Harmon03152017As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.

That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.

Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.

“Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.

Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.

“These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.

Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.

“I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.

Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.

Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when the bill becomes law.

Category: News

Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding revelations about mismanagement of contract paperwork by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office and hiding the source of deputy governor Leslie Munger’s $138,000 yearly salary:

“Now that it’s come to light that Gov. Rauner can’t manage his payroll records correctly, I find it even more clear why he’s been unable to manage a state budget for two years.

“Gov. Rauner has the right to hire whatever staff he believes he needs to properly run his administration, even in this period of historic fiscal distress for state government. But surely he can understand the terrible impression it creates when he hides a six-figure salary in state accounts designated for paying medical providers who have been waiting months for payments from the state of Illinois.

“The governor pledged to be transparent and to manage the state’s affairs better than his predecessors. He’s failing.”

Category: News

Harmon03012017GrBargPresserSenator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding Gov. Rauner’s apparent interference in today’s grand bargain negotiations:

“Senate Democrats have been engaged in compromise. We put a reasonable package on the table, one that contained many of the governor’s signature initiatives. The Republicans, cowed by Governor Rauner’s threats and intimidations, wouldn’t vote for it.

“This governor – supposedly the great deal maker – doesn’t know how to declare victory. For that shortcoming, Illinois will continue to suffer.”

 

Category: News

Harmon02282017Illinois taxpayers, public universities and state agencies would benefit from a bipartisan plan to streamline the state’s purchasing rules that was negotiated by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

The legislation, Senate Bill 8, was approved in the Senate on Tuesday.

Harmon said it became clear to lawmakers that the state’s procurement rules are ready for an overhaul. The legislature enacted a series of strict procurement reforms in the aftermath of the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich administrations because of questions over how they handled contracting, bid-letting and transparency for state business.

But the rules may have gone too far, sacrificing some efficiency and savings in an effort to deter corruption, Harmon said.

“We heard from universities, in particular, that the state’s purchasing rules have caused real headaches for them,” Harmon said. “Rather than save money for the state, the rules frequently have caused them to waste more money and time than an average business would.”

Harmon sponsored the legislation with Republican Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry.

The measure is a key part of the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” compromise deal that Gov. Bruce Rauner is relying upon to achieve a balanced budget for the state. Rauner has pressed for procurement reform as one cost-savings measure.

Among other things, Senate Bill 8 does the following:

  • removes inappropriate restrictions on the procurement of specialized purchases, including database licenses and food for resale on campuses;
  • creates a pilot program modeled after one in California for the efficient purchase of heavy fleet vehicles, special equipment and off-road construction equipment;
  • requires state agencies to respond promptly in writing to inquiries and comments of the Procurement Policy Board;
  • streamlines the procurement code and protects lowest bids from disqualification for minor or technical issues;
  • permits informational communication between vendors and the state, while still requiring that the inspector general be notified of any collusion or anticompetitive procurement practices; and
  • creates a special committee on procurement efficiency in purchasing that will study ways to further streamline the process; study procurement laws about contracting with minority-owned, women-owned, disabled-owned, and veteran-owned businesses; and study ways to purchase additional goods and services from Illinois companies.
Category: News

CashThe controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois would come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

Senate Bill 1578 would require more accountability of law enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.

As currently written, Illinois law incentivizes police agencies and prosecutors to seize cash, cars, land and other property from people suspected of – but not necessarily charged with or convicted of – criminal activity. The property frequently is forfeited and auctioned off, with proceeds going into the police department coffers.

“Illinois has allowed a system to take root in which grandparents, for example, can be exploited by the justice system simply because they loaned their only car to a relative whom they didn’t realize had a revoked license. The next thing they know, that relative is in jail, the car is impounded, and they have limited recourse for getting it back,” Harmon said.

Critics of the state’s current law cite numerous problems with it. For example, it’s unclear if probable cause is a requirement for police to seize property in Illinois. Even if an owner is never charged or convicted of a crime, law enforcement agencies are not obligated to return property that was seized during an investigation.

Further, current state law makes it especially difficult for people to reclaim their property through the court system.

Read more ...

Category: News

Contact Me

Email Senator Harmon

Springfield Office:
329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(p) 217.782.8176
(f) 217.558.6013

Oak Park Office:
6941-B W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(p) 708.848.2002
(f) 708.848.2022

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