A high-ranking Democrat resigned from several leadership positions Thursday after being publicly accused of harassment, inappropriate behavior and retaliation by a former medical cannabis advocate.
State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, resigned from his position as House Deputy Majority Leader and left his spot on the Legislative Ethics Commission, which investigates wrongdoing by lawmakers, less than 24 hours after successfully pushing for approval of the federal Equal Rights Amendment. Lang called the allegations “absurd” and said he would seek another term in November at a news conference where he was surrounded by women lawmakers and lobbyists who attested to his good character.
Former medical cannabis advocate Maryann Loncar told reporters earlier Thursday afternoon at her own news conference that Lang, a close ally of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, verbally abused her, made unwanted advances and then retaliated against her.
Loncar said Lang, among other things, once placed his hand on her lower back below her underwear line and asked, “Does your husband know how lucky he is to have a wife like you?” She also said the Skokie Democrat called her one evening, telling her, “I would have dinner with you if you weren’t with your husband.”
When Loncar rebuffed Lang’s advances, she said Lang told her “to be careful.” Loncar said there are many witnesses to Lang’s inappropriate behavior.
“I was harassed. I was intimidated,” Loncar said. “I was humiliated and blackballed.”
Lang said he requested special Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter to look into the claims. The legislative inspector general must get permission from the Legislative Ethics Commission, of which Lang was a member until his resignation Thursday, to investigate.
During her news conference, Loncar made reference to an alleged bribe offer to Lang from businessmen seeking medical marijuana licenses. She said having that knowledge of the alleged bribe made her fear for her life. When asked why she hadn’t gone to the authorities about the potential crime, she said she was waiting for the right time but had the details journaled. She said others were also privy to the bribe offer.
An associate of Loncar’s later told Capitol Fax that Loncar mischaracterized the situation.
There are, however, reports of associates of Lang’s getting their foot in the door to acquire a number of the few licenses that were to be released. CBS St. Louis reported in 2014 that Sam Borek, Lang’s college roommate, reserved at least three-dozen marijuana-related business names.
At his own news conference, Lang dismissed the the claims.
“This is nothing,” he said. “The allegations are absurd. I’m running in November.”
State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, told reporters about Lang’s good character, but said the process for handling such complaints needs to change.
“The allegations we’ve heard today are very serious,” she said. “Hopefully the process will begin now.”
Feigenholtz was one of several Democratic women to stand behind Lang at his news conference.
At least one lawmaker took exception with Democrat lawmakers coming to bat for Lang before any investigation.
“This is how a culture of sexual harassment is perpetuated: turning a blind eye or standing by men even when they’re wrong,” said Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond. “These allegations came out hours ago – demand an investigation. If he’s right, we’ll know. If he’s wrong, call it out and work to change the culture.”
Alaina Hampton, a former Madigan campaign worker who accused the House speaker of covering up her own harassment allegations against one of his lieutenants, said Lang’s news conference “was a perfect example of why victims don’t come forward.”
“To see so many Democratic women standing with and singing the praises of a powerful man, just hours after he was accused of harassment, in an effort to undermine his accuser, was truly disheartening,” Hampton said in a statement. “To the women who stood with Rep. Lang today – think about what message you sent to all of us who have been victimized by men in power in Springfield.”
Lang blasted Loncar as a disgruntled “profiteer” who was retaliating against him after her business failed to get a marijuana dispensary license. Loncar, who was president of Mother Earth Holistic Health and CEO of Patient’s Health Center, planned marijuana dispensaries that never got state approval.
While Lang said he initiated an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General into Loncar’s accusations, Loncar said she would not cooperate because she felt Porter’s investigation would likely only serve to vindicate Lang.
This story has been edited since initial publication. A previous version indicated that Lou Lang was the chair of the Legislative Ethics Commission before he resigned from it. State Sen. Terry Link is the chair. Lang was a member when he resigned. He previously had chaired the commission.
Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
Local Republicans take “People’s Pledge” for term limits
Should there be limits on how long someone can serve in office? For the Republicans the answer is a strong yes. The “People’s Pledge” lays out a commitment to limiting individuals to eight years in an executive office, and ten years in the General Assembly. Those who sign the pledge say they will work to get the question on a ballot for the voters to decide. Today, Rep. Tim Butler (R-87), along with local candidates Mike Murphy, Herman Senor, and Steve McClure all signed the pledge with Governor Rauner.
