FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Lawmakers have filed more bills to stop Illinois’ “revolving door” of lawmakers becoming lobbyists as soon as they leave office.

In 2019, lawmakers filed 11 bills that involved some sort of restrictions on the way that a lawmaker is free to lobby their former colleagues, commonly called a “revolving door prohibition.” 

Two more were filed last week, respectively calling for a one-year or two-year cooling-off period between when an elected official may register to lobby lawmakers in Springfield.

“We’re so used to this level of pay-to-play that we don’t even realize that it is not the norm,” said state Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena. “Many states prohibit a revolving door.”

Her legislation, House Bill 3997, would stop a former lawmaker from registering as a lobbyist “or make expenditures, receive compensation, or receive reimbursement for actual expenses for lobbying, within a period of one year immediately after termination of the member's most recent term of office or for the remainder of the term of office from which the person resigned, whichever is longer.”

McDermed said lawmakers sometimes appear to be “building a resume” with votes or filing legislation favorable to an industry that they wind up lobbying for shortly after leaving office.

“You know, you’re working on the marijuana bill and, the next thing you know, you’re working for the marijuana industry,” she said.

Another bill, filed by state Rep. Amy Grant, R-Wheaton, sets the limit further. 

“No person who has served as a statewide elected official, the executive or administrative head of a State agency, the deputy executive or administrative head of a State agency, or a member of the General Assembly shall, within 2 years after the termination of service or employment, become a lobbyist,” House Bill 4002 reads. 

While lobbying has become a profession that entails a negative connotation, lawmakers still rely on lobbyists when preparing to vote on complicated issues they may not be familiar with. A lawmaker from Chicago, for instance, may rely on a lobbyist from the Illinois Farm Bureau to get perspective before a vote that concerns the agriculture community in Southern Illinois. 

Illinois is one of only seven states that lack any sort of “revolving door” restrictions, according to the nonprofit Public Citizen.

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.