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New push for ethics reforms in Illinois includes bipartisan constitutional amendment

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(The Center Square) – There is a bipartisan move underway to clean up Illinois politics.

State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, and former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn are joining forces to introduce a constitutional amendment aimed at overhauling the state’s ethics laws. The measure is House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 19.

Quinn said the Illinois Ethics Initiative would change the state constitution to allow voters to go to the polls to determine ethics laws instead of public officials.

“This is an opportunity for the people of Illinois to take charge and especially after this terrible scandal involving Commonwealth Edison,” Quinn said during a news conference Tuesday in Springfield.

Four former Commonwealth Edison officials were convicted last year of conspiring to bribe ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. The four were each convicted of bribery conspiracy, bribery and willfully falsifying the utility giant’s financial books.

Madigan’s related corruption trial has been postponed from April to October.

Last May, Quinn delivered letters to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, calling for a special session to address corruption in Illinois government, but it never materialized.

Spain said there is an urgent need for change because the current system is failing.

“It’s clearly not working,” Spain said. “We have a process right now where the legislature can impose its own ethical improvements and it’s not happening.”

State Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said he will be meeting with Quinn and Welch about the issue.

“I have a great relationship with the governor,” West said of Quinn. “I felt that once a governor, always the governor. You have clear access to the speaker at all times so the speaker is willing to meet with him just to see what he wants to know.”

According to a recent University of Illinois at Chicago study, Illinois stands as the third-most corrupt state in the country. Researchers analyzed public corruption statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2021 in arriving at their findings.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.

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