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New Reporting Requirements Will Ferret Out Conflicts of Interest

Having information about potential conflicts of interest held by public officials is vital to ensuring our government is accountable to taxpayers—not to private or personal interests.

By Emily Miller/BGA

January 28, 2013 3:05 PM

Having information about potential conflicts of interest held by public officials is vital to ensuring our government is accountable to taxpayers—not to private or personal interests.

But in Illinois, good government groups commonly refer to the current economic disclosure form lawmakers and other government officials are required to file in Illinois as "a waste of paper."

Even though the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act has required elected officials and high-ranking government employees to file economic disclosure forms for over 40 years, the form is so vague and ineffective that 85% of those returning the form in Cook County filled in every question with the phrase "Not Applicable."

That’s why the Better Government Association is backing a bill that will require Illinois lawmakers and other high-ranking state and county officials to file a revamped economic disclosure form designed to ferret out conflicts of interest.

The bill, introduced by Senator Dan Kotowski (D-30) with support from Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, requires officials to report potential conflicts of interest by asking specific questions about assets, gifts, and debts. In addition, for the first time, officials will have to report outside sources of income and lobbyists who are family members or with whom they have close economic ties.

The legislation also lays the groundwork for the state to move toward an online filing system that will further improve transparency of potential conflicts of interest held by government officials.

Specifically, the legislation will require officials to report: 

  • Assets valued at more than $10,000
  • Additional sources of income in excess of $2,500 
  • Debts over $5,000 incurred by or owed to the filer, other than those owed to a financial institution
  • Lobbyists with whom the filer has an economic relationship 
  • Family members of the filer, including a spouse, child, step-child, parent, step-parent or sibling, who are lobbyists registered with any unit of government in Illinois 
  • Gifts with a value of $500 or more

The bill was originally filed as SB3941 in 2012, but will be re-filed for the new legislative session. The BGA will be working hard alongside reform minded lawmakers to pass the bill this session.

Emily Miller is the BGA’s Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator. Contact her at emiller@bettergov.org

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