Pontiac Correctional Center; Refusal to extend school mask mandate

Demanding answers about Pontiac Correctional Center

Last week the Department of Corrections (DOC) began moving inmates out of the Pontiac Correctional Center. This move happened with no notice to legislators, local officials or the public.

The Pontiac Correctional Center serves as one of the largest employers in Livingston County and has a tremendous economic impact on the surrounding area. Because of the importance of the facility to the local community, I have reached out to Governor Pritzker and the Director of DOC to demand an explanation about what transpired last week and to get information about what the plans are for the future of the facility. We need to know the facts, the plan and the directions.

The people of Livingston County deserve to know what is going on, and I am determined to get an answer.

Legislative committee refuses to extend school mask mandate

For 23 months Governor Pritzker has been governing the state through a series of executive orders and emergency rules. I have been among the many voices calling for an end to this one-man rule. This week a legislative committee finally acted to put a stop to this seemingly endless series of mandates.

The bipartisan House-and-Senate Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) has the power to halt any emergency rule put forward by any state agency if it can muster a supermajority vote. So far that has been very rare, but on Tuesday the commission voted 9-0-2 to stop the issuance of the latest emergency rule which would have extended the state’s school mask mandate. As you know, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the school mask mandate back on February 4. Further legal action is possible, but with Tuesday’s action by JCAR there is currently no legal authority or emergency rule that allows the Governor to force schoolchildren to continue to wear masks.

Unfortunately this sudden burst of common sense did not extend to the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives, where nine members were removed from the chamber for not wearing masks on Thursday. Despite the lifting of mask mandates throughout the country, these nine members were removed from the House chamber via a party-line vote. I voted No. This madness has to end.

House Republicans renew call for repeal of SAFE-T Act

Last year I voted against a policing overhaul which I believed would make our state less safe. Since then I have called for its repeal. It was opposed by nearly every law enforcement group in the state, but Governor Pritzker signed it anyway.

On two separate occasions this month prosecutors have been unable to charge violent criminals with felony murder because of the new law. House Republicans are once again calling for the law to be repealed. In the most recent case, according to the Chicago Sun Times, Cook County prosecutors “cited changes to the state’s felony murder statute as the reason for not charging a man accused of being involved in a deadly shootout that led to a murder.”

The dangerous implications of this law are now becoming clear and direct. Violent criminals will continue to evade justice if prosecutors have their hands tied as they did in this case. We need to repeal this law now. There are two bills which would do exactly that: House Bills 4497 and 4499. I support them both.

New Legislative Inspector General appointed

Last year the Legislative Inspector General (LIG), Judge Carol Pope, resigned in protest of the General Assembly’s failure to enact meaningful ethics reform. The LIG is the top ethics watchdog in the legislature. With the position vacant it was necessary to appoint a new LIG. Illinois has a bipartisan Legislative Ethics Commission which interviews and recommends candidates for the position of LIG. But House and Senate Democrats decided to bypass the commission and choose their own nominee who was confirmed this week.

The new LIG, Judge Michael McCuskey, was mentioned for the post on Monday. A few commission members had the chance to interview him on Wednesday just before the Senate voted to approve his appointment, with the House following suit on Thursday. Judge McCuskey was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and was a circuit judge in Illinois prior to that. I am glad that this important office is no longer vacant and I wish Judge McCuskey much luck in his new position. But the process for getting here was wrong. Once again the General Assembly has rushed through an important action with little time for review or scrutiny.

Having spaghetti with the Legion

Thank you to the American Legion in Dwight for having their spaghetti dinner over the weekend. There was delicious food and great conversation. Thanks to everyone for coming out. I had the most wonderful conversation with Donald Scott, shown here. Donald is 95 years old and a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I really enjoyed listening as he shared some of his amazing stories in these different time periods. Thank you Donald for your service. I really enjoyed this time with you.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,904,429,632 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.0 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?

In February 1883 Springfield was hit by an ice storm of such severity that falling trees blocked railroads and dropped telegraph lines, temporarily cutting off the capital city from communication with the outside world. A local newspaper called it “the storm before which all others pale into insignificance.” The General Assembly had to make an emergency appropriation of $113.62 for “trimming and cleaning grounds of the Executive Mansion, rendered necessary on account of sleet storm of February 1883.”

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