Senate Republicans introduce legislation to ensure independent investigations of ethics violations

Springfield – The Senate Republican Caucus took action Wednesday to restore public trust in an honest and ethical state government. At a press conference in the Capitol’s blue room, members unveiled a legislative proposal to ensure independent investigations of members of the General Assembly. 

Assistant Republic Leader, State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) filed Senate Bill 2297, which gives the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) the appropriate tools, which the current LIG has suggested, to conduct independent investigations of legislators. 

“There is a cloud hanging over the capitol. Recent events have reminded the public that the Illinois legislature is incapable of policing itself,” said Barickman. “Under current law, the Office of the Legislative Inspector General isn’t allowed to have the independence necessary to do its job. It looks like the fox is guarding the hen house. Today, we’re acting to change that.” 

State Sen. Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry) said SB 2297 would give the Legislative Inspector General, the General Assembly’s watchdog, greater independence. 

“We need to eliminate the ability for elected officials to attempt to govern themselves, or what’s the point of having an inspector general?” said Wilcox. “No elected official should ever be in a position to influence or give direction to an Inspector General.” 

Under current law, except in cases alleging sexual harassment, the LIG must get advance approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) before opening an investigation, or issuing subpoenas. Additionally, if, during the investigation, the LIG discovers wrongdoing that is beyond the scope of, or unrelated to the initial complaint, they have to go back to the LEC to get approval to investigate further.

Given the recent barrage of media reports about allegations of wrongdoing and federal indictments of legislators, Sen. Wilcox is hoping the new legislation will inspire a public outcry for action. 

“I believe the public is ready for ethics reform in Illinois, but it will take some effort and public involvement to make it possible,” said Wilcox. “I don’t believe the feds are done and I think we’re going to be shocked by future announcements. The General Assembly should not wait for any additional charges to act.” 

Under SB 2297, the LIG would be able to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without approval from the LEC. By taking legislators out of the process, the bill ensures independence in the investigation of these claims. 

“In two weeks, the fall veto session will continue, and there is no reason this legislation shouldn’t be taken up at that time,” said Barickman. “I hope that we can work together, in a bipartisan way, to pass this important legislation to ensure the independence of the Legislative Inspector General.” 

The Senate returns for the final week of the fall veto session on Tuesday, Nov. 12. 

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