EDITORIAL: Editorial: Lawmakers should lobby for cooling-off period
Jan 24, 2013 (Menafn - The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Former State Sen. John Millner spent his last day as a legislator on Jan. 9. A day later, he registered as a lobbyist and started working for two clients, the cable TV industry and an ambulance service. Millner, a Carol Stream Republican, isn't alone. State Rep. Kent Gaffney, a Republican from Lake Barrington, gave up his House seat on Jan. 7 and is now working for a lobbying firm that has clients including Verizon, Apple, PNC Bank and Illinois State University. Over the years, several other legislators have moved from legislative offices to lobbying offices, sometimes within a few hours.
According to a recent report by Springfield bureau chief Kurt Erickson, more than two dozen former legislators are trying to use their influence in the hallways and meeting rooms of the Capitol. Millner, Gaffney and others can be writing legislation one day and then selling their influence to an industry the next day because Illinois is one of 15 states that doesn't have a "cooling off" period for legislators. Most states require former legislators to wait from six months to two years before they can begin working as a lobbyist. In Illinois, it's a revolving door. Legislators can literally cast a vote to adjourn, register at the Secretary of State's office and begin representing clients within a few hours.
State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, sponsored legislation last March that would have imposed a one-year lobbying ban on former members of the General Assembly. Democrats who control the General Assembly blocked the legislation, although it's fair to say that jumping from the General Assembly to lobbying firms is a bipartisan activity.
LaHood believes lawmakers should do as much as they can to repair the state's image as ethically challenged. "This seems like a very commonsense baby step to take," he said. But even baby steps are difficult when the self-interest of legislators is involved. LaHood plans to introduce the legislation again this session
Experience teaches us that Illinois legislators are willing to pay lip service to ethics reform, but actually do little about it. Legislators are especially slow to act when it involves their own wallets. A yearlong "cooling off" period between legislating and lobbying is a reasonable idea and it would give Illinois taxpayers one less reason to believe that special interest groups, industries and lobbyists decide what happens at the Capitol.
Illinois legislators are best known for taking care of themselves. If LaHood reintroduces his legislation, we doubt that it will be passed. Legislators will once again prove that their top interest is making sure that, a day after ending their lucrative legislative career, a lucrative lobbying career awaits them.
___ (c)2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Visit The Pantagraph
(Bloomington, Ill.) at www.pantagraph.com Distributed by MCT Information
Copyright (C) 2013, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.