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After Blagojevich verdict, Quinn vows push for ethics referenda

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says Rod Blagojevich’s conviction on federal corruption charges Monday shows a need for more state government reform.

Quinn says Illinois has taken strides to lift ethics standards since Blagojevich’s 2008 arrest. Among other steps, lawmakers have passed the state’s first limits on campaign donations, and voters have approved a constitutional amendment enabling them to recall a governor.

But Quinn sees more to do. He says he wants the General Assembly to back extending the recall power to all elected offices, ban conflicts of interest that could compromise lawmakers, revisit the campaign-finance topic, and consider allowing open primaries, which would enable voters to cast ballots without disclosing their party affiliation.

Quinn says he’ll also push for a constitutional amendment that would allow ethics initiatives on state and local ballots.

“I think it would be a very healthy thing for Illinois democracy to root out any kind of corruption by giving voters the opportunity at the ballot box to pass strong, no-nonsense ethics laws that protect the taxpayers and protect the public,” Quinn said after a jury announced guilty verdicts on 17 counts against Blagojevich.

Quinn’s office says he has promoted the ethics-referenda concept since 1976. Last year the governor tried to push it into law through an amendatory veto.

At least one good-government advocate points to California’s experience with ballot initiatives and warns that Illinois voters could enact ethics laws full of loopholes and inconsistencies.

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