investment returns. Both of Galesburg’s Republican Representatives, Swanson and Norine Hammond were opposed. The consolidation measure is expected to save up to $500 million across the state, but it doesn’t address the more than $12 billion in unfunded local public safety pension liabilities. Swanson said he spoke with Hammond beforehand, and they heard from many “rank and file members of the police, fire and first responders” who didn’t want to rush into it. He said no one saw the legislation until the first part of last week – so he didn’t know what it would look like. “This piece of legislation when it was introduced on Tuesday (November 12th), the Illinois Municipal League had taken a hard stand against it along with the police,” Swanson said. “The police eventually came on, but IML stood pretty hard and fast until just hours before the vote took place. There were some language in there (that needed changing) for the IML. The Illinois Municipal League is who represents most of our mayors and communities here in Illinois.” Swanson added that the consolidation: “amounted to about $14 billion, and a lot of the support was coming from Chicago. So now we’re going to put all our money in the hands of those people in Springfield who can’t even pass an ethics bill.”