This is not the first effort to get term limits on the ballot. In 2014, Rauner led a petition effort to get the term limit question on the ballot. Despite getting a substantial number of signatures, this effort was struck down by the courts. They ruled the proposed changes had to originate in the General Assembly.
Term limits are designed to create turnover in government. For supporters, this is a good thing because it brings in new people. Opponents agree it creates turnover, but point out no other industry seeks out employee turnover. However, the primary motivation in Illinois for term limits is Speaker Mike Madigan.
Madigan has dominated the Illinois House for decades. Rauner, who is a vocal opponent of Madigan, said that such a long tenure has led to corruption and other issues. The second half of the People’s Pledge is a vow to support anyone but Madigan for Speaker. The Republicans said they would like to retake the House and have a Republican Speaker, but they are willing to back any other Democrat that runs for Speaker.
You can watch the full remarks below, or the local candidate’s in the player above.
Rep. Jimenez’s Legislation to Move State Jobs Back to the Capital City Signed into Law
State Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez’s push to return state jobs to the capital city today culminated in the signing of a new law mandating that Sangamon County be the default location for state positions in agencies under the Governor. House Bill 4295 directs state agencies to set a geographic location for each job, and if there isn’t a geographic necessity for the state job, then it should be located in Sangamon County.
“For all of my time as state representative, I have made it a priority to push State agencies to identify positions within State government that can and should be located in Sangamon County. A recent report identified hundreds of jobs that could potentially be relocated to the capital city. By making Sangamon County the default location for state jobs in state law, it sends a clear signal that state jobs should be in the capital city, unless they need to be located somewhere else in the state to best serve our residents,” said State Representative Jimenez (R-Leland Grove), the legislation’s chief sponsor.
Rep. Jimenez previously spearheaded passage of a resolution urging agencies under the Governor to compile a report listing the number of state employees in each county, including justification for the location. The report released indicates the potential for nearly 400 jobs to move back to the capital city. The new preference contained in House Bill 4295 takes the next step in the process, requiring the Director of Central Management Services to relocate to Sangamon County all State employment positions under the Personnel Code that are not required by their nature or function to be located in another area. It also requires that all new positions created be located in the Capitol City unless required to be located in another specific location.
The relocation provisions will apply to currently vacant positions and as they become vacant in the future.
“The home of Illinois’ state government should also be home base for as many state government employees as possible. That will help streamline the process of providing services and also save taxpayer dollars in the long run – two improvements we need now more than ever,” Representative Jimenez said.
For more information and detail about this bill, previous efforts and the report from 2016, visit www.repsara.com.
New automatic voter registration law won’t slow efforts to reach out to potential new voters face-to-face
A new automatic voter registration law in Illinois won’t slow efforts to reach out to potential new voters in an old-fashioned way.
Sharon Alter is vice president of voter services and co-chair of voter service with the League of Women Voters of Illinois. She says in-person, face-to-face registration always will have a place of importance.
“People still like the personal contact,” Alter said. “And that contact is important not just with prospective older voters, but also prospective younger voters. During the course of the in-person voter registration, some voting questions can come up, so there’s an education process, especially for a first-time voter.”
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
Portions of the automatic voter registration law have begun to roll out. Earlier this month, Illinois’ Department of Motor Vehicle employees began to check for a customer’s voter registration online and allow citizens to sign-up if they wish to “opt-in”. Eventually, any eligible resident interacting with the DMV automatically will be registered to vote.
“The League of Women Voters Illinois is part of a coalition that supported the passage of this legislation,” Alter said. “Obviously, what all of us have to do is an education campaign. And that education campaign for voters about the process and the alternative here is just beginning.”
Illinois previously opened up online and same-day registration as part of a sweeping change to election laws in 2014. Alter says that didn’t really slow the demand for in-person sign-ups.
“When online voter registration started, as lot of people thought in-person voter registration would die out, but it really hasn’t,” Alter said. “And I would say at least for a while, even with automatic voter registration, in-person voter registration will still continue.”
Alter says she’s noticed a recent increase in voting interest across the board, but particularly among younger citizens.
“There’s an undercurrent of activism and interest and that’s across the board in ages, but particularly among younger voters,” Alter said. “A number of organizations have increased their membership, certainly since the November 2016 election, including the League of Women Voters.
Meanwhile, as part of the state’s membership in a national voter database, Illinois is required to try to reach people who are eligible to vote but who aren’t registered.
That means the state soon will spend $240,000 to send letters to unregistered voters.
Article by Scot Bertram, for more news visit ILnews.org
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