This Week in Springfield:
The Illinois House was in Springfield for legislative session this week from Tuesday through Thursday.
With just ten days of legislative session in Springfield remaining on the calendar, we took up many Senate bills this week and have continued our work pushing for a balanced and responsible state budget. The Adoption & Child Welfare Committee continued our work hearing testimony on improving the child welfare system. And, our House Republican working group on sustaining and protecting at-risk children held a press conference giving an update on our work developing solutions to better protect kids in Illinois. I will give a longer update on this press conference below.
But, the big news of the week highlights the urgent and continued need for ethics reform in Illinois, as the federal jury convicted all four defendants from ComEd guilty on all counts for a scheme to bribe former House Speaker Mike Madigan. I’ll have more on that news below in the hot topic of the week.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Jury Finds ComEd Four Guilty on All Counts in Madigan Bribery Scheme
Unfortunately, Illinois continues to rank #1 in at least one area – public corruption.
In July of 2020 ComEd entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government and agreed to pay a $200 million dollar fine, admitting guilt in a scheme aimed to bribe then-Speaker Mike Madigan in order to gain passage of legislation increasing the company’s profits.
Under the deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd admitted that it “arranged jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts, for various associates of a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois, to influence and reward the official’s efforts to assist ComEd with respect to legislation concerning ComEd and its business.”
Following the deferred prosecution agreement, charges were brought against four high-level people associated with ComED – Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, Former ComEd Lobbyist John Hooker, Company Consultant Jay Doherty, and Lobbyist Michael McClain.
After a 7 week trial and jury deliberations, where the Federal Government laid out the evidence that each of these individuals participated and perpetuated this scheme to bribe then-Speaker Mike Madigan through hiring Madigan cronies to no-work jobs, providing internships to Madigan allies, and other favors, the jury found each of the defendants guilty on all counts of conspiracy, public corruption, falsifying records, and bribery.
This case has been characterized as “one of Illinois’ highest-profile political corruption cases in years.” Although, that will likely be eclipsed next year as the former Speaker Mike Madigan is scheduled to stand trial in his own public corruption case next April.
I agree with the statements from one of the jurors when asked about the case after the trial:
“Garnes said the general consensus of the panel was that, while nobody’s perfect, it seemed like no one seemed willing to step in and put a stop to the corruption.
‘They just continually do it over and over and over again,’ said Garnes, an IT professional who lives in Westmont. ‘That would be my message to politicians: Do the right thing. Make the right decision. Sometimes the right thing is not the popular thing. You’re not going to have a lot of friends (by) doing the right thing.’”
In Springfield, I have seen over and over that the majority party continues to protect its own power rather than pass true and meaningful ethics and transparency reform. I have proposed and co-sponsored ethics reform legislation since joining the General Assembly. Restoring the public’s trust, holding elected officials truly accountable, and reforming the system of power Madigan built within the General Assembly should be an urgent and bi-partisan priority. It is long past time to do the right thing. How many more indictments and convictions of public-corruption will it take for Democratic Party Leaders to finally join the rest of Illinoisans in saying enough is enough?
Protecting & Sustaining At-Risk Children Working Group
At the beginning of this legislative session, the Illinois House Republican Caucus formed working groups to find solutions to some of the biggest problems facing our state. I serve on the working group tasked with finding solutions for our broken child welfare system. Thursday, our working group held a press conference to give an update on our work. I have included a video of the press conference below:
As I mentioned in the press conference, too often we tell you what is wrong with DCFS. We don’t need to go through that again; everyone knows the problems. I want to offer solutions.
This year Republican proposals have focused upon doing just that. We are taking a hard look at what the agency is doing and what might be better done somewhere else. Among our proposals are the following:
- Requires DCFS caseload tracking system, with yearly DCFS report on ongoing case files, operation of the caseload tracking system, ratio of active files to personnel, and how appropriations can be structured to incentivize caseload management.
- Move the background check function to the Illinois State Police
- Initialize the movement of services provided under the Family First Prevention Services Act from DCFS to other agencies which will avoid the necessity of involvement by the child welfare system
- Mandatory intact family services for at-risk families
- Law enforcement concurrent child abuse or neglect investigation with DCFS
- State’s Attorney can see completed investigative report
- Creates a DCFS Ombudsperson
These problems aren’t going to be solved anytime soon and can’t be solved without collaborative effort. We believe that the proposals we’ve described above are a good start.
Illinois Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony
Thursday morning I joined many from around the Capitol at the annual Illinois Police Officers’ Memorial for a ceremony remembering all of the Peace Officers throughout Illinois who have lost their lives in service of our state. We paid tribute to these heroes and their families. May their sacrifice never be forgotten.
To learn more about the ceremony, read the beautiful prayers that were shared, or to contribute to the memorial, please visit: http://www.illinoispolicememorial.org/Default.aspx
The Week Ahead
- The House is scheduled to meet next week, Monday, May 8th through Friday, May 12th.
- May 12th is the deadline to pass Senate bills out of the House
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