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Local News

Rezin proposes election blackout period for grant announcements

Bill also calls for more stringent measures, accountability for grant recipients

MORRIS – State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, is pushing legislation that establishes a blackout period during which constitutional officers and legislators cannot announce grants close to an election.

The period would be from Sept. 1 to the day after a general election under Senate Bill 2764.

During that time, “the proper name or image of any executive branch constitutional officer or member of the General Assembly shall not be included in a public announcement” regarding grants awarded by a state agency, according to the proposal.

Rezin herself said she would gladly comply with the proposed blackout period, saying the bill was born out of former Gov. Pat Quinn’s controversial anti-violence program. Critics believe the Democratic then-governor launched a $54 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative program to secure black votes in the midst of a tough 2010 campaign.

The bill also would require a merit-based review of how grant recipients are selected and documentation of award decisions including applicant evaluation and scoring, according to a news release from Rezin’s office. SB 2764 also would authorize a state agency to stop payments to any grant recipient who is not in compliance with the grant agreement, according to the news release.

Such measures could prevent misuse of grant funds, Rezin said.

Quinn’s NRI funding was earmarked to curb crime in the most violent Illinois communities, but Rezin said it was later found through an audit that there were “no metrics, no accountability and no performance measures” attached to recipients’ use of those dollars.

“It is important to make sure these grants, when they are given out, that there’s transparency, accountability and paperwork in place,” Rezin said.

State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said he doesn’t have a problem with the blackout dates, but noted it’s not uncommon for lawmakers or elected officials to announce initiatives – whether it’s during an election cycle or not.

“As long as it’s appropriated correctly and as long as it goes where it’s supposed to go, I’m OK with it,” Walsh Jr. said.

Rezin also is co-sponsoring several other pieces of legislation relating to disclosure laws. Many of the bills deal with lobbyists and lawmakers disclosing potential conflicts of interest to one another, according to the release.

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KNOW MORE

Want to read about local state lawmakers’ proposed legislation? Search for bills sponsored by your lawmaker by visiting the Illinois General Assembly’s website at www.ilga.gov

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