Week in Review: Israel, budget, public safety & more


House Republicans speak out against atrocities in Israel. On Saturday, October 7, Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, launched a brutal terrorist attack upon the civilians of the Republic of Israel. This cross-border assault included thousands of rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into Israel and numerous terrorist incursions into the streets and homes of Israeli civilians.

As a result of this heinous attack, more than 1,000 Israelis and at least 22 U.S. citizens have been killed thus far, thousands more have been wounded, and approximately 150 Israeli civilians and foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, have been abducted and brutalized by Hamas terrorists. Hamas has threatened to execute the hostages if Israel continues its retaliatory airstrikes in Hamas-held Gaza.

Numerous international news organizations have detailed the brutal slaughter of Israeli women and children, including the sickening murder of 40 babies, some of whom were reportedly decapitated in their homes.

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie issued the following statement in response to eyewitness accounts and video evidence of the heinous atrocities committed against civilians in Israel:

“I am sickened beyond words the more we learn about the barbaric acts committed by the Hamas terrorists against Israel, especially the slaughter of infants and entire families in their homes, and the savage rape and mutilation of women. The Israeli people and Jewish Americans deserve our unequivocal support against threats to their very existence and the grotesque antisemitism displayed by groups here at home and in the Middle East.”

The Illinois House Republican Caucus strongly condemns the violence in the Middle East and stands with Israel as it defends itself against the heinous acts of violence carried out by Hamas terrorists. We support and pray for the safety of U.S. troops heading to the eastern Mediterranean to lend assistance to Israel, for the people of Israel, and for peace in the region.

CGFA report shows uptick in September 2023 tax payments to State. However, the increase was almost entirely attributable to more income taxes paid by Illinois residents as personal income tax, and higher sales taxes paid by Illinois purchases of taxable goods and services. Illinois personal income tax payments made in September include not only money paid from worker paychecks, but also September 15 quarterly estimated tax payments made by individuals as part of the overall payment cycle mandated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) and the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) report that Illinois received $2,604 million in personal income tax payments in September 2023. This marked a $244 million increase from the same payments made in September 2022. During the same month, Illinois sales tax receipts increased by $44 million.

However, the same CGFA report shows that other key State tax receipt lines are flat or dropping. Corporate income taxes, which are taxes paid by corporations on their income earned in Illinois, declined by $106 million in September 2023 as compared with the same month in the previous year. Utility taxes, which are levied on the products (mostly energy products led by electricity and natural gas) sold by public utilities with Illinois franchises, also dropped in September 2023. Cigarette tax revenues continued their long decline as Illinoisans reduce their nicotine consumption and switch to non-cigarette products.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) is the nonpartisan budget office of the Illinois General Assembly. Their September 2023 “Monthly Briefing” covers the current revenue status of the State of Illinois, with feature articles on the projected future economic performance of Illinois and its job sectors.

Early Media Reports Show Prosecutors Have Ongoing Concerns About Elimination of Cash Bail. Illinois became the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail as a condition of pre-trial release on September 18. So far, the results have been mixed and there has been a strain on local resources in Illinois’ 102 counties. McHenry County’s top prosecutor used the words ‘absurd’ and ‘incoherent’ to describe what he witnessed in court on the day the no-cash-bail law took effect. State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally offered two examples of people he would like to have seen in jail, pending trial, but instead were freed because judges had no choice. The cases involved a man who had an extensive criminal record, including prison time, and was charged for allegedly trying to break the door of his ex-girlfriend’s house. The other case involved a man arrested for a second DUI who should have been detained since he posed a threat to the public. Kenneally added that 22 of the worst criminals in McHenry County have all petitioned to be set free until their trials. This includes people charged with murder, drug-induced homicide, and sex-related charges. “The party of unchecked power has succeeded in turning the criminal justice system into a farce,” Kenneally is quoted as saying. He added that he hopes judges keep these people in jail until their trials.

Criminal justice systems across the state have been adjusting to the new law. Under the Pretrial Fairness Act portion of the SAFE-T Act, judges must decide within 48 hours if someone charged

with a crime should be held in jail. Non-violent offenders are given a notice to appear at their court date and released. To prepare for the new law, law enforcement agencies had to familiarize themselves with the changes. After months of preparations, stakeholders in the criminal justice arena are still working out a number of challenges. Attorneys and judges are now holding hearings for people who were already in custody before the new law went into effect and want to be released. This process will take weeks as defense attorneys determine if they want their clients to be treated under the old system or new one. Illinois courtrooms have been very busy conducting hearings since the elimination of cash bail. Resources are being stretched thin all across the state with the elimination of cash bail. An assistant state’s attorney in McLean County spent at least 1,000 hours studying and teaching a prosecutor’s team about the Pretrial Fairness Act.

In DuPage County, a man charged with breaking into a high-end boutique shop in Hinsdale was released from custody pending trial. The man was charged with two felonies in the case, and he is currently on parole for armed robbery and aggravated battery in Cook County. Conditions of his pre-trial release include that he be fitted with a GPS electronic monitoring device and remain at least 1,000 feet away from the boutique shop. State’s Attorney Robert Berlin stated that a person currently on parole and now accused of a forcible penalty being back out on the streets pending his trial ‘illustrates a deficiency in the new law.’

More than half of Illinois’ 102 counties do not have a full-time public defender. Large counties like Cook County are set up to run court all day and every day, but that’s simply not the case everywhere in Illinois. Court reporters are in short supply, and state’s attorney’s offices in some counties are one-person operations. There are judges who travel from courthouse to courthouse in some rural counties. Additional staff will need to be hired in many areas and budgets will be strained.

