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Lt. Gov. Simon, Sen. Kotowski announce ethics reform PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:14

New disclosure forms to close loopholes, expose conflicts of interest

SPRINGFIELD – November 29, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) today to introduce ethics reform legislation that will overhaul the much-maligned financial disclosure forms filed by tens of thousands of public servants each year.

The bill proposes a new disclosure form – known as a Statement of Economic Interests – that would require filers to list outside sources of income, lobbyist relationships and loans made or accepted on terms not available to the general public, for the first time. It also closes loopholes that allowed filers to answer “not applicable” to almost all of the questions on the current version of the form introduced 40 years ago.

Simon said the goal of the new form is to help Illinois residents determine if elected officials, high-ranking employees and candidates hold any conflicts of interest. The new form will also be easier for filers to complete thanks to the plain-language questions, definitions of terms and obvious connections to information found on tax returns and investment statements.

“At over 40-years-old, it’s time our financial disclosure forms get a facelift,” Simon said. “This legislation is about making our Statement of Economic Interests more understandable for the people who fill them out, and making them more transparent for those who want to get information from them.”

State Sen. Dan Kotowski will introduce the bill in the Senate today after working with Lt. Governor Simon’s office, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and the Better Government Association to redesign the form over the past year.

Residents want more transparency and accountability in Springfield, Kotowski and Simon said, citing a recent Southern Illinois University poll in which 65 percent of respondents said they were “not very” or “not at all satisfied” with the information available on elected officials’ finances.

“With this important change, taxpayers can easily search information regarding potential conflicts of interest, and hold public officials and candidates accountable,” Kotowski said. “This reform adds needed transparency in my effort to end politics as usual in Springfield.”

Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose office created an online Statement of Economic Interests database to improve transparency, applauded Lt. Governor Simon for spearheading the effort to overhaul the inadequate disclosure forms. Analysis of the 22,000 local government respondents that filed with his office in 2012 showed that 87 percent answered “not applicable” or “N/A” to every question on the disclosure form.

“For 40 years, these forms have revealed too little about elected officials' and public employees' financial profiles,” Orr said. “I am so pleased to find a champion in Sheila Simon, whose commitment to expanding disclosure will help draw back the curtain on hidden conflicts of interest.”

The Illinois Constitution and Illinois Governmental Ethics Act require elected officials, high-ranking government employees, and political candidates to complete a Statement of Economic Interests each May. State government workers file with the Secretary of State, while workers for local units of government file with their county clerk. The forms are supposed to expose existing or potential conflicts of interest, but the documents use such vague and cumbersome language that the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has called them “woefully inadequate” and “a waste of paper.”

“Delegates writing the 1970 Constitution mandated the Statement of Economic Interest because the public has a right to know about public officials' conflicts of interest. It's high time the form caught up to modern economic practices,” said David Morrison, Deputy Director of the ICPR.

Simon and Kotowski said they will work together to pass the legislation by January.

 
Lt. Governor Simon supports licenses for all eligible Illinois drivers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 10:04

SPRINGFIELD – November 28, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding legislation to allow every qualified Illinois resident to obtain a driver’s license. Simon urged the legislature to take action on this item during veto session.

“This bill is a proactive step to help guarantee the safety and well-being of all Illinois residents. Our goal is to train, license and insure every eligible Illinois driver, regardless of legal status, to make our roads safer for all travelers. I am pleased to support this progressive bill and call on legislators to vote in favor of this public safety measure,” Simon said.

Simon joined the bipartisan coalition supporting Senate Bill 957/House Bill 6228 based on her experience as a Jackson County prosecutor who witnessed the damaging financial impacts of uninsured, unlicensed drivers on Illinois roadways. New licenses are also projected to generate much needed new revenue for the state, she said.

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Loebsack to Mark 500th Event in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 09:55

Will host ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ card writing event in Ottumwa

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack announced today that he will mark his 500th in-state event for the year in Ottumwa.  This Saturday, December 1st, Loebsack will join employees at the Ottumwa North Hy-Vee to write Holiday cards to the troops serving overseas.  Cards will be provided at the event and then distributed through the Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Click here for additional information about the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. The public is invited to stop by and give the troops a “touch of home” for the Holiday season.

