Illinois Senate Approves Landmark Ethics Law, 55-0

(Springfield, IL) — The Illinois Senate joined the Illinois House and on Monday voted 55-0 to override Governor Rod Blagojevich’s veto of landmark ethics legislation this week and sent the bill.

The ethics bill’s key provision bans political contributors who have or want state contracts valued at least $50,000 from donating campaign money to statewide elected officials who hand out the contracts. This plan starts cleaning up Illinois’ political sleaze.

“Illinois’ pay-to-pay politics are about to end,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

The law takes effect January 1, 2009.

House Rejects Blagojevich’s Autism Insurance Hoax

(Springfield, IL) — The Illinois House on Monday voted down Gov. Rod Blagojevich‘s maneuver to use an amendatory veto to add autism insurance coverage to an unrelated bill. The move violates the Illinois constitution, House Democratic lawmakers say.

“For the governor to take legislation and completely rewrite it is dangerous because where does it start and stop? And it is a cruel hoax on the families who need the insurance,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

“Were the legislature to approve the governor’s changes, the courts would quickly recognize the unconstitutionality of the Governor’s move and could strike it down in a New York minute.”

There are two autism-related proposals pending before the General Assembly. Lang says the legislature could send the legislation to Gov. Blagojevich’s desk for his signature as early as November.

“I want Illinois families to get reliable autism insurance they need without violating the constitution and without deceiving families,” said Lang.

New Illinois Ethics Legislation in Jeopardy

(Skokie, IL) — The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly, 113-3, to override Governor Rod Blagojevich’s veto of landmark ethics legislation this week and sent the bill Thursday to the Senate. But Senate President Emil Jones now says the 15-day clock to consider the legislation does not start until the Senate returns to Springfield. The Senate returns on November 12.

Legislators in both parties are challenging the Senate President’s interpretation of the Constitution. It’s a risky interpretation. If his interpretation is incorrect, then his action by inaction will have killed the ethics reform.

The ethics bill’s key provision bans political contributors who have or want state contracts valued at least $50,000 from donating campaign money to statewide elected officials who hand out the contracts. This plan starts cleaning up Illinois’ political sleaze. Now it may die.

Senator Jones’ interpretation could be challenged in court.

Comment: House Lottery Lease Bill as Good as the Governor’s Going to Get

The Illinois House passed, 78-35, a $10 billion state lottery lease bill this wek to jump start a statewide capital construction program to build and rebuild, schools, roads, bridges, and public transportation. It’s the right move.

The lease of the state lottery—as the source of revenue to fund construction projects—emerged as the least objectionable funding source after nearly six years of long, polarizing, and paralyzing debate. I voted for this bill. I dislike this bill. But I dislike the alternatives far worse. And our infrastructure needs to be upgraded.

Governor Rod Blagojevich

Governor Rod Blagojevich

This bill is better than the original proposal that Governor Rod Blagojevich presented. This plan creates more transparency and accountability. The Treasurer and Comptroller will help handle the lease process. A revamped, independent Gaming Board will monitor the lease. Lawyer and broker fees will be capped.

The legislation authorizes the Governor to proceed. It authorizes the Governor to seek and accept a $10 bid billion, but not a dime less. If no vendor bids at least $10 billion, there is no lease. No projects. There is no cheap give-away of a state asset.

School funding is protected. The legislation holds education funding harmless at $600 million. Schools will get next year what they got this year from the lottery. No loss.

Will the Governor agree to the proposal? Not sure. But he would be foolish to disagree. It is as good as he’s going to get. The Governor will get the money for his long sought-after capital construction program. And he will get new road, bridge, and school bragging rights. He will just need to share the decision-making, and, perhaps, some of the bragging.

Of course the Illinois Senate must still consider the plan before any bragging can begin. Will the Senate agree? Not sure there either. The Senate is focused on succession. But were I a betting man, I would say a gubernatorial “nod” would be sufficient to secure Senate approval.

We’ll see.