Week in Review: Crime, Omicron, DCFS & more


Illinois less safe since SAFE-T Act enacted. In February of 2021, Governor Pritzker signed the quickly drafted and un-vetted SAFE-T Act into law. The Safety Accountability, Fairness & Equity Today Act was purported to keep Illinois families safer. However, that has not been the outcome for those who are already battling violence in their neighborhoods.

Since the law was enacted, many neighborhoods in Chicago and surrounding suburbs have witnessed an increase in violent crimes that include murder, expressway shootings, carjackings, assaults, armed robberies, smash & grabs and mob retail theft. Compared to 2019, crime is up 7.5% in Chicago. And the neighborhoods most impacted by crime are the ones that have been dealing with violence for decades.

According to a Chicago Sun Times report: “In the seven most-violent police districts in the city, the rate was 25 times higher than the rest of the city — nearly 100 murders per 100,000 residents. That’s the largest such gap between the safest and least-safe areas in the 60 years of data tracked by the Crime Lab.”

The new SAFE-T Act has made Illinois a less safe place to live for just about everyone. Something needs to be done to address violent crime in Illinois, but it is clear rushing legislation through the General Assembly was not the right solution. Our forbearers created a legislative system that included people from all walks of life from across the state to debate, collaborate and pass legislation with a minimum of unintended consequences. It is when debate and honest input are rejected that well-intended legislation fails to deliver for the people of Illinois. Such is the case of the SAFE-T Act of 2021.

Illinois State Representative Patrick Windhorst has filed HR 598 to repeal the SAFE-T Act and we have established a petition to get your input. If you agree we need to repeal the SAFE-T Act, please sign our petition.

Republican Rep. Ryan Spain files legislation to repeal law which led to crime wave on one-year anniversary of passage. Assistant Republican Leader Ryan Spain filed House Bill 4497, a bill aimed at repealing the Safe-T Act, on the one-year anniversary of the start of a continual crime wave since the bill was debated and enacted by Illinois Democrats.

“I have never seen anything more despicable than the passage of House Bill 3653 this past January,” exclaimed Rep. Spain. “The priorities of the criminal class were placed ahead of the working class and ahead of our law enforcement by Illinois Democrat lawmakers. Illinois is more dangerous than ever because of Democrats’ misplaced priorities. Across our state, in Chicago, the suburbs, and Downstate, we continue to see an unchecked rise in violent crime, and depleted law enforcement ranks who continue to be pushed aside by incumbent Democrats. Carjackings, shootings and other senseless acts of violence have Illinois residents living in constant fear of criminals. All the while, law-abiding citizens are denied access to FOID cards through endless bureaucratic delays and our law enforcement officers do not receive the support they need from our government. It has to stop.”

More than half the state’s elected County Sheriffs have announced their exit from the profession since passage of the Safe-T Act, most citing the attacks by politicians on law enforcement. The City of Chicago’s murder rate in the highest in 25 years at 836 murders last year. The City of Peoria also hit a record number of homicides with 34 murders. A 40% increase was reported in carjackings in Chicago in 2021, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office, with similar trends seen throughout the state.

House Bill 4497 was filed by Rep. Spain to fully repeal the woke criminal justice reform measures passed by Illinois Democrats after midnight on January 13, 2021. Companion legislation, House Bill 4496, creates a public safety task force which requires strong involvement of the law enforcement community in making recommendations to allow for reasonable reforms which would not jeopardize public safety, as the Democrats have done.

“Progressive lawmakers in Illinois are scrambling to demonstrate their support of police, but the reality is that the Democrats cut the legs out of public safety in Illinois through their ham-handed punish the police bill to cater to the radical elements of their base of supporters. Hardworking Illinoisans have suffered long enough for the political gain of Democrat politicians, be they in Chicago or right here in Central Illinois,” Spain concluded.

Omicron variant continues to surge in Illinois. With many Illinoisans learning they may have been exposed to the highly contagious virus, there are COVID-19 test shortages and long lines at testing centers throughout the state. Many Illinoisans are testing positive for the virus, which now includes the worldwide Omicron variant. In the first full week of January, healthcare providers reported 201,428 new cases of COVID-19 to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). This was a record number of new cases in a one-week period. In addition to these official reports, many Illinoisans have been able to obtain home-testing COVID-19 nasal swabs to test themselves at home. The number of positive cases from at-home tests cannot be estimated at this time.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have increased more than 50% in the most recent two-week period, with 6,901 patients hospitalized for the disease as of Tuesday, January 11. Public health officials continue to advise Illinoisans to get and maintain their vaccination status, including booster shots, for COVID-19. All persons, including fully vaccinated persons, should continue to wear facemasks in public settings.

