Week in Review: Criminal law, census, jobs & more


House Republicans urge Gov. Pritzker to veto flawed criminal justice bill. Illinois House Republicans held a press conference Wednesday to urge Gov. JB Pritzker to veto a sweeping criminal justice bill passed by bare Democrat majorities in the waning hours of the lame duck session of the 101st General Assembly.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the state must “thoroughly and carefully address police reform and criminal justice reform. It is the right thing to do.”
“I believe no person should have to live in fear of their government, and we must address those issues,” Leader Durkin said. “House Bill 3653 doesn’t do it. In short, it is a confusing, inoperable and contradictory attempt to reform policing and the criminal justice system.

“The [legislation], in its whole, is a document that lacks clarity and will be unworkable for police, the judiciary, defense attorneys and prosecutors.”

The abolishment of cash bail was part of the omnibus criminal-law bill that was passed in the final hours of the lame-duck 101st General Assembly. While the new bonding system enacted within the 764-page bill is very complex and its full ramifications are not yet fully understood, the expectation of the sponsors was that the great majority of defendants who have been arrested – including persons arrested for violent criminal offenses – will be released to back into the community while awaiting trial. House Republicans strongly opposed this change, as it will allow dangerous criminals back into our communities.

“We have significant concerns that criminals who commit acts of violence and other dangerous crimes such as robbery, burglary, and arson will be right back on the streets within days able to victimize more people. This is not acceptable,” said Rep. Patrick Windhorst, who previously served for fourteen years as a State’s Attorney.

House Bill 3653, the Legislative Black Caucus’ omnibus criminal justice bill, contained many controversial provisions that make extensive changes to Illinois ‘criminal justice laws. The legislation abolishes cash bail, makes it more difficult for prosecutors to charge a defendant with felony murder, adds further requirements for no-knock warrants, gives judges the ability to deviate from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, makes changes to the “three strikes” law, and decreases mandatory supervised release terms, among other changes.

One of the most controversial aspects of HB 3653 was the numerous changes and additional requirements it places on Illinois’ law enforcement officers. The legislation mandates body cams be worn by all officers, creates a new felony offence of law enforcement misconduct, creates an anonymous complaint policy, and makes changes to use of force in making arrest, duty to render aid and duty to intervene. The bill makes significant changes to the law enforcement officer certification and decertification process, including the creation of a new Law Enforcement Certification Review Panel.

“Police reform is not a bad thing when it’s done correctly,” said Joe Moon, President of Illinois State Troopers Lodge 41. “The 700-plus pages of this bill, unfortunately, will put citizens in Illinois at risk.”

Law enforcement officials and public safety agencies across Illinois believe HB3653 will threaten the safety of Illinois families. This flawed bill will make it more difficult for law enforcement to keep communities safe and gives more rights to criminals than to their victims.

We urge the governor to veto HB 3653 and bring all stakeholders together to craft real criminal justice reform and police accountability legislation that will truly make our communities safer.

Sign the petition to urge Governor Pritzker to veto HB 3653

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin appoints leadership team for 102nd General Assembly. On Monday, Leader Durkin announced the appointment of his leadership team for the 102 General Assembly. Congratulations to this dynamic group of leaders:

Deputy Republican Leaders
Rep. Dan Brady
Rep. Tom Demmer

Assistant Republican Leaders
Rep. Tom Bennett
Rep. Avery Bourne
Rep. Tim Butler
Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer
Rep. Deanne Mazzochi
Rep. Ryan Spain
Rep. Keith Wheeler

Rep. David Welter will serve as Conference Chair
Rep. Mark Batinick will serve as Floor Leader

Illinois House session days canceled. The Illinois House of Representatives had been scheduled to be in session for nine days in February 2021. With the COVID-19 pandemic still an ongoing threat to public health, however, all but one day has now been canceled. The Illinois House expects to work for one day on Wednesday, February 10 to adopt new House Rules for the 102nd General Assembly.

The House typically adopts procedural rules that will enable the Speaker of the House to control bill action in the chamber. In addition to giving new Speaker Chris Welch a set of tools to use his House majority powers to control bill action, the rules may also change the way the House does business. Under the old House rules, committees had to meet and hear testimony in person. The new rules are expected to allow committees to meet remotely and conduct business via video link.

