Name: Bubba Harsy
Town of residence: DuQuoin
Office sought: Attorney General
1. Attorney General Lisa Madigan created a public access counselor unit of the office to help people obtain public documents and access public meetings. Will the public access counselor continue to operate under your administration? Do you foresee changes to the system?
The Public Access Counselor will continue to operate under my administration. That being said, there are two changes that need to be made.
The first change that needs to be made is to hold bad-acting government officials accountable for their actions. Part of the problem with FOIA requests is that the employees representing the administrative agencies try their best to cover up the bad acts of the agency they work for and will not adhere to the requirements of FOIA. In instances where government officials are not objectively adhering to their duties and responsibilities, I would initiate quo warranto proceedings to have these bad acting government officials removed from their position to open up the position for a government official that is going to adhere to their duties and responsibilities. This change could be implemented immediately in any instances where a government official is not adhering to their duties.
The other major change I would like to see would be to add criminal penalties to government employees that do not objectively adhere to their duties and responsibilities. I believe FOIA needs more teeth to ensure government officials perform their duties and in the cases where they do not adhere to their duties and it causes harm to another person, I would like to see those government officials held criminally liable.
After removing bad acting government officials from office, and holding those criminally accountable, the example will be set for other FOIA officers to do their job in the manner they are supposed to. Once bad acting government officials are removed, the backlog of FOIA requests and appeals will be drastically reduced.
2. Are there flaws in the state's Freedom of Information Act and/or Open Meetings Act that you would make it a priority to address?
The lack of accountability for bad-acting FOIA officers is the biggest flaw in FOIA. I would make it a priority to account for the lack of accountability when dealing with bad acting government officials by removing bad actors from their positions. I would also seek to add criminal penalties in matters where government employees do not objectively do their job and it results in harming someone.
3. How will your office go after corruption in Illinois?
My office will use the power in the Attorney General’s Act to meet and direct the duties of the State’s Attorneys found in each county. I will inform the State’s Attorneys that over the next 4 years there will be a focus on prosecuting government corruption and that the attorney general’s office will assist local state’s attorney in any way to help prosecute government corruption.
After meeting with the state’s attorneys, in the event a state’s attorney does not take this responsibility seriously I will seek to have them removed from office via quo warranto proceedings in an effort to open up the job for someone who wants to take on public corruption. In the event the state’s attorneys do not take this serious, after a few are removed from their positions, I believe the other state’s attorney will get on board with taking on public corruption as a priority.
4. What reforms, if any, do believe are needed in the state’s criminal justice system?
We need to start treating drug problems as mental health issues, rather than purely criminal matters. When a person has problems with substance abuse, none of the underlying problems are addressed by locking someone in a cage for a period of 5, 10, or 15 years. We need to counsel these individuals about their problems and provide them with job skill training to create legitimate income to encourage them not to fall back into old habits.
I also believe we need to legalize marijuana and release all non-violent marijuana offenders. Marijuana laws are racially enforced and it is not worth $40,000 to $60,000 a year to house individuals that have violated marijuana laws.
5. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform’s 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey ranked Illinois as among the worst states in the country. How would you work to change this as attorney general?
The best way to change this goes back to government accountability. Part of the reason Illinois is ranked so low is because our judges do not enforce meaningful venue requirements and our judges rank the lowest on impartiality. If a judge is not being impartial and is not enforcing venue requirements then we need to make efforts to remove those judges from the bench. Judges are supposed to objectively enforce the law and are supposed to be impartial to the matters before them. Based on the results of the 2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey, that is not the case in Illinois. The best way to deal with bad acting government officials is to have them removed from their positions to open up those positions for good acting government officials and I will ensure that happens as Attorney General.
6. Should marijuana be legalized for recreational use in Illinois? If so, how? If not, why not?
Marijuana should be legalized for recreational use in Illinois. States that have easier access to medical marijuana have seen a reduction in opioid deaths so I believe in allowing people that would like to use marijuana for medicinal purposes the ability to grow marijuana plants at their own home. By allowing someone to grow their own medicine, we are cutting out healthcare intermediaries that only increase costs. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana, so if someone would like to treat themselves instead of paying to see a doctor, a pharmaceutical company, a dispensary, or an insurance company they should have that right.
In regards to the purely recreational aspect of marijuana legalization, Illinois needs the tax revenue that would be generate from a legal marijuana industry. In the event marijuana is legalized, I fully support someone’s right to grow their own plants, but I believe legalization would also open up the market for marijuana stores where people that would not want to grow their own marijuana would rather go and buy it. The money that could be generated by this cannot be ignored, especially in Illinois where we go into more debt every day.
7. How will your office fight pollution in Illinois?
Anytime a private company or government agency is found to be polluting our water or air in a manner that is in direct violation of regulations, they will be held accountable for their acts as soon as legally possible. My office will go after polluters on both sides of the political aisles. Furthermore, my office would never sit on regulation violations for a period of years and then file lawsuits that appear to be politically advantageous. I believe this is what happened in matters involving Trump Tower. In the event Trump Tower was polluting the Chicago waterways, that lawsuit should have been filed sooner rather than later and it should not have taken a period of years.
Bad actions are committed by democrats and republicans in Illinois and the only way to clean up our state is to hold bad actors accountable regardless of which political party they belong.
8. What are your priorities for consumer protection?
While maintaining the consumer protection reporting practices that Lisa Madigan has already established, I would also like to focus on matters involving healthcare.
Specifically, I would challenge the constitutionality of the McCarren-Ferguson Act of 1945, which is a federal law that gives states the authority to allow insurance companies to have monopolies within a state. Maybe in 1945, when everything was done on paper, this was a cost saving mechanism, but now it is nothing more than a corrupt business practice. In the modern day, with the instantaneous exchange of information and everything being uploaded on computers, my First Amendment right to freely associate with organizations of my choosing is more pressing than any reason the government thinks they may have in allowing states to have insurance monopolies.
Once these unconstitutional restrictions are struck down and consumers can legitimately choose where they want to purchase their health insurance plans from, we will see healthcare costs go down.
9. What would be your approach to immigration enforcement and public awareness?
In regards to immigration, I will not allow the state of Illinois to be bullied by the Trump administration to perform unconstitutional duties. The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents the federal government from ordering state government employees to do the job of the federal government. The federal government does not have the authority to force the state to handle immigration matters since the federal government has absolute authority in regards to immigration matters.
If the federal government would like states to handle immigration matters, than a federal constitutional amendment needs to be passed allowing the states to handle these matters. Without a federal constitutional amendment, the manner in which immigration matters are handled will be dependent upon which political party controls the presidency. In the event the federal government would not like to pass a federal constitutional amendment allowing states to handle immigration matters, then they need to hire their own employees to handle immigration matters or at least provide adequate funding for states to hire employees to handle immigration affairs.
10. How will your office work to protect senior citizens?
I will maintain the attorney general’s Senior Citizens Consumer Fraud Hotline, as well as the Senior Citizen Abuse hotline. Abuse against the elderly is one of the worst crimes someone can commit in a community, and reporting these crimes needs to be made as conveniently as possible.
Furthermore, one of the biggest problems faced in protecting senior citizens is the underreporting of when these crimes occur. Generally, senior citizens are made victims by family members and they do not want to turn in their family. Due to low reporting rates, and these types of crime being morally appalling, criminal penalties as well as the statute of limitations on these matters need increased.