Bill helps protect DCFS workers; Little action on ethics reform

Legislation passes to better protect DCFS caseworkers

A few months ago I told you about the tragic death of Deidre Silas, a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworker who was murdered while conducting a welfare check on a group of children. She was the second DCFS worker to lose her life in recent years, following the death of another caseworker, Pam Knight, under similar circumstances in 2018.

To allow these workers to better protect themselves while doing their important job of safeguarding vulnerable children, the General Assembly passed legislation to allow them to carry pepper spray while on the job – something which they have not been previously able to do, even though it is legal for Illinois adults to carry.

The bill, SB 1486, allows workers to carry pepper spray for defensive purposes while investigating child abuse and neglect. They would be required to complete a State Police training program on its proper use. It would give these workers the option of having a first line of defense for their own protection should they find themselves in a dangerous situation while checking on a child.

The bill has passed both houses and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Legislature fails to act to stop corruption

Less than two months ago the former Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, was indicted on multiple corruption charges following a years-long federal investigation into an alleged bribery scheme involving Madigan and the utility company ComEd. Madigan ruled the Illinois House with an iron fist for decades, serving as Speaker for a total of 35 years between 1983 and the day he was finally forced to step down under this cloud of corruption in early 2021.

Over the past few years multiple other state legislators have been indicted, plead guilty or been forced to step down due to corruption charges. Near the end of session last year Madigan’s former Chief of Staff and the former Clerk of the House of Representatives was indicted on corruption charges.

You would think that yet another high-profile corruption indictment would be just the thing to cause the Illinois General Assembly to finally get serious about ethics reform and changing the culture of corruption around state government. But you would be wrong. This year’s spring session adjourned with very little action on ethics, and nothing like the kind of wholesale reform we needed to see.

The people of Illinois deserve better than seeing their elected officials marched through the lobby of the federal courthouse over and over again. I supported a package of strong ethics reforms in this General Assembly, but the Democrat leadership was not interested. How many more embarrassments must the people of Illinois have to endure before we finally clean up our broken system? This year was yet another missed opportunity.

House Republicans call for overhaul of Prisoner Review Board

Illinois’ Prisoner Review Board (PRB) has been in the news lately as its members have been voting to release violent criminals including some who have murdered police officers. In some cases the offenders have been released over the objections of victims’ families, law enforcement and judges.

Members of the PRB are appointed by the Governor and subject to a confirmation vote by the Senate, but they are allowed to serve as “acting members” for a certain amount of time while awaiting a Senate vote. In the closing weeks of session, under increased scrutiny over some decisions the board has made, some of Governor Pritzker’s appointees have resigned or had their appointments rejected by the Senate.

House Republicans introduced legislation, House Bill 5126 which would make reforms to protect victims of violent crime and ensure that dangerous offenders remain behind bars. This is a board and a process that is in desperate need of reform before any more violent offenders are released onto our streets.

Community sale in Thawville

It was a great day at the community sale in Thawville on Saturday. It was good to see so many people out and about on a sunny spring day – a very fun atmosphere. There was a wide assortment of items up for auction. I appreciated the conversations, questions and possible solutions to help make state government better!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,581,047,203 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.4 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?

Our district was crossed by a line that was once the longest railroad in the world. When it was completed in 1856 the Illinois Central rail line connecting Cairo with Chicago was longer than any rail line then in existence. A few years later it would play a crucial role in supplying General Ulysses S. Grant’s army as it moved into Tennessee and Mississippi during the Civil War. The line and its many spurs would eventually expand to more than 35,000 miles and provide an important economic link for our area as well as the rest of Illinois and the Midwest for more than 150 years.

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