Week in Review: Legislative session, firearms, immigration & more


Illinois General Assembly set to convene for start of 2024 spring session. The Illinois House of Representatives will reconvene on Tuesday, January 16. Primary business of the House during its first week of the 2024 session will be to hear newly introduced bills on “first reading” for assignment to House committees.

House members are pushing to get their bills drafted and introduced for consideration this spring. The House bill introduction deadline is Friday, February 9. Bills introduced by the deadline date can be assigned to standing committees.

After the bills are introduced, Governor Pritzker will present his FY25 budget and deliver a State of the State address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly. The State of the State/Budget Address day will be Wednesday, February 21. The House will then swing into a series of hearings for committee bill action. House bills are often amended extensively in committee before floor action. The Illinois House has posted its schedule for spring 2024.

Budget, credit woes mark Illinois down to 36th of 50 on U.S. News “Best States” list. The U.S. News website compiles a biennial, rank-ordered list of all 50 U.S. states. The states are ranked in terms of citizen quality of life, with particular attention to crime, the economy, education, fiscal stability, health care, infrastructure, natural environment, and opportunity. In the 2023 year-end list, Illinois dropped six spots to 36th. The Prairie State had been ranked 30th among the 50 states in 2021.

The four areas where Illinois was given its poorest grades were in its opportunity (35th), its natural environment (38th), its economy (39th), and its fiscal stability (50th). The bottom-level “U.S. News” mark for fiscal stability could be related to Illinois’ continuing status as the state with one of the lowest credit ratings of all 50 states. Illinois scored better in crime and in education (12th in both).

Of 2.5 million Illinois FOID cardholders, only 29,000 had registered their weapons by the December 31, 2023 deadline created by the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). The PICA law, passed by a lame-duck General Assembly in January 2023 and promptly signed by Gov. Pritzker purports to sharply restrict the ownership of so-called “assault weapons” in Illinois. PICA, which applies to almost all owners of privately possessed firearms, also applies to ancillary items associated with certain forms of rapid-fire weaponry.

A facet of the PICA law included language requiring owners of firearms seen as falling under the described categories of items covered within the law to register them with the Illinois State Police prior to January 1, 2024. However, many Illinois gun owners are opposed to this law. As part of their opposition, they also oppose the mandate within this law of registering individual weapons and related items with Illinois law enforcement. While the Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) Act requires firearm owners to register as named individuals with the State Police, nothing in the FOID Act requires FOID-registered owners to list or enumerate the firearms they currently own.

The PICA law remains under legal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Plaintiffs assert that the 2023 law is an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment rights of Illinois residents and citizens. It is not known how many PICA-defined firearms are in Illinois hands, but the categories of firearms described in the law cover many types of firearms that are popular throughout the U.S. Many Illinois gun clubs offer members the chance to bring these firearms to a secure location, and to practice firing them. Based on gun club and social activities among firearm owners, there may be hundreds of thousands of these firearms in Illinois. However, only about 29,000 Illinois residents had submitted PICA registration forms to the Illinois State Police by the December 31. 2023 deadline. Observers believe this is only a small fraction of the total number of Illinois persons who possess firearms covered by the controversial new law.

The State Police has continued its efforts to generate rules to implement the Protect Illinois Communities Act. The rules will be on the agenda of a General Assembly committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), on January 16, 2024. It is believed that many people are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to render a final judgment on the constitutionality of the Protect Illinois Communities Act.

Worsening migrant crisis spreads out to include many communities in northeastern Illinois. As of midweek, news stories and police reports indicate that the city of Chicago, and at least 12 other municipalities in northeastern Illinois, have received busloads of migrants bound for Illinois. Under the interpretation of U.S. federal law currently in place under the Biden Administration, persons describing themselves as “refugees” are granted the “temporary” right to live in the United States and to wait for their migrancy status to be adjudicated under due process of law. Current news reports indicate that there is an eight-year waiting time for migrant case claim adjudication.

Chicago has tried to stem the flow of migrants by adopting a home-rule ordinance against buses that make one-way passenger trips into the city, but the buses have found a loophole. In a typical migrant dropoff, a large number of passengers are unloaded at a Metra commuter train station that offers passenger service into Chicago. Other municipalities, such as University Park in South Cook County, are adopting ordinances that seek to control or prevent one-way passenger bus entries and dead-end drop-offs. Since December 1, an estimated 150 passenger buses have unloaded migrants at locations throughout northeastern Illinois.

State preserves site of civil rights address. The birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is observed annually as a federal and State holiday. This year, the holiday will be observed on Monday, January 15. Among the Rev. Dr. King’s trips to Illinois was a 1965 visit to Springfield, Illinois. King was given the symbolic ‘keys to the city’ of Abraham Lincoln’s hometown and was asked to address the people of Illinois on civil rights issues. The Rev. Dr. King’s speech was delivered in an auditorium at what was the Illinois State Armory, a State building next to the Capitol Complex in downtown Springfield.

Since 1965, the Armory building has aged. Originally built in 1936, the historic State-owned structure is now undergoing a gut rehab with the intent to refit the building as modern office space. Despite the massive rehab work, the State has announced plans to preserve memories of the Rev. Dr. King’s October 7, 1965 address as an enduring monument to the work of all civil rights advocates in Illinois. Illinois civil rights figures also include Ida B. Wells, who moved from Tennessee to Illinois in 1895 to continue her fight against lynching and prejudice, and Mamie Till, who came to the forefront of civil rights advocacy after the murder of her son Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955.

Brutal cold snap this weekend. Weather forecasters were tracking a massive low-pressure cell moving eastward across North America. The winds of this low-pressure cell were scheduled to bring below-zero temperatures to many parts of Illinois later this weekend and early next week.

Many resources exist for the people of Illinois, including senior citizens, who face life challenges that are impacted by extremely cold weather. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) operates a website to locate warming centers in state facilities across Illinois. Illinoisans are being good neighbors this weekend and are checking in on their acquaintances to make sure they are doing okay during the cold snap.