In the wake of federal indictments, raids and elected official resignations, a special legislative panel heard testimony during the week on how to address ethics and lobbying legal loopholes.
In other news, January is Human Trafficking Awareness month in Illinois, an effort to combat the exploitation of hundreds of Illinois children each year. Meanwhile, the Illinois State Police is extending their application period for potential cadet candidates.
Hearing on Ethics and Lobbying Reform
Representatives from local governments and good government organizations spent nearly four hours meeting with the bipartisan Senate and House Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform on Jan. 15.
The witnesses testified about the existing ethics rules and where perceived shortcomings in state law exist. Arguments were made for closing the so-called “revolving door” loophole that allows elected officials to immediately begin lobbying after leaving office. Illinois is one of a handful of states that allow such activity.
Witnesses also noted that reforming ethics and lobbying rules should include guidelines allowing for the greatest transparency for citizens. They also said while there are legitimate “lobbying” efforts as part of an elected official’s normal duties, getting paid to lobby while holding office crosses the line and should be prohibited. Many local governments, including the City of Chicago, have strengthened ethics rules in recent years, including prohibitions against paid lobbying by current office holders and instituting waiting periods to combat “revolving door” activity.
Since the start of the 101st General Assembly a year ago, more than a dozen ethics/lobbying reform measures have been introduced, including four separate bills in the new year. The Joint Commission was created in the wake of several federal raids, indictments, and ongoing investigations. Two state legislators have since resigned.
The panel was created during last fall’s Veto Session. The Commission is empowered to issue periodic reports on its activities, but it is tasked with presenting a final report on its review and recommendations by March 31 to be given to the General Assembly, Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, and Secretary of State.
January: Human Trafficking Awareness Month
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, which aims to remind Illinois residents that human trafficking could be happening in their own communities. According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the agency investigated 225 allegations of human trafficking of children in Fiscal Year 2019.
In 2018, a task force of Illinois legislators issued a report on the crisis stating: “According to a 2018 Human Trafficking Statistical Summary published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Adams School of Social Work, the top venues for sex trafficking in Illinois were hotels, residence-based commercial sex, illicit massage businesses, escort services, and online ads. The top venues for labor trafficking were traveling sales crews, domestic work, agriculture, retail, and begging rings. Between December 2007 and December 2017,1,148 human trafficking cases, consisting of 2,832 identified trafficked persons and survivors in Illinois, were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.”
DCFS says there are signs or indicators of possible child trafficking:
• Having an adult control them by speaking for them;
• Seeming out of place given the time of day or night;
• Looking disheveled or dressed in clothes that they could not afford to buy;
• Showing signs of physical abuse such as bruising or red marks;
• Not possessing any form of identification;
• Performing inappropriate work for their age and not being compensated.
The Illinois DCFS hotline to report child abuse and neglect, including suspected trafficking, is 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873). The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
Illinois State Police are hiring
The Illinois State Police (ISP) have extended the application period for the next Cadet class until Jan. 31. Candidates who successfully complete the Recruitment Examination will be invited to participate in a mandatory Physical Fitness Inventory Test in late March, with training to begin this summer. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours of college course work. Prospective candidates can apply online at IllinoisTrooper.com.
Last summer, ISP reinstituted its “Fast Track” program, which offers current certified police officers the opportunity to join the ISP following an accelerated 13-week training program. The Fast Track Cadet Class is expected to begin this spring.