Legislators met for the first time in 2020 this week to hear Governor Pritzker deliver his State of the State address. Although I do not agree on every priority laid out by the Governor, I was encouraged to hear him highlight sorely needed ethics reforms. Targeting public corruption and cleaning up Illinois government must be a major focus of the 2020 spring legislative Session.
Former State Senator Martin Sandoval plead guilty to accepting bribes in Federal court on Tuesday, just one day before the Governor’s speech. With the whirlwind of federal investigative activity that has happened in the last year, and with the House Republicans introducing more than a dozen corruption-focused bills, the Governor pledged his support for passing a few critical ethics reforms.
For months, I have been a sponsor of several ethics reform proposals that the Governor says he favors. These corruption-focused reforms include prohibiting legislators from serving as paid lobbyists while in office (yes, that practice is currently legal), a revolving door law to require a ‘cooling-off’ period to end the corrupt practice that allows someone to be a legislator one day, and a lobbyist the next. The Governor also mentioned the need for legislators to properly disclose conflicts of interest and now backs legislation to enhance punishments for legislators that fail to disclose these conflicts and act purposely in their own self-interest.
Passing legislation to provide property tax relief will be key to stemming the tide of out-migration that caused Illinois to lead the nation in population loss in the last decade. Families and seniors are being priced out of their homes and businesses are unable to afford the high cost of property taxes.
We must work in a bipartisan way to provide relief to homeowners and both large and small employers. House Republicans have proposed multiple ways we could achieve relief and cut the cost of local government. Unfortunately, House Democrats blew a chance to achieve bipartisan victory for taxpayers by turning the recently decommissioned Property Tax Relief Task Force into a partisan political sideshow, missing reporting deadlines, and stifling input from Republican members. House Republicans offered more than 2 dozen ideas to provide property tax relief.
The Democrat-controlled task force rejected all but one of those reforms and froze out Republicans from helping draft the final report. Gov. Pritzker also mentioned the need for property tax relief in his remarks Wednesday. Unless Speaker Madigan and House Democrats suddenly change course toward providing relief, that may be the only time a Democrat in the House of Representatives mentions it this Session.
As a candidate, JB Pritzker pledged to veto any legislative map that is not fairly drawn. I was disappointed the Governor failed to mention support for House Republican-sponsored fair maps proposals pending in Springfield. A quick look at the current legislative maps drawn by Speaker Madigan and the Democrats reveals crazy, puzzle-piece-like districts that are not contiguous and split communities among multiple legislators.
A ‘Fair Map’ process would mean allowing voters to pick their representation and an end to the corrupt system that allows politicians to pick their voters. I will continue to call on the Governor to keep his promise to ensure that the next round of legislative maps are drawn fairly and equitably. The Session resumes on Tuesday, Feb. 4. It’s time to get to work to clean up our state, provide taxpayers relief, and end the corrupt ways of the past. We can make these changes and reform our state, but we must have cooperation from House Democrats and their long-time leader Mike Madigan. Perhaps the Governor can help do some convincing. Time will tell.