The twists and turns of ethics reform

The twists and turns of ethics reform

Posted by JP on Thu, 09/18/2008 - 15:11

First the news:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered a special session of the General Assembly for 1 p.m. Monday to address "real ethics reform."

From there it gets confusing:
Lawmakers teamed up this spring to come up with a plan that focused primarily on banning business with state contracts from helping finance the campaigns of the officials who award those contracts.
The governor has time and again lined his campaign warchest with donations from those doing business with the state.
It's generally referred to as pay-to-play.
Back when a coalition of lawmakers announced this deal, they said they were unified and if the governor dared veto or change the deal, they'd quickly override his move.
Well, that happened.
Blagojevich struck down the reforms and then used his veto pen to rewrite the plan to ban some, but not all, government employees from serving in the General Assembly -- accusing many of his critics of being double-dippers because they also have county or Chicago jobs -- and also altering the process through which lawmakers and state officials pay increases. Oh, by law government employees already cannot collect two paychecks while serving in the General Assembly. So if a Chicago cop or a downstate superintendent is a senator or state representative, he or she doesn't get paid by the police department or school district during Springfield session days. The governor wants to ban them from serving entirely, although some professions -- like teachers -- would be exempt.
Blagojevich also issued an executive order banning and expanding the pay-to-pay provisions.
OK, critics say an executive order does not carry the same weight as an actual law, aren't thrilled with the idea of the governor policing his own behavior, and so on.
So a couple weeks ago the House cast aside the governor's changes and re-enacted the original deal.
But the Senate wasn't due back until after the Nov. 4 elections, which raised questions of whether it would be too late constitutionally to act. There's a 15-day deadline for addressing vetoes but no one seems to be sure when it kicks in and how the countdown works.
Then, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama -- who sponsored ethics legislation when in the Illinois Senate -- was basically taunted by the Sun-Times into getting involved. Obama finally picked up the phone and called Senate President Emil Jones Jr. -- Obama's political mentor -- and asked him to bring the Senate back sooner to act on the ethics plans.
Well, no sooner had Jones' staff put out word Thursday that he'd infact do that at the request of his good buddy Barack then the governor decided to call a special session on the issue for Monday.
OK, everybody got it figured out now?

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