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Illinois GOP Senators Submit Ethics Proposals

Senator Jason Barickman on the Senate floor.
Seth Perlman
Illinois Senate Republicans, including State Sen. Jason Barickman, right, have introduced a multi-part package of proposed ethics reforms in the wake of the Commonwealth Edison lobbying scandal

Illinois Senate Republicans have introduced a package of ethics reform legislation to make lawmaker corruption easier to investigate, but it's unclear how far the measurers will go in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

One idea would let the state's legislative inspector general begin investigations without approval from senators and House representatives.

Lawmakers typically reserve control over House and Senate issues for themselves. The Freedom of Information Act is another area lawmakers have carved out exceptions for themselves. But State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said it's not good to have the fox guarding the henhouse.

"If we're going to be serious about regulating ourselves, part of what we have to do is relinquish control over that oversight," said Barickman.

The package also would create authority for the Illinois Attorney General to form a statewide grand jury to investigate potential offenses that happen in multiple jurisdictions. That is something multiple attorneys general have asked for in the past.

Another proposal would allow county state's attorneys to have wiretap authority for certain public corruption cases. Court have traditionally held that authorizing power. And Supreme Court rulings have narrowly construed government authority over seeking access to digital records, including GPS data and cell phone records.

Barickman said sponsors wrote the bill to avoid constitutional problems with unreasonable search and seizure rules since a judge would not sign off on the wiretap.

"The proposal is limited to certain offenses that may have been committed and requires the state's zttorney to meet those burdens. It's very limited in nature. It limits them to a certain amount of time to do that and only on a narrow list of possible crimes," said Barickman.

Lawmakers have introduced other pieces of the package before, including lobbying limits and bans on lobbying for former lawmakers. The Illinois House has historically not been eager to take up such measures. 

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.