The Senate House Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform listened to testimony from several directors of policy about how to aid the legislative inspector general (LIG) in upholding ethical standards in state government.
"Illinois is facing a crisis — even before the latest wave of scandals," said Alisa Kaplan, the policy director at Reform for Illinois. "We are dead last in trust in government. The people of Illinois know this and it is reflected in trust in government. The inspector general and the Executive Ethics Commission can play a critical part in ending wrongdoing. The legislative inspector general is not independent. She can't do what she needs to do. There must be independence and she needs the proper tools for her to do her job."
Marie Dillon, the policy director at the Better Government Association, said that her organization supported several Senate bills that would provide Illinois' current Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope the power she needs, an essential commodity that previous LIGs have lacked.
CHANGE Illinois Policy Director Ryan Tolley | Photo courtesy of Change Illinois
"I cannot stress enough the problems are all about independence and transparency," Dillon said. "Coming in here, we support Senate Bills 1426 and 74 — with some tweaks that will give the legislative inspector general more powers."
SB 1426 amends the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and makes it so that summary reports from investigations are made available on the websites of the Legislative Ethics Commission and the legislative inspector general. SB 74 also makes changes to the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and makes it so that the legislative inspector general does not need to seek the Legislative Ethics Commission's approval when commencing an investigation.
Ryan Tolley, the policy director at CHANGE Illinois, said the legislative inspector general's office should be fully independent.
"The rules created have undermined the office," Tolley said. "It defies common sense that the legislative inspector general should seek approval from legislators for investigations. This adds to the perception that lawmakers protect their colleagues."