Quinn seeks ethics reform, increase in minimum wage

The Illinois governor during his State of the State address also calls for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeders.

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Related Business

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn boosted his populist credentials on Wednesday as he looks toward a 2014 re-election bid, calling for tougher conflict-of-interest controls on lawmakers, increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour and banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeders.

In the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly, Quinn said state law should prohibit lawmakers from voting on issues where they have a conflict of interest. He urged the Legislature to impose the same kind of ethics requirements on itself that it previously approved for judges and administration officials in a state that has seen its past two governors jailed on corruption charges.

But lawmakers weren't keen on what's perceived as a direct challenge to the Legislature's authority, and even government watchdogs pointed out it's a thorny issue that isn't as clear cut as it seems.

Quinn made only scattered references to the state's most pressing problem -- a stifling public-employee pension deficit, but the squeeze it puts on other government spending was an undercurrent throughout the governor's fifth State of the State address. Quinn pointedly named Senate President John Cullerton's latest legislation that includes a fallback plan if the first is declared unconstitutional as "the best vehicle to get the job done."

"Do we want, in the years to come, a prosperous Illinois where working people continue to have good jobs, where businesses thrive, and where all our children have a world-class education?" Quinn asked. "Or do we want to stop the progress and watch our economic recovery stall?"

Elevated to the job after his former running mate, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and removed from office in 2009 and elected to a full term the next year, Quinn will face not only stiff Republican competition but a possible primary challenge from one or more high-profile Democrats next spring. GOP lawmakers were keenly aware of the upcoming political season.

"Clearly it was a campaign speech for him," said Bloomington Sen. Bill Brady, the 2010 GOP nominee who nearly unseated Quinn and is considering another run next year. "He hit some of the right sound bites, but he didn't address some of the issues that are at the forefront."

Quinn noted the ban on what he called "conflict of interest voting" is an idea he first broached nearly 40 years ago, when more than 600,000 voters signed a petition supporting it. It's something more than half the states have already adopted. Quinn argued that the courts and executive branch are "regulated all over" but that a new law should be approved governing the ethical conduct of legislators.

"With this reform, we can keep moving toward a state government that always puts the people first, and a government that tackles the tough issues, no matter how hard," Quinn said.

Rikeesha Phelon, a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, questioned whether the plan would be redundant. State ethics law addresses conflicts but makes recusal from potentially troublesome votes voluntary.

Past efforts have failed, including a proposal last year by Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, another Republican preparing a gubernatorial run, said David Morrison, of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Such a law could bar a lawmaker working in the insurance industry from lending her wisdom to insurance legislation, he said. And recusal would mean that lawmaker's constituents lose a vote on sometimes crucial matters.

"It's a thorny issue," Morrison said. "It's a topic that needs to be looked at, but it's got to be looked at carefully."

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

More about

  • Discuss

Weather Forecast

View Forecast

Online Poll

Do you think CEO pay is out of step with the rest of the American workforce?

A recent survey indicates the average salary for CEOs climbed by nearly $470,000 last year -- more than 10 times what the typical U.S. worker makes annually.

Total Votes: 63