Week in Review: Safe Communities, Coronavirus, Child Abuse Prevention & More

New State policy allows for release of non-citizen, violent convicted felons. In January, without notice to the public, a radical policy change was made in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) that allows for the release of non-citizen, violent convicted felons into our communities. This is happening without notice to local law enforcement authorities or local public officials

When non-citizens complete their state prison terms, they are typically transferred to federal immigration authorities where their immigration status is reviewed and adjudicated by a federal judge. That is no longer happening. IDOC is releasing these dangerous felons into our communities despite requests from federal immigration authorities to hold them.

This decision endangers the safety and security of our communities. Similarly, it puts local law enforcement in harm’s way and in potentially dangerous confrontations with these violent felons.

Let’s be clear – these individuals aren’t people who were convicted and put in state prison for minor traffic offenses like speeding or a broken taillight. These individuals are criminals who were convicted for committing violent, heinous crimes like murder, attempted murder, sex crimes against children, weapons offenses, and more.

For example, in 2019, 223 individuals were transferred from IDOC custody to federal immigration authorities. Of those 223:
  • 36 individuals were found guilty of sexual offenses against minors, including crimes against individuals as young as 5 years old;
  • 11 individuals were found guilty of murder, attempted murder or intent to kill or injure;
  • 19 individuals were found guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault;
  • 33 individuals were found guilty of a criminal offense involving a weapon;
Under no circumstance should these dangerous criminals be walking free in our communities. They should be handed over to the custody of federal immigration officials as soon as possible.

Governor Pritzker must reverse this policy and authorize IDOC to coordinate with federal and local law enforcement authorities to keep these violent felons out of our communities.

Rep. Parkhurst responds to release of undocumented violent criminals. State Representative Lindsay Parkhurst issued the following statement in response to a change in IDOC policy regarding undocumented convicted felons.

“Overnight – and without fanfare – there was a radical policy shift allowing undocumented convicted felons with active detainer warrants to be released from prison directly into the community without notification. Sheriff Mike Downey brought this to my attention and I am appalled there are no answers why. I want to be clear; this is not a policy for simple status offenses. This is not a policy for those deserving amnesty. These are serious dangerous criminal offenders – rapists, murderers, child molesters, and sexual predators. Last year, 223 undocumented convicted felons with active detainer warrants were safely transferred upon release from Illinois prisons. Under this radical new policy, these convicted felons with active detainer warrants are now simply released onto the streets and into our neighborhoods without notice.

I urge a statewide review of this policy and ask the governor to reverse this policy. The policy is dangerous to our children, our elderly, and all residents.”

Bryant calls Pritzker’s policy to stop cooperation between IDOC and ICE reckless, dangerous. State Rep. Terri Bryant joined members of the law enforcement community and Republican House and Senate members for a Capitol press conference on Tuesday to denounce a new policy being implemented by Governor Pritzker’s administration that ends cooperation and communication between the Illinois Department of Corrections and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when inmates are released from prison.

In 2019, the Kankakee Sheriff’s Department picked up 223 inmates that had served their prison sentences and were due to be deported back to their home country. Under the Pritzker immigration policy, the Department of Corrections no longer notifies Federal agencies involved with deporting released convicts. Bryant says the policy shift will likely bring disastrous results.

“The most disturbing part of this new reckless policy is that we cannot tell what is going to happen when someone that is supposed to be deported is released from prison in to the community where they were incarcerated,” Bryant said. “That means, a rapist, murderer, or child molester that was supposed to be deported upon their release from prison are able to walk free in our communities. Governor Pritzker has decided that he knows best and will determine whether Federal immigration law applies in the State of Illinois. It shouldn’t take an inmate being released and re-offending before the Governor changes this policy. I call on the Pritzker administration to immediately rescind this reckless and dangerous abdication of his duty as the state’s Chief Executive.”

