Don't get us wrong. There is a lot our legislators have done this year for which we are grateful. Removing former Gov. Rod Blagojevich tops the list. But there also is a lot they have done, or failed to do, that leads us to conclude they are far too willing to tell all of us who believe heartily in fixing corruption to take a flying leap.
Consider what happened last week in our state Capitol. Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon, whose district includes parts of Rosemont and Bensenville, dismissed the recommendations of both the Illinois Reform Commission and of CHANGE Illinois, a group of top business and civic activists, to limit campaign donations by election cycle and to restrict the amount of money legislative leaders can give to their candidates. Then came word that while that was happening, aides to Gov. Pat Quinn, who presents himself as a reformer, were, in essence, asking special interest groups for $15,000 donations in return for "face time" with him.
Meanwhile, others in the House and Senate ignored a plan, negotiated over months by competing interests, to strengthen the state's Freedom of Information Act. Instead, they presented a proposal that is worse than the current weak law and would leave us all gravely unable to hold elected officials accountable. And then, finally, a Senate subcommittee held a hearing on a part of the reform commission's proposals that would boost law enforcement's corruption-fighting tools. The subcommittee's senators rejected all but one of the ideas, saying they needed more time. More time? Like the more time we all got to consider whether we wanted video poker machines in every bar and club? Or the time we'll likely get at 11 p.m. this weekend to consider any tax hikes offered to fix the budget deficit?
There, too, has been plenty of chastising the reform group's naiveté about how the legislative process works. How it works? Here's how it works: If your ideas threaten the legislative leaders' power, they get slam-dunked.
Let's be clear. We do not support all of the ideas the subcommittee rejected Friday that would give elected prosecutors great power to go after other elected officials. But we wholeheartedly support the fair notion that every one of the group's ideas must get full floor debates and votes.
After last week, it seems plainly apparent House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have no intention of playing fair by allowing open votes on donation limits, prosecutors' tools or transparent government.
The ideas are supposed to come up again Thursday, with four session days left. Click here to find suburban officials' contact information. Are we going to let legislators run roughshod over corruption reform ideas without a fight? It's time rank-and-file legislators rose up and demanded what's right from their leaders. It's time we raise our voices. It's time we all rally. It's time we take back our government.