From State Rep. Tom Weber:
Last week, the Illinois General Assembly wrapped up veto session and legislative action for the year.
Given that Governor Pritzker didn’t actually veto any legislation this year, the first week of veto session was understandably quiet. However, several notable things passed during the 2nd week of veto session:
SAFE-T Act Changes
Last week the General Assembly filed and passed a 300 page bill to amend a 700 page bill that its proponents have spent most of the last year and a half claiming didn’t need to be fixed.
The original bill, the SAFE-T Act, was filed and passed in less than 24 hours under limited debate with the minimum number of needed votes.
This most recent “trailer bill” was also quickly filed and passed in less than 48 hours, with changes including:
- Adding several listed forcible felonies as detainable offences
- It widens detainability for individuals accused of domestic violence
- The language in the law regarding threats to the public is clarified. In the original bill there was contradictory language as to whether someone could only be held if they were a threat to a specific, identifiable person, as opposed to a threat to the general community
- Creates a grant program for providing funding for public defenders which will have busier workloads.
- In the same vein, given that significantly more judicial hearings are to be expected after this law takes effect, it expands the use of remote hearings.
- Removes the provision that requires someone violating electronic monitoring to be in violation for more than 48 hours before they can be charged with felony escape.
- Expands the definition of willful flight
While I am pleased that advocates and Democrat legislators are finally, after months of labeling opponents as “fear-mongerers”, acknowledging that there are a lot of problems with the law they passed, I voted no.
Even though it addresses some concerns I and other numerous opponents had, it falls short of addressing all of the other concerns still held by law enforcement and State’s Attorneys.
62 Illinois State’s Attorneys have filed lawsuits against the state claiming the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional.
Their cases were combined into a single suit to be heard in Will County on December 20th.
Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Restored
During the COVID-19 shutdowns, the state saw an unprecedented number of unemployment insurance claims and had to borrow from the federal government to keep the program afloat. That debt ballooned to $4.5 billion and the state used federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds this spring to partially pay it back. However, despite having more than enough ARPA money to pay the entire debt, $1.3 billion remained owed to the federal government. The delay in paying back our debt cost Illinois taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in back interest and penalties.
Business organizations, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and labor organizations reached an agreement last week that will use excess revenues the state has seen this year to pay off the remaining balance owed to the federal government, plus another $450 million in the form of a zero-interest loan to shore up the trust fund that is to be paid back over the next 10 years. In order to generate the money to pay back that loan, employers will see an increase in the amount they pay into the fund in the form of insurance premiums.
The Russian Divestment Act requires the state’s five retirement systems to withdraw any existing investments in companies based out of Russia or Belarus in response to the ongoing invasion and bombing of Ukraine. Capitol News Illinois reported that the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, for example, had $4.27 million invested in Russian assets.
Free Hygiene Products to Inmates
Menstrual products and underwear will be made available free of charge to inmates and workers in the Department of Corrections.
Looking ahead… Assault Weapons Ban, Magazine Cap Bill Filed
After the conclusion of the veto session, gun control legislation was filed and a number of days were scheduled for a lame duck session. Despite having a super majority, it is very common for Democrats to push controversial legislation in the lame duck period between January 1 and the day the new members of the next General Assembly are inaugurated. This is because the vote threshold in the House during that time reverts back from 71 to 60 and it allows outgoing members, who are not accountable to voters, to vote on these hot button issues. The SAFE-T Act and other controversial laws over the last few years were voted through this way.
HB 5855 would:
- End the sale of assault weapons immediately and allow registration of existing weapons.
- Prevent future sales of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds
- Tighten regulations to prohibit “rapid-fire devices” that turn firearms that fire one shot per trigger pull into fully automatic weapons.
- Raise eligibility for a FOID card to 21 for most state residents.
- Extend the duration of a firearm restraining order from six months to one year, including renewed restraining orders.
The first hearing for this bill is expected next Monday, December 12th at 11am. You can watch the hearing on ILGA.gov.