House Republicans urge Governor to rescind dangerous policy. In response to this week’s news that non-citizen, violent felons are being released into our communities, House Republicans filed House Joint Resolution 118, which urges Governor JB Pritzker to instruct the Illinois Department of Corrections to comply with federal law and allow the DOC to continue to work with ICE and local law enforcement agencies.

Illinois one of only three U.S. states that can test for coronavirus. There has been extensive news coverage of a deadly contagious virus, currently labeled COVID-19, first reported in China. Thousands of cases have been reported, most of them in the country of origin. As of Friday, February 21, only three U.S. states – Illinois, California, and Nebraska – are credentialed by the Association of Public Health Laboratories as having adequate test kits and expertise to test for coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed this negative judgement upon public health agencies in states other than Illinois. Test kit procedures being carried out in several U.S. states are returning inconclusive, scientifically invalid medical results. Because this is a new virus, testing for it is a challenge to the American public health establishment. The dedicated professionals at the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are receiving praise from their peers nationwide for being as ready as possible for the current coronavirus outbreak. IDPH continues to closely monitor the situation in Illinois and is taking preventative action to limit the spread of this contagious disease.

House Republicans working to reform DCFS and prevent child abuse. Incidents throughout Illinois, particularly a tragic incident in McHenry County, have awakened Illinoisans to the sad fact that opening a “case file” on an endangered child does not remove the child from danger. Many children with active case statuses continue to be in danger of serious harm or death. House Republicans are working together to demand reforms to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and prevent child abuse.

House Bill 5281, sponsored by Rep. Tom Weber, will provide that any report to DCFS of child abuse by any person shall immediately be shared with the appropriate local law enforcement agency. Local police are urged (although not required) to use these shared reports to start a criminal investigation of the case. Passage of HB 5281 is meant to open the door to criminal investigations when a child is being harmed, or is in danger of being harmed, by a person living in the home of the child. HB 5281 has been filed as the AJ Freund Act, named for a child whose case was not fully investigated by local police. Police intervention could have saved his life. Tragically, AJ Freund’s status as the helpless victim of his own family lowered the priority of his case in the eyes of DCFS. Although there were several horrifying warning signs before the boy was killed, DCFS kept the case in their own hands and did not call in the police.

House Bill 5417, sponsored by Rep. Terri Bryant, updates a training requirement for mandated reporters of child abuse and child neglect. This bill will make sure that mandated reporters learn about, and are properly trained in, the act of reporting suspected child abuse and suspected child neglect to DCFS’s Online Reporting System.

Rep. Welter’s “Colton’s Task Force” on domestic violence unanimously approved by House Committee. The House Human Services Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation introduced and sponsored by State Representative David Allen Welter to establish “Colton’s Task Force” to combat domestic violence in the State of Illinois. The legislation is House Bill 4262.

Representative Welter was inspired to file legislation to create the task force in memory of 18-month old Colton Miller of Joliet, who was tragically murdered in an act of domestic violence in September 2019. Colton’s mother, Cassandra Tanner-Miller, herself a survivor of domestic violence, has been working with Representative Welter to raise awareness among the public, law enforcement agencies and the media about the need to improve Illinois’ domestic violence laws.

February 26 would have been Colton Miller’s second birthday.

“By working together to identify and correct the lapses in our laws that heighten the risk for more women and children to be abused or killed, we can honor the life of every victim of domestic violence in the State of Illinois and save others from suffering a similar fate,” Welter said. “This is our moment to make clear that the people of Illinois will no longer tolerate domestic violence to take innocent lives, devastate families, and harm communities in every corner of our state.”

Specifically, the task force would seek to accomplish four objectives: 1) conduct a comprehensive review of Illinois’ domestic violence laws; 2) make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding those laws; 3) establish a framework for specialized protective networks for victims, treatment options for victims and offenders; and 4) review the need for special consideration for conditions of bail in cases involving domestic violence within the ongoing changes brought on by bail reform.

83 members of the House of Representatives are co-sponsoring Representative Welter’s bill, including both Democrats and Republicans from every region of Illinois. If passed and signed into law, HB 4262 would require the task force to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor on or before September 1, 2022.

