The Illinois Senate will return to Springfield to consider major ethics legislation, presumably in time to avoid a constitutional challenge about when an ambiguous 15-day clock expires.
Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who previously said he would not reconvene his chamber until after the November elections, said in a statement that he now is calling his members back to the Capitol to act on ethics reforms “only at the request of my friend Barrack Obama.”
Here’s the statement from the U.S. senator’s campaign: “Sen. Obama called Sen. Jones [Wednesday] to offer his strong support for the ethics reforms pending before the Illinois Senate and urged him to pass them at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Note that the date has not been set for that regular Senate session; however, the chamber will be back — and so will the House — Monday, September 22 because Gov. Rod Blagojevich called a special session to focus on ethics. But the governor’s proclamation requires the General Assembly to focus on Blagojevich’s version of ethics reforms, which the House already defeated last week.
But, as is common in Springfield, some legislative ideas come back from the dead. Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Collinsville Democrat and Blagojevich ally, has introduced another bill, HB 6699, that would do the same thing as the governor’s amendatory veto of HB 824. The governor wants to clarify the process of accepting legislative pay raises so lawmakers had to vote “yes” on public record, stop legislators from “double dipping” by working in another unit of government at the same time they’re serving in the General Assembly and require more detailed disclosure of lobbying work done by legislators or their spouses. See the background in our previous blog posts.
Cindy Davidsmeyer, Jones’ spokeswoman, said the Senate president last week promised Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, that he could call the unanimously approved HB 824 for a vote to override the governor’s changes. If that happens as expected, then businesses holding state contracts worth more than $50,000 could not donate to the political campaigns of the governor.
But Davidsmeyer said the vote to override the governor’s changes would have to be done in a regular session, which has not yet been set because some Senate members have conflicts with Monday’s special session.
She could only say that the Senate could take up a “variety of issues,” and there’s plenty to choose from. The chamber could consider actions taken by the House last week, including restoring budget cuts so that 11 state parks and 13 historic sites wouldn’t have to close this fall, as well as restoring cuts to human services and state offices that could result in hundreds of layoffs of state employees. The Senate also could consider the governor’s changes to Senate bills, including the another ethics bill, SB 2190. The governor would ban state legislators and officers from accepting political donations from government employees at any level, punishable by as much as a $10,000 fine for each offense.
Obama's campaign followed up with this: "Sen. Obama is pleased that Senator Jones has decided to take immediate steps to move ethics reform forward, and he plans to monitor the bill's progress next week."