A Public Access Counselor is also created under the provisions of the new law, which will take effect January 1. The Public Access Counselor will have the authority to issue binding opinions to settle disputes relating to the Freedom of Information and Open Meeting Acts.
MORE TRANSPARENCY IN STATE GOVERNMENT
Another law to increase transparency in state government was signed August 18. Senate Bill 54 (PA 96-0555) will increase financial transparency, make ethics investigations more public, strengthen the power of the Illinois Inspector General, expand the role of the Executive Ethics Commission and toughen the state’s revolving door policy.
The current investigation process makes it impossible to know how widespread state ethics investigations are, and also shields the severity of the violations. The new law will require the Executive Inspector General to share investigatory reports with the Executive Ethics Commission, and under certain circumstances, would allow the report to be made public.
Senate Bill 54 also increases protections for state whistleblowers and allows for anonymous allegations to be submitted to the inspector general’s office. The state’s revolving door policy is strengthened, specifically relating to state employees who participate in the awarding of state contracts or regulatory/licensing decisions.
Financial transparency is also targeted under the new law, which requires the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to post online timely Quarterly Financial Reports about the state’s fiscal condition.
HEARINGS CONTINUE ABOUT GERRYMANDERING
A detailed review of legal requirements was the focus August 18 at the second in a series of hearings on Illinois’ partisan system of gerrymandering state legislative and congressional districts. Lawmakers heard from redistricting experts from Minnesota and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
At the Springfield hearing, Peter Watson, legal counsel to the Minnesota State Senate, discussed federal requirements for drawing legislative maps that will withstand court challenges. Watson was joined by Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, who provided an overview of redistricting trends in other states. Storey said that the number of states which rely on independent commissions to draw legislative boundaries has been growing. Currently, 13 states use commissions rather than leave the drawing up to legislators.
A third hearing is planned for September 16 in Peoria. At the hearing, the Senate Committee on Redistricting is expected to turn its attention to needed reforms, including the recommendations of the non-partisan Illinois Reform Commission.