Week in Review: Crime, Chicago Bears, First Responders & More


Elimination of cash bail will put dangerous criminals back on our streets. During the final hours of the 2021 lame duck session of the 101st General Assembly, Illinois Democrats rammed through anti-police, pro-criminal legislation under the cover of darkness.

The Democrats’ so-called “SAFE-T” Act (HB 3653, PA 101-652) 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. 

House Bill 3653 was approved by the Illinois House on January 13, 2021 by the bare majority of 60 votes (60-50-0), with only minutes to spare before the clock struck to end the 101st General Assembly. It was strongly opposed by Illinois’ law enforcement community, including the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and many State’s Attorneys from across the state. Citing serious concerns about both the content and the process by which the bill passed, House Republicans voted unanimously against the measure. The legislation had passed the Illinois Senate in the early hours of the final day of the 101st General Assembly on a vote of 32-23-0. Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law on February 22, 2021.

On January 1, 2023, the State of Illinois will eliminate its cash bail system. Starting next year, Illinois’ non-detainable offenses will include: aggravated battery, aggravated DUI, aggravated fleeing, arson, burglary, drug-induced homicide, intimidation, kidnapping, robbery, 2nd-degree murder, and threatening a public official.

Representative Patrick Windhorst, who previously served for 14 years as State’s Attorney for Massac County, strongly argued against the controversial provisions of the Democrats’ criminal justice legislation when the bill was passed in 2021. This week, Windhorst again spoke out against the pending elimination of cash bail.

“I believe the elimination of cash bail, particularly as it’s written in the SAFE-T Act, will reduce public safety and lead to more crime particularly more violent crime in Illinois,” Patrick Windhorst, former state’s attorney and current state representative for district 118, said.

Windhorst said he voted against this bill when it came about. He said he was one of the leading voices against it. […]

Representative Windhorst listed some of the offenses that won’t involve detention before going to trial.

“So there are a whole list of violent crimes, burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, almost all drug offenses even drug distribution, DUI offenses, even DUI offenses that are involving a fatality, that do not qualify for detention under the Illinois Safety Act. To me, that’s going to mean a lot of individuals are committing crimes and being released immediately, if not within a couple of days,” he said.

Illinois is the first state in the country to abolish cash bail.

Democrat bill would reduce penalties for deadly drugs to Class A misdemeanor. Drug possession crimes covered in the Democrat-backed legislation include the possession of fentanyl, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and heroin. House Democrats approved the measure, HB 3447, during the spring 2022 session. House Republicans voted unanimously against the measure, but with the approval of the majority party the measure was sent to the state Senate. The Senate is currently considering HB 3447; if the bill passes the Senate, only the signature of the governor will stand in the way of its becoming law.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin spoke out this week against the controversial measure.

"By decriminalizing these substances and making it a misdemeanor, similar to having an open six-pack of beer, is one of the most irresponsible votes of any legislator to do," Durkin told The Center Square. "All while proclaiming to the people they represent that they are all for public safety."

Durkin also called the move to support the decriminalization disrespectful toward families of victims of these substances.

Calling the measure “a slap in the face to these families,” Durkin enumerated the local death toll from drug overdoses and other fatal chemical incidents. Thousands of Illinoisans die from drug overdoses every year, including 2,944 drug overdose deaths in 2020 from opioids alone.

Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reports on August revenue. The numbers are contained in CGFA’s “Monthly Briefing” for August 2022. They reflect continued State revenue growth for the month. In August, total general funds were up by more than $430 million over the comparable previous month, the pandemic-affected August 2021. As in previous months of 2022, the overall revenue growth was driven by higher receipts in the State’s two key funds drivers, the income tax (up $181 million) and sales tax (up $103 million). The State also received an August 2022 payment of $180 million in one-time federal aid, described as “reimbursement for essential government services” provided by the State during the pandemic.

CGFA economists and statisticians are constantly looking at the State’s economy with the goal of projecting future trends in tax revenues, particularly income and sales taxes. Pressures on the State’s economy, and its taxpayers, are likely to result in lower tax revenues down the road. In a report to General Assembly members, “Economy: FY 2022 Employment Data,” contained within the Monthly Briefing, CGFA chief economist Benjamin L. Varner discerned significant, and growing, inflationary pressures on Illinois taxpayers and their households. While prices for many goods have skyrocketed, wages in Illinois are not rising nearly as fast. The average weekly wage of an employed Illinoisan rose only 4.1% during the course of FY22, the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2022. The inflation-affected costs of many goods needed by Illinois residents, including food and housing, increased by much higher percentages.