Rep. Bourne files bill package to protect downstate Illinois communities. State Representative Avery Bourne has filed a package of bills that seek to protect downstate Illinois communities from legislation that often has detrimental effects on communities outside of Chicago and the collar counties that surround it.

“We need to make sure that state government is working for all of Illinois and not just for our northernmost communities,” said Bourne. “Bills that benefit Chicago and/or the suburbs often have a negative impact on the more rural parts of our state, including the communities I represent in the 95th District.”

HB 5029 would create the Downstate Impact Note Act. When a financial or other impact on downstate communities exists within a pending bill, HB 5029 would require the disclosure of the impact prior to any floor vote being taken. “We have a concentration of legislators in and around Chicago who file bills with no regard for how their legislation could harm downstate communities,” said Bourne. “HB 5029 would provide important information so that legislators understand the true statewide impact of bills prior to a final House vote.”

HB 5030 addresses rulemaking in the General Assembly by requiring that any agency that proposes a new administrative rule or regulation that might negatively affect downstate communities provide for input to reduce the perceived impact.

HB 5031 addresses inequities as they currently exist on boards and commissions where appointees are chosen by the Governor. In an effort to promote board and commission membership that is more balanced and includes people from all over Illinois, HB 5031 would require the Governor to file reports with the General Assembly that detail the geographic information of gubernatorial appointees. “Many decisions made by Illinois boards and commissions impact more rural areas of the state yet those decisions are made by people who are not familiar with downstate Illinois. Knowing the geographic makeup of boards and commissions is an important tool to know we are well represented on these important decision making bodies,” said Bourne.

Rep. Murphy bill creates incentive to spur small business growth. Legislation sponsored by State Representative Mike Murphy seeks to address the exodus of families and businesses from Illinois by creating a tax incentive for small businesses to save and invest in Illinois. House Bill 4021, which is gaining bipartisan support, was assigned to the House Revenue and Finance Committee for consideration earlier this week.

“As a former small business owner, I know how hard it is for our small businesses to save and plan for the future because of the high cost to do business in Illinois,” said Murphy. “To address this, House Bill 4021 creates a tax-deferred savings incentive to allow small businesses to set aside up to $50,000 a year for capital improvements. As the backbone of our economy, making it easier for small businesses to plan for the future is essential to maintaining and growing the base of good-paying jobs in our state.”

As Murphy referenced, HB 4021 creates an income tax deduction for an amount up to $50,000 per tax year contributed to a small business asset purchase account. The process of deferred savings for capital improvements is something regularly employed by local governments in Illinois to plan for the future and creating a similar incentive for small businesses helps ensure greater economic stability.

Nearly half of Illinois’ workforce is employed by a small business and small businesses account for 99.6 percent of the state’s private enterprises, making their contribution to the state’s economy vital.

Illinois property taxes second-highest in nation. A new report has once again found that Illinois’ property taxes are the second-highest in the nation.

Illinois had the second-highest property taxes in the U.S., according to the latest report from WalletHub. The consumer finance website found the average property taxes on a $205,000 home in Illinois were $4,700. The same $205,000 house in Kentucky or Indiana would come with a $1,760 property tax bill. According to the WalletHub report, Illinois has an effective property tax rate of 2.30%, behind only New Jersey at 2.47%.

The Illinois House Republican Caucus has made property tax relief a focus of its legislative agenda for 2020. Many pieces of legislation have been introduced by our members to tackle the complicated issue and provide real relief to Illinois families struggling to pay for skyrocketing property tax bills.

Reick, Keicher discuss efforts to protect children from abuse. Reps. Steve Reick and Jeff Keicher discuss their legislative initiatives to prevent child abuse. Rep. Reick outlines AJ’s Law, a bill he has filed to protect children in the care of the state, while Rep. Keicher introduces us to the "Make S.A.F.E. Task Force" and its efforts to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in schools.

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