Week in Review: Public safety, budget, flooding

Truth in Public Safety Working Group Unveils New Legislation.  On Wednesday, the House Republican Truth in Public Safety (TIPS) Working Group introduced a series of measures designed to balance the rights of the accused while ensuring the safety of the public.

Members of the Working Group include Rep. Patrick Windhorst, House Republican Floor Leader and Chairperson of the TIPS Working Group as well as Representatives Dan Ugaste, Dennis Tipsword, John Cabello, Amy Grant and David Friess. 

“The Truth in Public Safety Working group has come up with a package of more than 20 bills through our work,” Windhorst said. “We have developed legislation centering around protecting crime victims, restoring cash bail with reforms, and recruiting and retaining police officers.”

The working group began meeting in January, and with the final product unveiled, Windhorst says he’ll push hard for hearings and votes on the package.

“Our police have been demoralized by anti-police rhetoric and criminal justice policies like those in the SAFE-T Act that prioritize the rights of criminals over the rights of victims. We have to stop the tide of officers leaving the profession and work to attract dedicated, talented, and capable officers to help keep our communities safe,” Windhorst said. “The package of bills we have introduced would move Illinois forward toward a safer, brighter future.”

According to Rep. Tipsword, “These bills, along with the other bills we’re proposing, are meaningful suggestions to ensure we’re supporting our first responders, and working with them for safer streets and safer neighborhoods…and that we’re also fulfilling our responsibility to taxpayers”   

The group explained that the measures in the form of legislation, focus on three main areas identified by the TIPS Working Group after months-long discussions with stakeholders, including crime victim advocates and law enforcement professionals. Those areas include protecting crime victims, retaining and recruiting law enforcement officers, and ensuring pre-trial fairness applies to everyone, including victims and the public. 

“It’s crucial that we support our first responders and police officers so that they can serve the community to the best of their abilities. We must protect public safety in Illinois at all costs, said Rep. Friess. "I believe the package of 20 bills we have put together as a group will make great strides toward that need.”

“We want to introduce real pre-trial fairness in Illinois by meaningfully addressing reform that considers the rights of the accused, but not at the expense of the remainder of Illinois residents," said Rep. Ugaste. "For any system to work, cash bail must be part of the equation, and we can restore it in a way that’s fair.”

Here is a breakout of the public safety legislation proposed by the TIPS Working Group: 

Protecting Victims of Crime
  • HB 3357 (Grant – Ugaste – Windhorst): Creates the offense of domestic assault.
  • HB 3356 (Grant – Windhorst): Adds a victim being 60 or older to the offense of aggravated domestic battery.
  • HB 1387 (Haas): Aggravated domestic battery by strangulation is a Class X offense
  • HB 3352 (Cabello-Windhorst): Requires DNA collection at arrest instead of indictment or preliminary hearing for serious felonies including felony domestic battery.
  • HB 1390 (Haas): Sex offenders convicted of a felony sex offense are not eligible for probation.
  • HB 1388 (Haas): Creation of habitual misdemeanant – for those people who have 3 or more pending charges for misdemeanor domestic battery, battery, violation of an order of protection, or criminal damage to property when the property belongs to a family or household member.
  • HB 3329 (Haas): Makes it a Class 1 or Class X felony for a hate crime committed with a firearm or if the victim is under 18 years of age.
  • HB 3209 (McCombie – Windhorst): Protect Our Victims Act – deletes a provision that allows a defendant to compel a victim to testify at a detention hearing.
  • The Real Pre-Trial Fairness Act
  • HB 4052 (Ugaste – Grant – Windhorst): Reinstate cash bail as recommended by the IL SC commission report. Hybrid system that has a presumption of release but allows for cash bail or detention.
Recruitment & Retention of Law Enforcement Officers
  • HB 4046 (Cabello - Windhorst): Removes the ability to file anonymous complaints against officers. Add automatic expungement of the misconduct records where the officer has been found not to have committed any wrongdoing or the complaint was found to be frivolous. Deletes provision that an officer has no property right in their certification, thereby ensuring the officer is afforded due process. 
  • HB 4047 (Cabello - Windhorst): Requires ILETSB to create a waiver process for out-of-state law enforcement officers who want to work in Illinois. In use of force, adds "back" as a place where an officer can discharge kinetic impact projectiles or other non-lethal or less-lethal projectiles in a manner that targets the back. 
  • HB 4048 (Friess - Windhorst): Creates a loan repayment program for officers who are working in under-staffed areas. 
  • HB 4050 (Tipsword - Windhorst): In body camera provisions, exempts undercover officers from the requirement of wearing body cameras, except they must wear body cameras when conducting interviews. Deletes prohibition on review of videos prior to writing reports. Adds the taking or attempting to take a body camera from an officer to obstruction of the justice offense.
  • HB 1542 (Ugaste): Appropriates $80,000,000 from the General Revenue Fund to the Law Enforcement Training Standards Board for deposit into the Law Enforcement Camera Grant Fund. 
  • HB 3354 (Friess - Windhorst): Provides that, in matters a sheriff deems essential to preventing or assisting with disasters or events of civil disorder, the sheriff may authorize plain clothes to be worn by auxiliary deputies. 
  • HB 3358 (Tipsword - Cabello -Windhorst): Requires each member of the General Assembly annually complete a ride-along and a simulation training program. 
  • HB 3353 (Cabello - Tipsword - Windhorst): Increases the percentage of moneys that are transferred from the Cannabis Regulation Fund to the Local Government Distributive Fund to 15%. Provides that moneys allocated to counties under those provisions shall be directed to a fund under the control of the Sheriff. 
  • HB 1389 (Haas): Adds the taking or attempting to take a body camera from an officer to obstruction of the justice offense. 
  • HB 3217 (Bunting): Back the Badge Program - Creates within the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board a Recruitment Division. To assist local law enforcement agencies establish recruitment plans. 
Additional Public Safety Measures 
  • HB 4049 (Friess – Windhorst): Removes day-for-day credit on EM, Reinstate provisions that make it mandatory instead of permissive for consecutive sentencing.
  • HB 4051 (Tipsword – Windhorst): Clarifies the process for when a person is arrested on an out-of-county warrant.
  • HB 4053 (Windhorst): 3 phone calls provision – adds protections for victims to the right to communicate and remove presumptions of inadmissibility and allows for it to be used in the totality of circumstances determination for voluntariness. Adds to the provision for release by citation that allows an officer to verify the identity of the accused.
  • HB 3360 (Ugaste – Grant – Windhorst): Adds to registerable offenses, home invasion if a sex offense was committed during the commission of the home invasion.
  • HB 3359 (Ugaste – Grant – Windhorst): Prohibits auto expungement for attempt to commit a disqualified offense, such as a sex offense, or Class 2 felony or higher. 

