Illinois Senate panel blocks lobbyist ethics bills

Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Legislation attempting to prevent cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists was squashed Friday by an Illinois Senate panel.

The measures would have required officials to disclose family members who are lobbyists. Legislators also would have been barred from becoming lobbyists for one year after their terms end and they wouldn't have been able to negotiate for lobbying jobs while in public office.

Similar "revolving door" restrictions already apply for many federal offices and are common in other states.

The measures were buried Friday in a three-member subcommittee that is controlled by Senate Democrats. The Republican member made a motion to pass the bills. Neither Democrat would second the motion, so the legislation is stuck in the subcommittee.

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, objected to the idea that the bills were "buried."

"They received a fair public hearing," said Rikeesha Phelon. "I also wouldn't consider the issue 'buried' because I believe that there are other senators that are continuing to work on similar issues this session."

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Darin LaHood, of Dunlap, hopes to find a Democrat willing to take up his legislation.

He said Illinois should follow other states that have such restrictions in order to make Illinois more transparent and to start to clean up its reputation.

"Illinois was rated the third-most corrupt state in the country," LaHood said. "With that backdrop, I can't imagine why I couldn't find a Democrat on the other side to pick these up."

Illinois lawmakers sometimes move from voting to lobbying within weeks.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, for instance, spent 14 years in the Legislature and was the main champion of legislation allowing Commonwealth Edison, the largest utility company in the state, to raise rates with less regulatory oversight. Within a month after retiring from the House, the Orland Park Democrat became a lobbyist for clients such as ComEd and AT&T.

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The bills are SB3646, SB3647, SB3648 and SB3649.

Read them online at http://www.ilga.gov/

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