This event will also be the 500th event Loebsack has held in Iowa since January 1st, 2012.  Media are invited to attend.

Holiday Mail for Heroes Event

Saturday, December 1st

2:30pm

North Hy-Vee

2453 North Court

Ottumwa

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Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds announce Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit video contest winners PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of Iowa   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 09:36

(DES MOINES) – Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds today announced the winners of the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit video contest.

The first place winner of the video contest was Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Community School District of Hartley, Iowa with nearly 37,000 views and will receive a $500 prize and a visit from Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds. Lisbon Community Schools, of Lisbon, was awarded second place with over 28,000 views and will receive a $350 cash prize. Central Lee Middle School, of Donnellson, took third place with over 25,000 views and will receive a $150 cash prize.

Originally, the contest was going to recognize only one winner, but the Change at the Anamosa State Penitentiary raised money to award second and third place.

“I think the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit was a wonderful learning experience and exchange on ideas and strategies of preventing bullying and the challenges we need to overcome. We need to have not just the schools but also the parents and the community actively involved also. The summit has exceeded my expectations,” said Gov. Branstad.

Department of Education Director, Jason Glass, made the formal announcement of the winners during today’s afternoon session of the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit. The winners were determined by the number of views received online.

“It’s really encouraging to know that the winning video had over 36,000 views. It’s very powerful to have this many students raising awareness and talking about the importance of preventing bullying. I look forward to visiting the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Community School District,” said Lt. Gov. Reynolds.

The videos can be found on the EduVision Bully Prevention Entries Channel here: https://educateiowa.eduvision.tv/Default.aspx starting Wed. Nov. 28. There were 23 videos submitted for the contest. Voting ran from Nov. 12 through Nov. 21.

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Grassley Applauds Signing of Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 14:29

Grassley attends Oval Office ceremony to witness signing of the legislation

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today made a special trip to the White House to witness the signing of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act which strengthens existing law to better protect whistleblowers.

Grassley was a co-author of the legislation being signed into law today, and the original 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act it updates.  The legislation was necessary because whistleblowers are being denied the protections they should have under the law because of decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and a general anti-whistleblower sentiment found in executive branch agencies.

“As one of the authors of the original Whistleblower Protection Act, and a long-time advocate for whistleblowers, it’s wonderful to see this legislation signed into law.  Whistleblowers strengthen our system of checks and balances, and that strengthens our system of representative government.  It’s a constant battle to make sure that these patriotic citizens who shed light on overspending, mismanagement and layers of ineffective leadership within the federal government are protected,” Grassley said after the signing in the Oval Office.  “Now, more work needs to be done to ensure that FBI whistleblower protections are updated and that intelligence community whistleblowers are covered under the law and given the protections they deserve.”

A long-time advocate for whistleblowers, Grassley has stood up against the heavy hand of the bureaucracy – regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats were in charge -- for individual whistleblowers from the Pentagon, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the IRS, the Interior Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to co-authoring the 1989 whistleblower law, Grassley also authored the 1986 update of the False Claims Act to include qui tam provisions that empower private citizens, who had information about fraudulent activity by government contractors, to bring wrongdoing forward and sue in the name of the government.  To date, these whistleblower provisions have recovered more than $30 billion for taxpayers that otherwise would be lost to fraud.

In 2009, Grassley and Senator Patrick Leahy won passage of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act which made the most significant improvements to the False Claims Act since 1986.  The law restores the scope and applicability of the False Claims Act where it had been limited by court decisions.  This effort also revised criminal laws to help prosecute mortgage fraud, securities fraud, and complex financial crimes that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

In addition, Grassley authored the 2006 overhaul of the IRS whistleblower program to fight major tax fraud.  The IRS recently paid out its largest award ever, but has acknowledged, after scrutiny from Grassley, that the agency must be more timely and responsive in processing whistleblower claims.

 

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 will:

·         clarify that any disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;

·         suspend the sole jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals over federal employee whistleblower cases for two years;

·         extend Whistleblower Protection Act coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;

·         clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;

·         codify portions of the anti-gag provision, which Grassley originally got passed, that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;

·         establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and

·         provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file "friend of the court" briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.

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