SAFE-T Act changes; Deal reached on unemployment insurance

Changes made to SAFE-T Act, but much more needs to be done

One of the top issues facing legislators this fall was what to do about the SAFE-T Act, the controversial criminal justice overhaul which passed last year over the objections of most in law enforcement. The goes into effect on January 1, but public outcry over such issues as the elimination of cash bail caused its proponents to make some changes to the law this week.

Unfortunately, the changes fell far short of what was needed. Illinois will still abolish cash bail on January 1. Police officers will still be subjected to unlimited anonymous complaints. Courts will still face unfunded mandates. Penalties will still be reduced for repeat offenders and those who assault correctional officers. Illinoisans will still be made less safe by this law.

More than 60 state’s attorneys (from both parties) are suing to stop the SAFE-T Act from going into effect, but those state’s attorneys who have raised the most concerns were not consulted about their objections during the process of drafting this bill. That continues the troubling practice we saw when the SAFE-T Act was first enacted without the input of police and prosecutors. Our law enforcement professionals should be part of any discussions about overhauling law enforcement.

I voted No, but the bill passed anyway.

Much of the effect of a law is determined by its interpretation by judges and lawyers, so a lot of uncertainty remains. The lawsuits filed by state’s attorneys around the state are still active, so time will tell what happens next with this issue.

Deal reached to pay remaining unemployment insurance debt

Throughout the summer and fall I have been telling you about the debt which Illinois still owes the federal government for money that was borrowed from Washington to pay the surge in unemployment claims from the pandemic lockdowns. This week Republicans and Democrats, business and labor came together to reach an agreement to pay off the remaining debt, save taxpayers millions of dollars and prevent a big tax hike on jobs. It was nice to see all involved parties working together to find a solution.

Unlike other states, Illinois failed to pay back the full amount it borrowed before the federally-imposed deadline, and the remaining $1.8 billion debt began accumulating interest. A few months ago the state made another payment to bring the debt down, but $1.3 billion still remained. If this issue had not been resolved, Illinois taxpayers would have been on the hook for as much as $20 million in additional interest, and the tax burden on Illinois businesses would have gone up by around $900 million over the next five years.

I am glad that this issue is resolved, but disappointed that this wasn’t taken care of sooner. We owe it to the people of Illinois to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money and to pay our debts on time and in full.

Amendment 1 added to state Constitution

A few weeks ago Illinois voters were asked whether or not to approve adding an amendment to the state Constitution which protected the rights of workers to unionize. This week Illinois’ county clerks and election authorities completed their canvass of the votes and confirmed that the amendment, also known as the Workers’ Rights Amendment, has been adopted.

Under Article XIV, Section 2(b) of the Illinois Constitution, “A proposed amendment shall become effective as the amendment provides if approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.” Amendment 1 did not meet the first standard, but it did reach the second, and will therefore be added to the Constitution.

Deer hunters harvest 52,000 deer in opening weekend of shotgun season

Illinois deer hunters harvested more than 52,000 deer November 18-20, the first weekend of shotgun deer hunting season. That number is up considerably from the same weekend last year, when hunters statewide took just under 49,000 deer. Shotgun season concludes this weekend. A map of authorized public hunting areas can be found here.

Muzzeloader-only deer season is next weekend, and a special late-winter antlerless and Chronic Wasting Disease season runs from December 29 to January 1 and January 13-15. That season only includes certain counties in the state, such as LaSalle, Kankakee, Livingston, Will, Grundy and some others to the north and west.

You can find more deer hunting information from the Department of Natural Resources by clicking here.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,876,083,994 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.1 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 $137 billion.

Did You Know?

Despite the common belief, Illinois license plates are not made by prisoners. Plates were made by inmates at Stateville Prison in the 1930s, at a cost of 6.4 cents each. But the cheap plates quickly rusted or changed color, so license plate contracts were awarded to private companies instead. The Director of the state agency which oversaw prisons in the 1930s sued the Secretary of State, but the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that producing plates in state prisons violated the Prison Industries Act because it was a direct competition with the private marketplace. Since 1983 Illinois license plates have been made at Macon Resources, Inc. in Decatur.

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