How far will the recommendations go?
This commission's charter gave it 100 days to put together recommendations to end the culture of corruption in Illinois. There is still time before its end-of-April deadline, but the commission wants to strike while the iron is hot. An indictment of former governor Blagojevich is expected this week, and the commission chairman feels that waiting a month might mean the pay-to-play debate would lose steam.
This commission has received thousands of cards and letters, hours of testimony in meetings across the state. Its recommendations for fixing the "pay-to play culture" in Illinois are, commissioners say, bold and ought not be piecemealed.
"This is not the time to rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. This is the time for meaningful, comprehensive reform," said Pat Collins, Illinois Reform Commission chairman.
Among its key recommendations:
"The federal government has done it a long time ago. It has served us well. It's a step we can take. It's a step we can take easily," said Sheila Simon, reform commission member.
Commission members say another huge problem is that the state's procurement officers who set up billions in state contracts are too often pressured to steer the contracts for political favors. The commission wants them in a single department with oversight and free of political interference.
"Give them the power to make contract decisions. Give them the power to say no. Insulate them. This could have a dramatic role on the process," said David Hoffman, reform commission member.
Most of the recommendations will require legislative approval. Collins acknowledges the commission doesn't have votes, but it does have a voice and it wants an audience.
"I've always said inertia and quiet are the enemies of this process, and we have to turn on the noise in a productive way," said Collins.
Collins and other members of the commission traveled to Springfield Tuesday to present their report to the governor, and they're also intent on meeting with House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton.