Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=125389
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 8:26:53 AM CST
Gov. Pat Quinn pledged Thursday to encourage state legislators to hold a roll call vote on proposed anti-corruption rules before their session ends May 31. Speaking in Chicago at the Illinois Reform Commission, Quinn said he supports holding a referendum to pass ethics reforms if the General Assembly fails to consider all proposals in a timely manner.
"I think between now and May 31 we can do historic things that make our state better, especially by cleaning up politics," Quinn said. The governor vowed to work with the General Assembly’s leaders "to get it done."
"The public is ready for this. Those in office need to listen to everyday people," he added.
Quinn was joined by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett and eight other speakers at the commission meeting on the enforcement of anti-corruption measures. Quinn established the independent advisory body in January in response to corruption allegations involving impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The committee is chaired by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Collins and co-chaired by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and City of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.
A referendum would not be binding but would pressure the General Assembly to finally pass ethics reforms, former Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch said in an interview after the commission meeting.
In addition to a possible referendum, Quinn said he supports a constitutional amendment that would allow Illinois voters to approve ethics reforms independently of the General Assembly.
Like Quinn, Madigan promised her support for the commission’s agenda and said she expects prompt action by the state legislature.
"I would be very surprised if most of this didn’t move ahead next session," she said. "There’s an overwhelming sense that the need for reform is now. They’re going to take all these proposals seriously."
While addressing the commission, Madigan called for a revision of state laws to expand the jurisdiction of the attorney general and allow her office to convene a grand jury.
"It’s critical to increase the ability [to investigate public corruption] at the state level," Madigan said.
Alvarez backed Madigan’s proposals and supported re-examining and amending state laws.
"Illinois, compared to other states, is in the dark ages when it comes to corruption," Alvarez said. "I would gladly accept enhanced legislation that would give me more tools to investigate corruption."
According to Hoffman, current state laws make it very difficult for state prosecutors to pursue public corruption at the "highest and deepest levels."
"Relative to other places around the country, Illinois has to be considered a black diamond run for prosecutors and investigators who attempt to go skiing on these slopes given how powerful the entrenched interests are here," Hoffman said. "Even on their best days it is far more difficult for them [state prosecutors and investigators] to catch high-level corruption."
The Illinois Reform Commission will hold its next meeting on April 24 in Carbondale.