Another State Police trooper required hospital treatment after violation of the statewide ‘Move Over’ law. The serious moving violation, also called ‘Scott’s Law,’ requires all motorists who see a first-responder vehicle on the side of the road to either change lanes or slow down. The purpose of this law is to prevent a moving motor vehicle from colliding with and injuring a first responder who is carrying out official roadside duties. ‘Scott’s Law,’ the law’s informal name, honors Chicago Fire Department first responder Scott Peter Gillen, killed on the Dan Ryan Expressway in 2000.

This week’s incident took place on heavily-trafficked Interstate 64 in southern Illinois. The driver of a pickup truck failed to respond appropriately to an Illinois State Police car’s flashing emergency lights. The State trooper suffered minor injuries, which responded to care at a local hospital. The alleged perpetrator was cited for improper lane usage and a violation of Scott’s Law. Violation of this law is punishable by a fine of at least $250 plus Scott’s Law Fund costs and court costs, with higher penalties upon a second or subsequent violation or at the discretion of the court. Law enforcement stated that this was the 18th Scott’s Law violation tallied so far in 2022. In these eighteen incidents, seven troopers have been injured.

Chicago Bears release initial renderings for new pro sports complex in Arlington Heights. The complex, if built according to plan, will adaptively re-use all 326 acres of the former Arlington Park horse racecourse. Centering on a domed, Super Bowl-quality sports stadium, the arena complex could also host national-level contests such as the college basketball Final Four. The Chicago Bears released their conceptual plans for the complex on Tuesday, September 6.

Developments around the proposed Arlington Heights stadium would include hospitality room space and places for personal leisure experiences, including but not limited to concert venues, sports bars, and places for groups to gather together. Retail, restaurants, office space, fitness center space, and sports-themed residential spaces would combine to create a permanent sports-themed community complex. Developers have built, and are continuing to develop, similar complexes adjacent to the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys, and the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, home of the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams.

The Chicago Bears stated that they did not expect to ask for taxpayer help to build the stadium itself. This would completely free up the arena project to lease out its name to the highest bidder. The Bears currently play in Soldier Field; when first completed in 1924, the Chicago stadium was named to honor the soldiers of World War I, but the name now honors all service personnel.

One-time Illinois income tax and property tax rebate checks on course for issuance next week. Although most income tax returns were due April 15 of this calendar year, it has taken almost five months to ready the paperwork for the one-time rebates. Not all Illinois taxpayers will get the rebates. A complex schedule, enacted by law, phases rebates down to zero for household incomes in certain income categories. The rebate checks are set for issuance in the week starting on Monday, September 12.

Sharp increase tracked in fatal Illinois road incidents. The numbers come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has compiled nationwide and state-by-state death totals covering the first quarter of calendar year 2022. 280 persons were killed on Illinois roads, reflecting a 24% increase from the three-month 2021 period.

Traffic experts say that not only has driving increased since the depths of the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, but also after the pandemic, many Americans are driving less safely. Driving under the influence (DUI), distracted driving (typically, distracted by a cell phone), and speeding are blamed as factors in the statistical trend. Motor vehicle insurance adjusters say that there has been a surge of distracted driving since the pandemic. Driving while distractedis a moving violation in Illinois. The fine schedule for the offense starts at $75.00 plus court costs, with additions for second or subsequent offenses or factors in aggravation.

As part of fall schedule, U.S. Forest Service closes southern Illinois road to traffic. The rural road, located in northwest Union County, climbs a wooded slope in far southern Illinois. Starting from a spot in the damp Mississippi River valley, the Shawnee National Forest road climbs up to the LaRue-Pine Hills blufftop. The blufftop, and the large LaRue wetland area below the road, are highly prized natural areas with environmental quality great enough to support a wide variety of wild animals and plants. Some of these animals have to migrate every spring and fall, and the LaRue-Pine Hills area has an elevation change of 150 feet and serves as a key migration corridor. Endangered Illinois reptiles use this corridor as a pathway and cross Forest Road 345 twice annually. Locals call the forest driving path “Snake Road.”

Almost two dozen separate species of snakes, some of them venomous, have been observed using this migration pathway. Venomous snakes that cross a key 2.7-mile segment of Snake Road include the copperhead and the cottonmouth. Herpetologists (snake scientists) say the road is the only location in the United States where these reptiles can be seen migrating in large numbers in their natural setting. Snake spotters can hike the closed road, which becomes a walking trail for the duration of the closure, but are warned that they do so at their own risk. The Forest Service swing shut the gates guarding Snake Road on September 1, and the road will remain closed to motor vehicles through October 30, 2022.

In remembrance of the heroes and victims of 9/11. On this day 21 years ago, our nation was forever changed. While we will never forget the evil that unfolded that morning, we will also never forget the heroism of our first responders and of everyday Americans who turned to help. We honor the lives of all who were lost that day, the bravery of our nation's heroes, and the strength of our country as we resolve to never forget that fateful day. We remember 9/11.