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Durkin pushes Harris to restart ethics reform hearings

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin demanded Tuesday that the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform resume hearings.

The Burr Ridge Republican penned a letter to House Majority Leader Greg Harris, who co-chairs the group.

“It has become abundantly clear that the House Democratic Caucus and their campaign arm use the concept of ‘cleaning up Springfield and fighting corruption’ as the highlight of their agenda. Actions speak louder than words,” Durkin wrote. “There has been decidedly no action taken to match the words of Democratic members even though your caucus controls the legislative docket.”

Durkin begged Harris to use his position to move ethics reform forward amid the federal investigation into Commonwealth Edison. House Speaker Mike Madigan denies any wrongdoing despite ComEd’s deferred prosecution agreement implicating him in the bribery scheme in July.

Federal prosecutors charged four of his close allies with the utility group last month. Mike McClain, Anne Pramaggiore, John Hooker, and Jay Doherty appear for arraignment Wednesday morning.

The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform held several hearings over the first few months of session. However, the COVID-19 pandemic cut those discussions. The commission’s report with recommendations for lawmakers was initially due in March, but the report still hasn’t been submitted.

Unsafe to meet in person

Harris thanked Durkin for his letter Tuesday afternoon, although he received the message as he watched the daily COVID-19 update.

“It arrived while I was listening to Dr. [Ngozi] Ezike outline how many thousands more Illinoisans tested positive for COVID yesterday, and how many more thousands are hospitalized or in the ICU, and tragically how many more have died. Also, listening to her warnings about the coming surge which could overwhelm our hospitals, and how we can all help reduce transmission,” Harris stated.

The Chicago native said he looks forward to continuing the commission’s work when members can safely gather in person. Harris also stressed he would present legislation based on the commission’s work.

Democratic leaders hoped to address the ethics reforms during fall veto session, but they canceled the session due to COVID-19 concerns.

“The Joint Commission on Ethics having not met since March has left all of us wondering if there is any sincerity in the House Democratic caucus on addressing reforms,” Durkin wrote. “Did we forget the arrest of Rep. [Luis] Arroyo and how it caused such a shockwave and hand-wringing through the Chamber?”

Durkin also noted the House committee investigating Madigan’s involvement in the bribery scheme has only met twice. Durkin filed the paperwork to start the legislative investigation in August. That group plans to meet in Springfield on December 14. However, Committee Chairman Emanuel “Chris” Welch tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Welch told said he still plans to hold the hearing as scheduled following his two-week quarantine.

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Mike Miletich

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