Senate Week in Review: Jan. 13 – 17, 2020

McHenry, IL. – In the wake of federal indictments, raids and elected official resignations, a special legislative panel heard testimony during the week on how to address ethics and lobbying legal loopholes.

In other news, January is Human Trafficking Awareness month in Illinois, an effort to combat the exploitation of hundreds of Illinois children each year, and the Illinois State Police are hiring.

Locally, there are free admission days at the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum. 

Hearing on Ethics and Lobbying Reform
Representatives from local governments and good government organizations spent nearly 4 hours meeting with the bipartisan Senate and House Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform Jan. 15. 

The witnesses talked about the existing ethics rules and where shortcomings in the law exist. Arguments were made for closing the so-called “revolving door” loophole that allows elected officials to immediately begin lobbying after leaving office. Illinois is one of a handful of states that allow such activity.

The witnesses said reforming ethics and lobbying rules should include guidelines allowing for the greatest transparency for citizens, and while they said there are legitimate “lobbying” efforts as part of an elected officials normal duties, getting paid to lobby while holding office crosses the line and should be prohibited. Many local governments, including the City of Chicago, have strengthened ethics rules in recent years, including against paid lobbying by current office holders and instituting waiting periods to combat “revolving door” activity. 

Since the start of the 101st General Assembly a year ago, more than a dozen ethics/lobbying reform measures have been introduced, including four separate bills in the new year. The Joint Commission was created in the wake of several federal raids, indictments, and ongoing investigations. Two state legislators have since resigned.  

The panel was created during last fall’s Veto Session. At that time, I supported the idea of adding citizen representatives to the commission, so there would be a non-governmental review of proposals eventually recommended by the panel. Instead, the commission is comprised of government representatives, including legislators who are supposedly trying to fix lapses involving legislators. 

The Commission is empowered to issue periodic reports on its activities, but it is tasked with a presenting a final report on its review and recommendations by March 31 to be given to the General Assembly, Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, and Secretary of State. 

January: Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Human trafficking isn’t a crime that just occurs in another country. It happens right here in America and Illinois, and children are often the target.

According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the agency investigated 225 allegations of human trafficking of children in Fiscal Year 2019. 

In 2018, a task force of Illinois legislators issued a report on the crisis stating:

“According to a 2018 Human Trafficking Statistical Summary published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Adams School of Social Work, the top venues for sex trafficking in Illinois were hotels, residence-based commercial sex, illicit massage businesses, escort services, and online ads. The top venues for labor trafficking were traveling sales crews, domestic work, agriculture, retail, and begging rings. Between December 2007 and December 2017, 1,148 human trafficking cases, consisting of 2,832 identified trafficked persons and survivors in Illinois, were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.” 

DCFS says there are signs or indicators of possible child trafficking:

  • Having an adult control them by speaking for them;
    • Seeming out of place given the time of day or night;
    • Looking disheveled or dressed in clothes that they could not afford to buy;
    • Showing signs of physical abuse such as bruising or red marks;
    • Not possessing any form of identification;
    • Performing inappropriate work for their age and not being compensated.

The Illinois DCFS hotline to report child abuse and neglect, including suspected trafficking, is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873). The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline is 1-888-373-7888. 

Illinois State Police are hiring
The Illinois State Police (ISP) have extended the application period for the next Cadet class until Jan. 31, 2020. Candidates who successfully complete the Recruitment Examination will be invited to participate in a mandatory Physical Fitness Inventory Test in late March, with training to begin this summer.

Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college course work. Prospective candidates can apply online at IllinoisTrooper.com

Last summer, ISP reinstituted their “Fast Track” program, which offers current certified police officers the opportunity to join the ISP following an accelerated 13-week training program. The Fast Track Cadet Class is expected to begin this spring. 

Free Admission days at leading institutions of science and the environment
Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum are offering various free days for Illinois residents on and around the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. 

The Shedd Aquarium (pictured right) is home to 32,000 aquatic animals, and is a recognized leader in animal care, conservation education and research.

Adler Planetarium gives us a window to the Universe through its neighborhood skywatching events, and reaches millions of people through its youth STEM programs, online citizen science and other outreach projects.

The Field Museum has one of the largest collections of artifacts and specimens, from prehistoric times (T-Rex “Sue” pictured right) to modern day, which are used to inspire discovery and spark public engagement with science. 

All three institutions offer free days throughout the year, and you can find those free admission dates by checking out each organization’s website. To take advantage of free admission days, you will need a valid ID or proof of residence. 

Here is the schedule for free admission days during January at each of these amazing institutions: 

Shedd Aquarium: Thursday, Jan. 16 – Monday, Jan. 20.

Adler Planetarium: Monday, Jan. 20 – Wednesday, Jan. 22

Field Museum: Monday, Jan. 20, Wednesday, Jan. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 29 

2020 Spring Session begins Jan. 28/Stay in touch
My colleagues and I return to the Capitol for the 2020 legislative session for three days, Jan. 28 through 30. I encourage you to reach out with your comments and opinions as we head into a new year.

You can call my district or Capitol offices: 815/455-6330 or 217/782-8000 or you can email me through my legislative website at www.senatorwilcox.com. Click on the Contact tab at the top of the page. 

The website is also a great tool to find out what’s happening at the Capitol. You can sign up for my free newsletter, connect to state government agencies and resources, find college scholarship information and there’s an extensive list of sites veterans can use to connect to employment, education, service records and more. 

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