After February 10, the next scheduled meeting of the full House is currently scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.

Illinois population decline estimated in advance of census count. The U.S. Census performs an annual state-by-state population estimate that is tied to the fiscal year. The numbers are preliminary and will be corrected by the hard count performed by many Americans in the formal 10-year census just completed.

The annual Census estimate saw 79,000 fewer people living in Illinois in mid-2020 than had been living here one year earlier in mid-2019. This was not a counted number, but an estimate based upon the other variables tracked by the Census Bureau. Previous estimates, in 2019 and previous years, had also seen declines in Illinois population, and it is possible that when the actual counted numbers for 2020 are released, the population of Illinois will have slid by hundreds of thousands from the numbers counted in Illinois in census year 2010. After Census numbers are released, the State of Illinois will have to redraw the maps used to elect State House members, state Senators, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois. House Republicans strongly support a nonpartisan “Fair Map” procedure to prevent politicians from drawing the new maps for their own benefit.

Immunizations continue, with vaccine in short supply. Limited supplies and heavy demand have made it difficult for many people to get an appointment for the coronavirus vaccine. In some regions of Illinois, such as Central Illinois’ Sangamon County, the local health department is urging persons aged 85 and older, and their caregivers, to take the lead in making the vaccination appointment.

This differs substantially from previous advice that all senior citizens aged 65 and up would get the chance to be vaccinated soon. As is now well known, one of the main sticking points in the vaccination rollout is the recommendation from vaccine producers that all recipients must get two shots to complete the procedure. Public health providers are warning that persons aged 65 and older, but younger than 85, are eligible for the vaccine but may not be able to make an immediate appointment to get one. Available vaccines must be rationed so that persons aged 85 and older will be able to get their second dose within their windows of time. There is currently major demand for vaccines from congregate-care centers, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, across Illinois.

Illinois unemployment claims rise again, ranking IL 2nd-worst in U.S. Illinois’ initial unemployment claims rose again last week, ranking the state’s COVID-19 economic recovery the nation’s second-worse.

The number of requests for unemployment benefits was 108,808 for the week ending Jan. 23, up from 95,472 the week before that. There were 337,148 Illinoisans receiving benefits as of Jan. 16, which was up 21,823 from the prior week. Benefits data lags initial claims data by a week.

Illinois’ increased joblessness runs counter to the national trend. New claims dropped by 67,000 last week to 847,000 in the U.S. Those receiving ongoing benefits dropped by 203,000 to 4.77 million nationwide for the week ended Jan. 16.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing throughout the United States, unemployment remained high in Illinois as 2020 came to an end. The official December unemployment rate was 7.5%. This number continues to “mask” the tens of thousands of discouraged Illinois adults who have dropped out of the labor force altogether and are no longer actively searching for work.

Compared to a year ago, nonfarm payroll employment decreased by -423,300 jobs, with losses across nearly all major industries. The industry groups with the largest jobs decreases were: Leisure and Hospitality (-198,100), Educational and Health Services (-58,300) and Government (-48,700). The only industry group with an over-the-year jobs increase was Construction (+1,000). Illinois nonfarm payrolls were down -6.9 percent over-the-year as compared to the nation’s -6.2 percent over-the-year decline in December.

Truncated high school sports schedule announced for remainder of 2020-21 school year. The Illinois High School Association held a special board meeting on Wednesday, January 27 to develop and publish a truncated schedule for individual and team sports for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. The schedule covers twenty separate sports, from basketball to wrestling. Each schedule comes with a hard end date for the season in question.

Because of the amounts of close contacts that take place between contestants in these sports, they are ranked from “lower risk” through “moderate risk” to “higher risk” by the Illinois Department of Public Health. This has helped to determine the length of each sports’ season, and the cancellation of various state championships. Boys and girls high school basketball teams will play a very short season that must end by March 13, and there will be no state championship tournament this year. Other winter sports and spring sports will also have shortened schedules and limited playoffs, or no playoffs.

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