New laws necessary to keep up with times

For the last several years, Democrats who control both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly have implemented an unwritten policy prohibiting increased penalties in current criminal statutes. Additionally, they have prevented the passage of laws that would criminalize new behaviors. Two such examples of legislation that were thwarted by Democrats include one that would have increased penalties for attacks on DCFS workers and the another that created a new law criminalizing surreptitious electronic tracking.

After the brutal murder of DCFS Investigator Pam Knight in 2019, Rep. Tony McCombie introduced legislation that would increase the penalty for attacks on DCFS Investigators. Standing firm in their decision not to allow penalty enhancements, the House Democrat majority refused to pass the legislation that would have treated attacks on DCFS investigators the same way attacks on teachers and firefighters are treated. Not to be deterred by the Democrats’ roadblock, Rep. McCombie reintroduced the legislation in 2021 and passed it in the House only to have it stall in the Senate due to inaction and opposition by supermajority Democrats in that chamber.

Tragically, earlier this month another DCFS Investigator, Deidre Silas was brutally murdered while preforming her duties. Rep. McCombie has once again filed HB3933 for the spring 2022 Session in hopes that Democrats will now take action. DCFS Investigators are frequently presented with dangerous situations and they deserve all the protections the state can provide them.

In addition to being loath to increase penalties on criminal activities, Democrats have refused to allow laws to be passed that would create new criminal penalties despite emerging technologies that present new threats to innocent people. In 2016, a new law was introduced that would create the offense of illegal electronic monitoring, which would prohibit criminals from installing tracking software on electronic devices without the permission of the owner of the device. The legislation was proposed to protect victims of domestic violence from being unknowingly tracked by their abusers. However, the legislation never was heard on the House Floor because Democrats did not want to add a new criminal statute to the books. Flash-forward to 2022, news accounts of Apple Air Tags being used to track unwitting victims has raised new concerns about electronic monitoring. Rep. Keith Wheeler has introduced HB4726, a bill similar to the previously rejected illegal electronic monitoring legislation in an attempt to prevent such devices from being used for ill-intended purposes. The time to update our laws to match up with threats posed by new technology is now.

By refusing to acknowledge that people who mean to do harm are finding new ways to conduct those activities, Democrats are making Illinois a less safe place to live.

Responsible legislators do not introduce new laws just for the sake of creating them. New laws should have a specific purpose. At the very least, legislation dealing with penalizing stalkers and domestic abuse should be given a public hearing and vetted at all levels of the General Assembly. And, they should not be dismissed out-of-hand because Democrats won’t pass any tough-on-crime bills, no matter the cost to public safety. There is a happy medium to be had. When technology changes with the times, legislators must act accordingly to keep our citizens safe.

Republican lawmakers are ready and willing to work together with Democrats to keep all Illinoisans safe – after all, it is what we are elected to do.

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