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Senate passes Morrison's government ethics reform plan

Targets unethical appointment to Illinois Sports Facilities Authority

morrison-ethicsSPRINGFIELD – A plan to prevent future governors from engaging in last-minute patronage has cleared the Illinois Senate.

State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) introduced the proposal after former Gov. Pat Quinn appointed a political operative to a $160,000-per-year state job at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority a month after he lost his election last year.

Her plan would affect any director appointed to a governor-controlled board or commission after the governor loses an election. They would be limited to 60 days in the position, allowing the newly elected governor to find the best person for the position. Morrison’s legislation extends beyond the ISFA to include similar government organizations.

“We should all be upset when a lame-duck governor uses his position to provide campaign staff with golden parachutes,” Morrison said. “I was gravely disappointed when I learned of the abuse at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, and I introduced this legislation to help restore the people’s trust in their government.”

The Illinois Sports Finance Authority – a government entity – owns U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox, and provided the majority of the financing for the renovation of the Bears’ Soldier Field. It receives subsidies from the state and the city of Chicago, income from the White Sox rental agreement, and revenue from a 2 percent tax on all hotel rentals in Chicago.

Morrison’s legislation, Senate Bill 1369, is only part of her effort to reform state government. She’s also introduced plans to prevent legislators from becoming lobbyists until at least one year after they leave office and to create term limits for the House speaker and Senate president.

The measure now advances to the Illinois House of Representatives.

Senate passes Collins’ plan requiring charter schools to disclose criminal investigations

collins-charters-crimSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16) sponsored legislation the Senate passed yesterday to require organizations applying to open charter schools in Illinois to disclose any ongoing criminal or civil investigations into their activities. The disclosure requirement applies to the organization submitting the proposal as well as any member of its governing body.

“Charter schools are funded primarily with public money, so it is important to hold them to high standards and subject new proposals to the highest possible degree of scrutiny,” Collins said. “Ongoing investigations should be a part of the picture when local school districts evaluate charter applications, and we are ensuring that districts have all the information they need to make prudent decisions for families and taxpayers.”

Last year, Collins sponsored laws that promoted fairness and transparency in the charter school lottery process, prevented cronyism in charter management and ended the practice of charters collecting public funds to educate students who return to traditional public schools partway through the school year.

“School choice should be informed choice – for parents but also for districts examining charter school applications,” Collins said. “This legislation will help prevent the misuse of public money before it occurs.”

The House will now consider Senate Bill 1591.

Bertino-Tarrant wants educators to serve on State Board of Education

jbt-tchr-isbeSPRINGFIELD— State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) passed legislation today that would require three members of the State Board of Education to be representatives of the educator community.

State law does not currently require any appointees to the State Board of Education to be educators.

This would change under Sen. Bertino-Tarrant’s proposal. Her plan comes at a time when local schools are being overburdened by unfunded mandates that force them to do more with less.

“The State Board of Education plays an important role in how our state’s education system operates,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “The people who teach students and serve in management positions have the experience to help improve education in Illinois, and their voices need to be heard on the board.”

Under Senate Bill 1506, the appointed educators will be from different regions in the state.

The State Board of Education helps oversee public schools from preschool through grade 12 and adult and vocational schools.

Senate Bill 1506 is an initiative of Vision 20/20, an organization made up of school administrators, superintendents and school boards.

Senate Bill 1506 now advances to the Illinois House for consideration.

Bennett passes measure to make government more transparent

bennett-transparSPRINGFIELD– Taxpayers will have a better understanding of government boards’ work under a new proposed law advanced by Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

“We need to engage more people in the democratic process. Making this information readily available will help keep people informed and engaged,” said Bennett. “We should embrace technology to promote government transparency and accessibility to taxpayers.”

His initiative, Senate Bill 1339, does two things.

First, it requires government boards to post video on their websites of the board meeting within two business days. This would apply to boards where the governor appoints at least one member that is confirmed by the Senate.

“This simply makes it easier for taxpayers to access public information,” Bennett said. “The technology is readily available today to make this possible and affordable.”

Second, Bennett’s proposal would require those boards to post their public meeting agendas at least 72 hours prior to meeting, except in cases of emergency meetings. The current posting requirement is only 48 hours.

SB 1339 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and moves to the House for consideration.