As Illinois legislators coalesce around ethics reforms, other initiatives surface as priorities

(The Center Square) – While Democrats and Republicans at the Illinois statehouse seem to agree on getting some kind of ethics reforms across the finish line, it’s a question of when and what other issues may take priority.

In a series of press conferences over the past few weeks, Democrats and Republicans have laid priorities for when they come back.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said during a news conference with other Democrats last week that ethics reforms should not be considered more important than other policy ideas.

“There are so many things before us and nobody in this press conference would suggest that [ethics reform] is more special than the need for reform on the criminal justice, policing level,” Cassidy said.

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, a police officer, disagreed. He said ethics reforms are more important than police reforms.

“I think we can tackle that issue after we tackle the issues of all the corruption that’s going on under the dome,” Cabello said. “That affects way more taxpayers and I think that’s something we should be tackling before anything else.”

In the past year, a series of legislators, lobbyists and former legislators have been under investigation, indicted, resigned, or pleaded guilty to federal crimes. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has been implicated in a bribery and patronage scheme involving ComEd. Madigan has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, said ethics must be the foundation for anything else moving forward.

“The Illinois Legislature has a lot of big challenges ahead of us. I think [Democrats] wants to pass police accountability reform, we want to pass climate change [policies],” Morgan said.

He said neither of those things can happen with a strong foundation of ethics reforms.

Cabello said lawmakers owe it to taxpayers to fix the state budget.

“I think the most important is going to be the budget shortfall,” Cabello said. “We’ve got to be able to learn how to manage. We’ve given the governor a blank check and I think that’s one of the worst things we could have ever done.”

He also wants state policies that help reduce local property taxes, an issue that has been elusive at the statehouse.

Republicans in the minority want a special session right away to deal with ethics reforms. Democrats have come on with some of the same reforms, but signaled they’re willing to wait until after the November election.

Unless there’s a special session called for by the governor, the House Speaker or the Senate President, lawmakers won’t be back until after the November election.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office didn’t respond to a question about whether the governor would call a special session.

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