Week in Review: Protecting residents in state care, tornadoes, firearms ban & more


Lawmakers Call for Hearings into New Reports of Abuse and Neglect at Illinois Group Homes and Developmentally Disabled Facilities. State Senator Terri Bryant, State Representative Charlie Meier, and State Representative Dave Severin held a press conference on Wednesday where they issued new demands for joint hearings of the Illinois House and Senate Human Services and Behavioral and Mental Health Committees after news reports surfaced this week detailing horrific instances of abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and torture of individuals living in Illinois-run facilities serving developmentally disabled citizens.

In February 2023, every member of the House and Senate Republican Caucuses signed on to a letter demanding joint committee hearings to investigate reports of abuse and neglect at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center. This week, ProPublica released shocking details of the abuse of residents living in state care at multiple facilities.

Senator Terri Bryant signed the original letter demanding hearings into Choate and participated in Wednesday’s press conference. Bryant said the Pritzker Administration must answer questions.

“Republicans have consistently called for joint, public, bicameral hearings of the committees charged with overseeing our facilities that serve the developmentally disabled to get answers on the record from administration officials as to what is being done to stop these horrific abuses,” Bryant said. “I am now repeating my demand for public hearings, and I believe new leadership is needed in many facilities, especially at Choate.”

State Rep. Charlie Meier has been a vocal advocate for residents, families, and employees of facilities served by or serving facilities like the Warren G. Murray Center in Centralia. Meier said he has a plan to fix systemic issues at the state’s many developmentally disabled facilities and he wishes to work together to achieve results for the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“We have to keep in mind the people who live at Murray Center, the people who live in CILAs across the state, the people who live at Choate, they all have family members and loved ones that value them. We have to show we love and value these most vulnerable citizens of Illinois by ending this culture that is allowing for terrible instances of their abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and outright torture,” Meier said. “I stand ready to work together with the administration and

legislative leaders to fix these issues and protect residents living in state care now and into the future. They deserve the best care we can give.”

State Rep. Dave Severin spent years working in his family’s nursing home in his hometown of Benton. Severin was also a participant in the February 2023 press conference. Severin is also a member of the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee.

“We are here today in part because our request for hearings into the abuses at Choate was ignored by the Democrats,” Severin said. “With new and horrific reports of abuse and neglect at multiple facilities throughout the state, we must provide rigorous oversight and accountability, starting with holding immediate House and Senate hearings. The hearings must be open, honest, and transparent, and we need to hear from administration officials, facility officials, and officials from the Department of Human Services. Republicans have put forward a plan to fix many of the issues we are experiencing in this space and will not wait to continue our work to protect these vulnerable citizens.”

Tornadoes strike the Chicago area. During Wednesday’s storm, eleven tornadoes hit northeastern Illinois and the Chicago area. Extensive property damage was confirmed in many locations west and northwest of Chicago, including Elgin and Carol Stream. Rosemont, adjacent to O’Hare Airport, was one of the municipalities that was hit. More than 300 passenger flights were canceled due to disruptions caused by the storm and its approach.

Illinois gun ban faces federal appellate court. The controversial law, which many believes violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners, is facing a panel of Seventh Circuit appellate judges. Enacted by a “lame duck” session of the General Assembly in January 2023, the law contains provisions that purport to ban certain types of firearms, firearm fittings, and ammunition in Illinois. Most House Republicans voted against the bill as a violation of the state and federal Constitution. Gov. Pritzker quickly signed the partisan proposal into law. The law was then briefly halted by an injunction, citing constitutional grounds, handed down in April 2023 by federal District Court judge Stephen McGlynn. Judge McGlynn found that the Illinois law was so flawed that it would be unlikely to survive a court case. The current Seventh Circuit case is a consolidated appeal of Judge McGlynn’s decision and certain other cases filed against the controversial law.

Current federal case law, from the U.S. Supreme Court, directs the federal district courts and appellate courts to grant full standing to the Second Amendment rights of individual Americans. Longstanding principles of constitutional law forbid the breach of a constitutional right except in cases of urgent, compelling public interest.

Opponents of the 2023 Illinois gun law have presented evidence to the court that the law goes far beyond the requirements of compelling public interest. Friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed by multiple state Attorney Generals, Second Amendment advocacy groups, and law enforcement groups to encourage the appellate court to strike down the controversial law.

Construction underway for DeKalb’s Kraft Heinz distribution center. Cheese, ketchup and mustard will soon be delivered out of DeKalb as Kraft Heinz plans to build one of its largest distribution centers in the city. The facility costs over $400 million and will be 775,000 square feet.

