FILE - Republican news conference Dec. 4, 2019

A group of Illinois Republicans asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to call lawmakers back to Springfield this month to address corruption concerns amid federal probes into lawmakers and lobbyists.

State Reps. Blaine Wilhour, Allen Skillicorn, Dan Caulkins, Brad Halbrook and Andrew Miller called for the governor to force lawmakers to return for a special session with the sole purpose of addressing political corruption.

“The people in our districts and all over the state of Illinois are demanding action,” said Wilhour, R-Beecher City. “They see this crisis of corruption unfolding before their eyes and they don’t accept it.” 

Pritzker later Wednesday afternoon signed measures aimed at strengthening ethics laws in the General Assembly. One bill will require more detail about lawmakers' monetary interest disclosures when they begin a new term. Another creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, a task force that will provide recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on how to further strengthen ethics laws by March 31. 

The governor can call state lawmakers back into session, but it’s often done with a touch of political calculus because doing so triggers considerable costs to taxpayers in the form of employee hours and per diems for lawmakers. The last special session was called during the two-year budget standoff between then-Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and getting little done to break the impasse.

Wilhour said Republicans would be open to devoting time during next month’s scheduled session to address ethics reform as long as there’s a “commitment and sense of urgency.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has descended upon the state legislature. Federal investigators have been scrutinizing Exelon and ComEd's lobbying practices after several lobbyists allegedly funneled money to a former top aide of House Speaker Michael Madigan. The aide, Kevin Quinn, was fired after he was accused of sexual harassment by a campaign worker who last week won a $250,000 settlement after filing suit.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, resigned Nov. 1 after he was arrested on a federal bribery charge. Federal investigators said Arroyo tried to bribe an unnamed state senator. Arroyo has pleaded not guilty.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, announced last week that he will resign as he also is under federal investigation after agents raided his home and offices.

Earlier in the summer, federal prosecutors indicted state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, for embezzling from a labor union. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in office.

Amid the corruption probes, Senate President John Cullerton announced last month that he was resigning from office just one year into his current term.

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.