Action needed on public safety; unemployment trust fund debt

House Republicans call for repeal of policing overhaul following increase in crime

Last year on the final day of the lame duck 101st General Assembly a comprehensive overhaul of policing was passed. The language was introduced at 3 a.m. and passed both houses by noon. I voted No because it was clear to me that the bill – which was opposed by almost every law enforcement group in the state – would make Illinois less safe. Unfortunately those dire warnings were ignored, and crime has gone up considerably in Illinois. Now legislation has been introduced to repeal the hastily-written 2021 law in attempt to pass better legislation that will respect our police and keep Illinois safe.

Since enactment of the law one year ago, many areas of the state have seen an increase in violent crime such as murders, shootings, carjackings, assaults, armed robberies, smash-and-grab robberies and mob retail theft. Crime in Chicago is up 7.5% compared to 2019. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that “in the seven most-violent police districts in the city, the rate was 25 times higher than the rest of the city – nearly 100 murders per 100,000 residents. That’s the largest such gap between the safest and least-safe areas in the 60 years of data tracked by the Crime Lab.” Meanwhile police officers are leaving the profession citing the constant attacks from politicians. This has to stop.

My colleague Rep. Patrick Windhorst, a former state’s attorney, has introduced a resolution calling for the repeal of last year’s policing bill, and another member, Rep. Ryan Spain, has filed legislation to do just that. A companion bill would set up a task force with strong involvement from the law enforcement community to put together a reasonable reform bill. We need to act to improve public safety, and we can best do that by listening to our law enforcement officers and making changes that will keep Illinois safe.

If you would like to join our effort you can sign the petition here.

Unemployment trust fund debt continues to climb

Like many other states, Illinois borrowed from the federal government to meet the wave of unemployment claims which came in at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in the spring of 2020. But unlike most of those other states, Illinois has not paid back the money it borrowed and now the debt is beginning to accumulate interest. Since September the amount of interest Illinois owes on top of the debt has been growing, now reaching a rate of around $2 million each week. If the debt has not been refinanced by the time the next payment is due, the interest payment will have to be made from the state’s general revenue which is where we find the money to fund so many of our other important priorities.

Secretary of State’s office announces library grants

In his role as State Librarian, Illinois’ Secretary of State Jesse White has announced the awarding of close to $6 million in grants to public and school libraries throughout Illinois, including some in our area. The grants are to help libraries which responded “directly to the COVID-19 pandemic by modifying services, transforming spaces and developing resources for their local recovering workforce.”

The funds come from the federal American Rescue Plan and the Library Services and Technology Act. Grantees in our area included libraries in Ashkum, Clifton, Eureka and Gibson City.

Talking about county fairs

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to speak to the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs at the annual meeting in Springfield. On a cold January day it felt nice to be talking about one of my favorite summertime activities: our county fairs. County fairs provide tremendous value to our families, friends and communities. I appreciated talking with Ron Meyer and Bill Jennings before the meetings began, and I want to thank President Ken Tyrell and his team for such an amazing couple of days. It was a great event. Looking forward to summer already!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,110,105,814 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.4 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

Did You Know?

For 50 years one of the world’s most famous superheroes has called Illinois home. In 1972 the southern Illinois city of Metropolis officially declared itself the “Home of Superman” (with the blessing of DC Comics) as it is the only town known to share its name with the city featured in the Superman comics. The local newspaper is called the Planet and a 15-foot-tall statue of the Man of Steel stands on the courthouse lawn. The Illinois General Assembly made the designation official a few months later.

More news from around the state

How to avoid getting scammed while seeking a COVID-19 test in Illinois

Attracting, hiring qualified teachers becomes more difficult for Illinois school districts

New law allows donation of unused medication in Illinois, but it could take some time to get started

This is Snowmobile Safety Week in Illinois

State Police Merit Board is accepting applications for the next Trooper Cadet Class

House committee schedule for the coming week

Watch House committee hearings and session live (link is active only when committees or House are in session)