The Kraft Heinz facility adds to the existing Amazon facility and Meta Data Center in the area. […]

The Kraft Heinz Company says in a statement: “DeKalb was chosen as the site for Kraft Heinz’s newest distribution center due to its prime location off a major roadway, direct access to the national railway system with Union Pacific, the strong local labor market, and the property tax abatement and incentive package in partnership with the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.”

Construction on the Kraft Heinz facility will be complete in 2025.

Leaders say the facility will be one of the largest in North America, distributing more than 60% of Kraft Heinz products throughout the country.

Illinois Democrats continue to shortchange funding for local municipalities. The Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) was enacted in Illinois following the passage of the state income tax in 1969. A key element of the agreement was the establishment of revenue sharing, with local governments receiving a percentage of the income tax revenues on an annual basis. From the establishment of the state income tax until January 2011, this percentage held firm at 10 percent. However, due to a recession and amidst budget shortfalls, that percentage was reduced to six percent in 2011 by the Democratic-led General Assembly. It has never been made whole since, dropping to a low of 5.45 percent in 2017. In the most recent budget that was passed for fiscal year 2024, local governments are receiving 6.47 percent, a tiny climb from the 6.16 percent figure in the 2023 budget. Illinois House Republicans have fought to restore this critical revenue source for local communities back to the intended 10 percent figure. State lawmakers have put forth income tax increases in 2011 and 2017 while at the same time reducing the percentage of money to be shared with local governments. LGDF revenue helps local governments fund essential services and programs, such as public safety, public health, and basic infrastructure and repair. This shared revenue also helps reduce the amount of revenue local governments collect through local taxes. “Today, over 10 years later and despite claimed budget surpluses, we continue to shortchange our local communities and we owe it to them by restoring the share of revenue distributed back to our local hometowns from six to 10 percent,” stated Rep. John Egofske. “As mayor of Lemont, I understand the importance of these additional funds and see how they work every year. Any responsible state budget should include re-establishing this funding back to 10 percent.”

Despite claims of a ‘balanced’ budget by the Democrats and Gov. Pritzker, the State is continuing to shortchange local communities and utilize revenue earmarked for municipalities to cover its own budget shortfalls. The budget is already loaded with gimmicks by the Democrats, with a Department of Revenue reallocation that shifts $700 million from the Personal Property Replacement Tax into the General Revenue Fund. And while the Democrats and Gov. Pritzker are playing games with every citizen’s tax dollars, local governments’ budgets continue to be stretched thin. LGDF accounts for sizeable portions of a municipality’s operating budget, in some cases between 10 and 20 percent. This amounts to millions of dollars annually, and in addition to skyrocketing costs due to inflation and the continued residual effects of the pandemic, municipalities are faced with ever-rising pension costs, which account for substantial budget increases each year. “This budget represents an extremely partisan plan that includes pay raises for Springfield politicians and insufficient funds being returned to local governments,” added Rep. Amy Grant. “This money belongs to the local communities and the funding level needs to be restored.”

New six-year Illinois transportation plan. The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Multi-Year Plan, largely funded by motor fuel taxes charged to purchasers at Illinois gas stations, will spend an estimated $41 billion on roads, bridges, and other transportation projects. With almost two-thirds of the six-year total slated for roads and bridge work, IDOT said its priorities are to repair and reconstruct 2,866 miles of roadway and 9.8 million square feet of bridge decking on the State-funded highway system.

The State is responsible for major highway mileage in Illinois, including roads that are marked as “U.S. Highways” and “Interstate highways.” Complex formulas, supervised by the federal Department of Transportation, funnel billions of dollars in federal highway aid to Illinois to create matching funds for work done to federal mandate standards. These formulas encourage the states to create compacts to build bridges across state boundary lines. The six-year plan includes proposals to construct major new highway bridges to Missouri at Quincy, Illinois, and to Kentucky at Cairo, Illinois.

Non-highway transportation is slated to get $14 billion in capital spending, slightly more than one-third of the total. This includes $10 billion for mass transit, almost $2.7 billion for freight and passenger rail, $1.25 billion for aviation, and $190 million for ports and waterways. The historic Illinois Central main line, which runs from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois in southern Illinois, is scheduled to get a major upgrade.

New passenger train station to be built in Belvidere, Illinois. The station will be located in the Boone County seat’s historic downtown, adjacent to City Hall and the Boone County Museum of History. The train station will serve passengers on the new Metra commuter and passenger train line that will offer transit between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois. Service could start as soon as 2027, after the construction of the new train station and other required infrastructure.