Unpaid Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt climbs toward $5 billion. Since September 2021, interest has begun to accrue on this debt, which is owed by the UI Trust Fund to the federal government in Washington, D.C. The mammoth debt is a legacy of the 2020 “first wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was marked by massive layoffs and joblessness throughout Illinois. Federal law requires the state unemployment systems to continue to pay out unemployment insurance benefits during hard times, and treats each state’s UI system like a chucking account that has become overdrawn. After a short period of time, the debtor state begins to owe interest on the overdrawn money. This is what has happened to Illinois.

Illinois is now accruing approximately $2 million in interest every week on its UI debt. An Interest payment will be due in September. If the UI Trust Fund debt has not been refinanced before that payment is due, the interest payment must be made from State general revenues paid by all taxpayers.

Proposed laws you should know about: Reducing sales tax on diapers. Families dealing with the rising cost of just about everything could get a break under legislation filed by Illinois State Rep. Paul Jacobs to cut the sales tax on diapers and diaper wipes from 6.25% to 1%, equaling an 84% reduction. The new rate would be the same as that for medicine and food.

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, Illinois is home to more than 439,000 children under the age of 3 years old. With an average monthly supply of diapers per child costing $80, a tax relief on diapers and wipes can help family finances.

The Rockefeller Institute recently reported the results of a diaper need survey:
  • 51.7% of families surveyed indicated that purchasing diapers creates financial difficulties at least some of the time
  • 50% of those families indicated they had to choose between diapers and other necessities. 
  • 66.7% of the respondents indicated they were middle income ($50,000-$74,999) and had struggled with diaper need at least some of the time. 
“All families should have the resources needed to maintain their children’s health and safety without sacrificing financial stability," explained Rep. Jacobs. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many families struggled to afford basic needs for their children, like diapers and wipes. Giving them a tax break on diapers, arguably, a need as basic as food and medicine, simply makes sense.”

Follow HB 4381 through the legislative process.

Lack of action by DCFS is failing the children in the care of the State of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has been burdened in recent years with the growing weight of advocacy lawsuits, consent decrees, and unkept promises for better treatment for the children under its care or supervision. Despite being the recipient of taxpayer-funded appropriations that have now topped $1 billion/year, DCFS and its top management have not been able to develop a system that reliably provides the services to children that are required by federal rules and case law.

In one long-running case based in Cook County, a judge concluded that DCFS’s non-compliance with a series of court orders had reached the level of contempt of court. The court finding was issued on Thursday, January 6.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to the Chair of the House Appropriations Human Services Committee this week to call for a hearing on the failures at DCFS that have caused a Cook County judge to hold DCFS director Marc Smith in contempt of court.

In his letter, Leader Durkin stated the following:

Under the Pritzker administration, more than 350 children have been left to languish in psychiatric care despite having been cleared to move on to a family setting.

The unprecedented step by the Cook County judiciary to hold Director Smith in contempt needs to be a wake-up call to the General Assembly. The lack of action by DCFS is failing the children in the care of the state.

On Thursday, January 13, House Republican Reps. Steve Reick, Tony McCombie and Tom Weber held a press conference to reiterate HGOP demands that the Illinois House hold hearings on the current performance of DCFS, its top management, and the realities behind the contempt-of-court finding.

Illinois’ Driver Services offices, which conduct drivers’ license exams and license card renewals, will remain closed for now. The Driver Services division is a part of the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. Secretary of State Jesse White has asked many of the members of his staff to work from home during the current COVID-19/Omicron surge. This policy has closed Illinois’ Driver Services offices, and these offices will remain closed next week. No reopening date has been set, but it is likely these offices will remain closed until the current surge is seen as subsiding.

During the current pandemic, the Secretary of State has temporarily extended the validity periods of many Illinois drivers’ licenses. In a current extension move, Illinois drivers’ licenses, instruction permits and identification cards that have an expiration fate between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022 will continue to be valid until March 31, 2022. This does not apply to commercial drivers’ licenses and commercial learner’s permits, which will continue to expire during this period and must be renewed on schedule.

Illinois’ population loss has continued to speed up. After the nation’s population was officially counted in 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau continued its work. It is currently using verified figures from the actual 2020 total-population count as a database starting point. The database is a good resource with which to crosscheck the annual estimates that the Census Bureau compiles every year of continuing population changes.

For calendar year 2021, the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers show that Illinois’ population trends, the movement of numbers in a pattern that was laid down in the decade that began in 2010 and ended in 2020, continued in 2021 and even speeded up. Illinois lost more people faster to other states during the pandemic. Three states – California, Illinois, and New York – lost many people in 2021, but of these three states, Illinois had the smallest base to start out with and the impact of this loss was comparatively greater than for the other two states. Western states other than California, led by Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, once again notched big net population gains in 2021.