Some other issues that were high on the veto session agenda don’t seem to be going anywhere fast, so let’s change directions.
Gov. JB Pritzker was out first with a proposal to have greater disclosure of lobbying activities. He agreed it was just a small, first step in ethics reform that he wants lawmakers to undertake. The point is, Pritzker said it is something that can be accomplished in the three days left in the veto session, while broader reforms can be debated during the spring session.
The lobbying idea stems in part from the case of indicted former Rep. Luis Arroyo, who was running a lobbying firm on the side that lobbied local governments on various issues. It isn’t illegal for a lawmaker to do that, which is exactly the point raised by any number of people. They believe it should be illegal, because what could possibly go wrong with a legislator who helps set public policy lobbying local governments over policy issues?
Pritzker agreed that was “problematic,” but said he doubted three days would be enough time to do a thorough examination of that particular issue.
That lobbying ban was also included in a package of ethics bills that the House Republicans outlined on Thursday. Not to be outdone by the Democratic governor in showing concern for ethics, the House Republicans came up with three bills, a resolution and a proposed constitutional amendment to address ethics concerns. In addition to the lobbying ban, the House GOP wants greater disclosure of lawmaker communications with state agencies about contracts and beefed up economic interest disclosures (which are widely considered a joke right now).
We’ll know in just a few days just how strong the appetite for reform is — and how much is being done for show.
There should be some time to work on ethics bills, since some of the higher-profile items that were originally on the General Assembly’s agenda haven’t been all that easy to pass.
Both a proposed ban on flavored vaping and tobacco products, and a plan to consolidate hundreds of downstate police and fire pension funds, have run into enough opposition that they are basically in a holding pattern right now. Efforts were underway to try and negotiate compromises, but it is unclear if that is going to be successful.
Failure to pass the pension consolidation bill would be a blow to Pritzker, who made the consolidation issue a priority for the veto session.
Elevator on the mend
Please make sure you are seated in a very stable chair before reading the next item.
The state is fixing that elevator in the southwest part of the rotunda.
Yes, after a couple of years (literally) of being barricaded and having an out-of-order sticker affixed to it, the elevator is being fixed. The target for it to be running again is the end of the year. The estimated cost of the work is $375,000.
The elevator was originally shut down because some parts were failing and it was deemed to be a potential safety risk. But the elevator is so old, replacement parts were no longer available. The solution, according to the secretary of state’s office, is that Otis Elevator, which builds these things, is “overhauling and replacing the electronic components which serve as the brain of the elevator.” In other words, an entirely new electronic operating system is being installed.
When it was still operating, the elevator may have gotten as much, if not more, use than any in the building. Without it, getting around was that much more difficult, especially for people unable to use the stairs. Getting it back is obviously going to help, particularly on days when the Capitol is flooded with people.
Somebody might even want to consider a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr