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Sweeping police reform bill faces opposition; lame duck session underway

By Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus has introduced a sweeping criminal justice omnibus bill that aims to heavily alter the state of policing in Illinois.
Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, introduced a 611-page amendment to House Bill 163 Tuesday in the state Senate, a move that would allow the bill to move during the General Assembly’s lame duck session, which began Friday, Jan. 8..
While the bill has been introduced on short notice, it is the result of over 100 hours of hearings held by the Black Caucus over fall and winter months as part of their legislative agenda “to end systemic racism in Illinois.”
Criminal justice reform and police accountability made up the first of four pillars in that agenda.
The bill has seen intense pushback from Republican lawmakers and groups representing law enforcement. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police called it “the worst thing to happen to our profession” and “the end of the law enforcement profession as we know it” in a statement released Tuesday, Jan. 5.
In a Wednesday notice, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police wrote “it might as well be a crime to be a law enforcement officer in Illinois.”
State Rep. David Allen Welter, R-Morris, and state Sen. John Curran, R-Lemont, both released statements opposing HB163, with Welter calling it anti-police.
In response, the Senate Black Caucus distributed their own release Wednesday, saying “From our perspective, our communities know what they need in order to be kept safe. We come from the communities we represent. Our experiences, combined with our understanding of policy, have shaped our legislative approach, and they cannot be dismissed when it comes to determining what our communities need.”
The legislation has also received support from criminal justice reform groups such as the Illinois Justice Project and the Building a Safe Illinois Coalition.
HB163 contains several articles that would stand as their own new laws while also amending key components of state law already on the books. While most of the legislation pertains to law enforcement, there are sections devoted to altering other aspects of the criminal justice system, such as pre-trial detention, sentencing laws and prison diversion.
Read Capitol News Illinois’ full story about what’s in the bill at
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LAME DUCK SESSION BEGINS: Illinois House lawmakers were back in the capital city Friday, Jan. 8, for the first time since May, kicking off a five-day “lame duck” legislative session.
No substantive action was taken in the brief House session Friday, which began with Republican Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, requesting greater access for members of the media in the Bank of Springfield Center which hosted the session.
Only a handful of reporters were allowed on the second level of the 7,700-seat arena due to strict COVID-19 restrictions.
The venue is the same as it was in May, but reporters had requested better access to lawmakers on the floor of the center.
No such expanded access was granted Friday.
Shortly after convening, Democrats called for a closed-door caucus meeting to discuss an expansive criminal justice reform measure and other priorities of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
Prospective candidates to unseat House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has held that position for all but two years since 1983, were also scheduled to make their case in the private caucus meeting.
Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, and Ann Williams, D-Chicago, are the three declared challengers to Madigan.
At least 19 members of the House Democratic caucus have said they will not support Madigan, putting him several votes shy of the 60 needed to retain the gavel.
The 102nd session of the General Assembly is set to convene Wednesday, Jan. 13, following adjournment of lame duck session, at which point a speaker must be chosen before substantial action can be taken.
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PRITZKER’S TAX PRIORITIES: Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday, Jan. 8, announced his top priority for the lame duck session, a series of tax changes that he says would save the state about $520 million for this fiscal year.
The bulk of that, roughly $500 million, would come from decoupling a portion the state’s tax code from the federal tax code so that business tax cuts approved by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus, or CARES Act, last year would not automatically reduce Illinois state revenue.
Without decoupling, the governor’s office said, those changes at the federal level would automatically reduce the amount of business income that is taxable by the state of Illinois.
Pritzker also announced that he is unilaterally delaying the effective date of certain business tax credits that the Illinois General Assembly passed in 2019, and which were scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, as part of a package known as the Blue Collar Jobs Act. Those involved expansions of certain tax credits that businesses could take for relocating to Illinois or expanding existing facilities in the state.
“Right now, we cannot afford to expand tax breaks to businesses that already receive tax breaks,” Pritzker said in a news release.
“As we recover from the pandemic, we must focus on job creation and balancing our state budget.”
But House Republicans, especially those who helped negotiate the Blue Collar Jobs Act, said Pritzker’s actions would hurt small businesses that have been severely affected by the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and would ultimately make Illinois less economically competitive.
“That’s precisely the kind of tool that we’ll need as we emerge from the pandemic and the entire world starts to rebuild the economies that have been so profoundly impacted by these closures,” Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said during a news conference.
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CAPITOL SECURITY: Just two days after hundreds of rioters broke through police barricades and vandalized the halls of Congress, Illinois lawmakers returned to the seat of government for a lame duck session.
In a statement Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. JB Pritzker said he asked for the Illinois State Police and other law enforcement to “redeploy to heighten their presence at government buildings and the Capitol in Springfield” Wednesday night.
Pritzker’s spokesperson did not respond to a question Thursday about whether the governor plans to deploy the Illinois National Guard at the Statehouse or other government offices for the legislative session.
The governor’s statement Wednesday came as a much smaller group of demonstrators gathered outside the Illinois Capitol to protest the election certification of President-elect Joe Biden.
There were no arrests or incidents reported at the Illinois protest, according to Henry Haupt, a spokesperson for the Illinois Secretary of State, who estimated it was attended by 40 to 50 people.
The Secretary of State Capitol Police force is assigned to the nine buildings comprising the State Capitol Complex. Security at the Bank of Springfield Center, where the Illinois House will meet, falls under the purview of the Illinois State Police, said Haupt.
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TIER 3 UPDATE: On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. JB Pritzker announced the possibility of Tier 3 mitigations being lifted by Jan. 15 in regions that meet certain metrics. That represents a 14-day incubation period following New Year’s Day.
In order to transition from Tier 3 to Tier 2, a region must experience a positivity rate below 12 percent for three consecutive days. It must also have greater than 20 percent available intensive care unit and hospital bed availability and declining COVID hospitalizations for 7 of the 10 days.
Regions began hitting Tier 2 restrictions in November, with statewide Tier 3 mitigations announced on Nov. 20. No region has been able to move back to Tier 1 restrictions after reaching Tier 2.
According to an IDPH document detailing Tier 2 restrictions, “IDPH will continue to track the positivity rate in regions requiring additional mitigations over a 14-day monitoring period to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigation should remain in place.
“If the positivity rate averages less than or equal to 6.5 percent over a 3-day period, the region will return to Phase 4 mitigations under the Restore Illinois Plan.”
Phase 4 mitigations are less strict than any of the tiers of the resurgence plan.
As of Friday, Jan. 8, only two of the state’s 11 mitigation regions meet the criteria set by the governor’s office to return to Tier 2 mitigations with one week left before they would be able to do so.
Those regions include Region 2, which covers 20 different counties in north-central Illinois, and Region 7, which covers the south suburban Kankakee and Will counties.
Under Tier 2 and 3, indoor dining is suspended. A region would have to move to Tier 1 in order to open indoor dining with limited capacity. Tier 1 restrictions also include suspension of indoor bar service.