Southern Illinois Republican Representatives Host Law Enforcement Roundtable on End of Cash Bail. On Wednesday, House Republican State Representatives Patrick Windhorst, Paul Jacobs, and Dave Severin hosted local law enforcement officials for a roundtable discussion centered on the impact that the end of cash bail has had on the criminal justice system. Law enforcement officials including State’s Attorneys, County Sheriffs, city police chiefs, and deputies met at the Marion Veteran’s Airport to provide the lawmakers with information on how their operations have been impacted since the end of cash bail took effect on September 18, 2023, as part of the implementation of the controversial SAFE-T Act.

Representative Windhorst serves as both the House Republican Floor Leader and as the Republican ranking member on the House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee. Windhorst voted no on the SAFE-T Act.

“What I heard from our law enforcement community reaffirmed the fears that I had when the SAFE-T Act passed. Our law enforcement officials are demoralized, receiving less funding with more mandates, and our courts are being overrun with repeat offenders and those repeat offenders are being let out of jail with no bail,” Windhorst said. “The frustration that was expressed to us included a lack of funding, increased workloads, instances of repeat offenders.

What sticks out to me is how hard our law enforcement community is working to try to deal with the impacts of the new law. I am grateful to them for their hard work. I am working diligently to collect information on this topic and looking forward to introducing meaningful legislation to address these serious concerns.”

State Rep. Dave Severin previously served as the House GOP ranking member of the House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee. He says he stands with law enforcement officials as they deal with the sweeping impacts that changes in the law have had on the criminal justice system.

“I was a no vote on the original SAFE-T Act, and at the time the law passed, I was very vocal in expressing deep concerns for our police and victims of crime especially,” Severin said. “I was not surprised, but I was disturbed to hear account after account of the unworkable nature of the new law and how it is harming the ability of our police officers and State’s Attorneys to arrest and detain dangerous people and impose consequences on them. Defunding our police, defunding our court system, and dismantling our system of justice is having predictably terrible consequences.”

Rep. Paul Jacobs agreed with Severin and Windhorst’s assessment following the meeting that law enforcement needs more help from the State of Illinois when it comes to dealing with the impacts of the law.

“I was struck by the fact that the things I said would happen if we take apart our system of justice and replace it with soft-on-crime policies are coming true every day in our communities,” Jacobs said. “To my Democrat colleagues in Springfield, I hate to be the one to say, ‘We told you so’, but we did. Now the people I serve are less safe. The criminal element feels emboldened and our police officers and members of law enforcement in our court system are further demoralized and overworked. We can and must do better as a State than to allow this to continue. I’ll be joining with Rep. Windhorst to push for legislative solutions that re-establish a no-nonsense, tough-on-crime approach to criminal justice. Our citizens deserve nothing less.”

Law enforcement officials representing Franklin, Jackson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Williamson, and Union Counties and the city of Marion were on hand to provide input and participate in the discussion with the Southern Illinois lawmakers.

Illinois corn, bean harvest in full swing across Downstate. The “Crop Progress and Condition” report, posted weekly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), shows that Illinois corn and beans are moving from field to bin. For the week ending Sunday, October 8, 42% of Illinois’ corn crop had been harvested. This represented a pace ahead of the five-year corn average for this date of 39%, and the 2022 corn average for this date of 25%. Corn condition was rated 58% good-to-excellent, with many fields in various parts of Illinois affected by short rainfall and the partial drought conditions of the 2023 growing season.

For soybeans, the harvest numbers as of October 8 were 44% out of the fields, with bean conditions rated 58% good-to-excellent. As with corn, 42% of the fields were rated as “fair,” “poor,” or “very poor” by observers. The USDA works with Illinois farmers to collect crop reports from all of the major farming regions of the state, including regions stricken by drought and low

topsoil moisture supply. Dry weather in many parts of Illinois is allowing harvesting activities to continue. Wet weather in some sections is delaying the harvest.

In many sections of central and southern Illinois, farmers plant winter wheat. This crop emerges into green shoots before the first frost, with the plants then hibernating until their time for further growth and harvest maturity in spring 2024. Farmers report planting 30% of their winter wheat crop so far, which is in advance of the 24% usually planted at this time.

Controversial “assault weapons” ban moves toward implementation, despite continued court challenges. The new Protect Illinois Communities Act purports to ban large categories of firearms, firearm fittings, and ammunition fixtures, from possession by Illinois residents. A limited exception is carved out for persons who legally acquired any of these items prior to January 10, 2023, but to take advantage of the exception an Illinois resident is legally required to file an online endorsement affidavit with the Illinois State Police. The State Police have posted an online portal for Illinoisans to provide access to the affidavit-filing process. As of Thursday, October 12, more than 1,500 such affidavits had been filed with the State Police. The filer of the affidavit is required to describe the items to be grandfathered in under the new law and must affirm that they were acquired or purchased prior to January 10, 2023.

Persons concerned about the new law say that this online filing will give the State Police more data about where guns are in Illinois, and the data points can be used to compile a database. Firearms rights advocates have also raised other concerns. The State Police endorsement affidavit was created pursuant to emergency rule. A legislative panel, the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, will discuss the assault weapons endorsement affidavit rule on Tuesday, October 17.

2023 Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame announcement. The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) announced the names of three new inductees to the Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame for 2023. Honorees are persons who have been nominated by their neighbors for longtime or lifelong patterns of service to their communities. Members of the Class of 2023 are Hilda E. Frontany, Dr. Peter Orris, and Shriley Paceley.

The three honorees represent neighbors and community organizations in Chicago and Decatur, Illinois. Their identity and advocacy communities include persons of Latino heritage and persons with disabilities. Their additions have increased the Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame honor roll to 137 members.