Illinois House Republican Leader hoping for balanced state budget.  The head of the Illinois House Republican caucus says her top priority is to pass a balanced state budget. But she has concerns about how that will be accomplished.

“The definition of ‘balanced’ will be the question,” said House Republican Leader Tony McCombie.

“The speaker says it will be balanced. But does balanced mean we will borrow funds from other agencies and other funds? Yes. Does it mean that we will move funds from one fund to another? Yes. I don’t hope for that, but it’s been that way ever since I’ve been there.”

She said such maneuvering lacks transparency.

McCombie is in her seventh year as a state representative, and her first year as House Republican Leader.

McCombie said Representatives Norine Hammond and Amy Elik are working hard to make sure Republicans have a presence at the table during budget discussions. Hammond is chief budgeteer for House Republicans, and Elik is the party’s deputy budgeteer.

Read the rest of the Tri States Public Radio article here.

Spring flooding cycle begins.  Authorities have posted flood warnings for the Mississippi River’s banks from Illinois’ northern border, near Galena, to the junction of the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers near Alton. On the opposite bank from Illinois, Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued a disaster declaration covering ten riverfront counties in the Hawkeye State. Parallel flooding has begun across the river in Carroll County, Illinois, and the river town of Savanna.

As in previous years, the high water is associated with snowmelt upriver, especially from watersheds in Minnesota and Wisconsin. As these floodwaters roll south, the fresh waters will crest on various days depending on location. In Quincy, Illinois, for example, the floodwaters are expected to crest from Thursday, May 4 through Saturday, May 6.

Illinois Gaming Board approves plans by Hollywood Casinos to move their Aurora, Joliet casino locations.  Hollywood Aurora and Hollywood Joliet are located on the banks of the Fox River, physically distant from a limited-access highway. Although these operations are now land-based casino complexes, they had their roots in cruising “riverboats” that moved up and down the river. Gaming industry data shows that the best location for a casino hospitality property is a space close to a major highway.

To enable the creation of new permanent casino positions and trade construction jobs, the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation in May 2019 to allow the holders of established “riverboat” casino licenses, including Hollywood, to move away from their riverfront locations to spaces better suited to revenue maximization. The owner of the Hollywood brand, Penn Entertainment, responded to the 2019 law by putting together a detailed plan to locate more optimal Aurora and Joliet locations, to build new casino-hospitality complexes in both metro areas. Under the strict regulations imposed by Illinois law on casinos operating in-state, it was this Penn Entertainment planning structure that was approved by the Illinois Gaming Board this week. The actual construction of the new casino complexes will come before the Board in another approval application cycle at a later date.

Illinois’ unemployment rate was 4.4% in March 2023.  Unemployment rates are published monthly by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). The IDES numbers indicate that in March 2023, 4.4% of the overall Illinois labor force was unemployed. This number defines unemployed people who are actively seeking employment as a percentage of the overall nonfarm workforce.

Metro areas within Illinois posted March 2023 numbers this week in line with the overall statewide average. Centers of higher education, headed by Bloomington-Normal (3.4%) and Champaign-Urbana (3.6%) have jobless numbers in line with overall national prosperity. Traditional industrial regions, headed by Decatur (6.1%) and Rockford (6.7%), continue to have recession-level unemployment numbers which are much higher than Illinois and the U.S. as a whole.

The preliminary March 2023 figure marked a slight decline from the 4.5% unemployment rate notched in February 2023. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 7,900 during this period. The number of unemployed Illinois workers remained high, at 283,800. Many states that neighbor Illinois have significantly lower unemployment rates than Illinois, such as Indiana’s rate of 3.1%. The national unemployment rate was 3.5% in March 2023.