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Senate Amendment #2 to House Bill 163 Could Bring Drastic Changes to Illinois Criminal Justice System

Illinois lawmakers are discussing big changes in Springfield, including the 600 page Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 that could bring drastic changes to the Illinois Criminal Justice System. One major component of the proposed bill is the elimination of cash bail. Henderson County State’s Attorney Colby Hathaway has more:

“What this bill seeks to do is completely eliminate cash bail system from being used in Illinois and will implement a system where a judge can either detain or release a defendant. With a vast a majority of those defendant being released, I think there are some major problems with the way that this bill has been drafted in its current form. The biggest issue right now is there is a very short list of defenses for which a judge can detain a defendant pre-trial. With any of those offenses there has to be a significant risk to a named individual. There is nothing in this bill that would allow a judge to detain a defendant for a general threat to the community at large.”

Hathaway also states another significant piece within the Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 is qualified immunity for police officers:

“The law the way it is right now, police officers have what is called qualified immunity, which means if they act in a manner that a reasonable officer would act, they would be immune from civil suits. With this new bill, that defense is going to be removed and that case would likely have to go to trial. This is going to create the potential for personal liability for these police officers. Along with that removal of this immunity, there is also a significant reduction in an officers’ ability to use force.”

The 102nd Illinois General Assembly convenes in Springfield on January 13th.

Before the 102nd General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13, Senate lawmakers need to wrap up unfinished business and address new concerns of the 101st General Assembly.

Currently scheduled for Jan. 9-12, the Senate’s lame-duck session will proceed very much like the abbreviated spring legislative session to comply with COVID-19 protocol.

Subject to change, the Senate Executive Committee will convene later in the day on Jan. 9 to hear proposals that have been filed in both chambers. The full Senate is expected to return late Jan. 10, with floor action on Jan. 11 and Jan. 12.

In addition to a number of relatively non-controversial bills, four sweeping proposals in the areas of criminal justice, health care, economic development, and education have been filed.

Concern expressed about criminal reform bill

Many Illinoisans are expressing concerns about the criminal reform bill that is expected to be addressed during the lame-duck session. 

Many of the events of the past year have caused an outcry to examine our criminal justice system. However, concerns have been raised about the specific provisions in House Bill 163 and their impact on community safety.

Senate Amendment #2 to House Bill 163 does the following:

·         Forces multiple unfunded mandates on police departments with threats of funding cuts if all the mandates are not met. This will result in even less money and more cuts to departments.

  • Prohibits pre-trial detention when an offender poses a danger to the community at-large.
  • Significantly limits offenders being detained, which will pose a significant risk to victims, witnesses to crime and the community at-large.
  • Impedes any law enforcement investigation, which will lead to fewer crimes being solved and no accountability for criminal perpetrators.
  • Severely limits accountability for accomplices to murder by amending the Felony Murder Rule.
  • Removes all due process protections for police officers.

Senate Republicans argue that this proposal is a blatant attack on the law enforcement profession, and it leaves our communities vulnerable to criminal acts and violence.

We all know there are some police officers whose actions have cast a dark shadow on a very honorable profession. Changes are needed to address those bad actors, who are the exception to the rule.

We must also renew our commitment to the police officers who put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect. 

Senate Republican leadership team announced; Tracy named Senate Whip

Senate Republican Leader-Designate Dan McConchie (Hawthorn Woods) has announced his leadership team for the upcoming 102nd General Assembly, scheduled to begin Jan. 13 following the inauguration of its members.

Eight senators have been appointed to serve in various leadership roles:

·         Senator Sue Rezin (Morris): Deputy Republican Leader

·         Senator Jason Barickman (Bloomington): Republican Caucus Chair

·         Senator Donald DeWitte (St. Charles): Assistant Republican Leader

·         Senator Steve McClure (Springfield): Assistant Republican Leader

·         Senator Jason Plummer (Edwardsville): Assistant Republican Leader

·         Senator Chapin Rose (Mahomet): Assistant Republican Leader

·         Senator Dave Syverson (Rockford): Republican Caucus Whip

·         Senator Jil Tracy (Quincy): Republican Caucus Whip

“The Senate Republican Caucus is packed with a wide variety of exceptional leaders,” said Leader-Designate McConchie. “As we look ahead to a new General Assembly, I am confident that our Caucus will be the voice of the overwhelming majority of Illinoisans demanding change. Our top priority is returning government’s power back to the people of Illinois. We will embrace a new direction by advocating for a more ethical and transparent government, balanced budgets, fair maps and policies that grow our economy.”

Sen. Tracy says her appointment as Republican Caucus Whip will allow her to work closely with the rest of the Leadership team on guiding legislation and setting policy.

“The interests and concerns of 47th District residents will remain my top priorities, but as Senate Whip, I will be able to bring our region’s commonsense and real-life insight to the discussion about issues like creating jobs and easing the tax burden for working families and businesses,” Sen. Tracy said. “Such issues affect us all as Illinois citizens.”

Sen. Tracy has served in the Senate since November 2016. She had previously served as a member of the House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014.

Senate welcomes new members

When the 102nd General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13, the Senate Republican Caucus will welcome three new members. Terri Bryant will take Senator Paul Schimpf’s 58th District seat, Win Stoller will take Senator Chuck Weaver’s 37th District seat, and Darren Bailey will take Senator Dale Righter’s 55th District seat.

Following its inauguration, the Senate is scheduled to return to legislative session near the end of January, according to the current legislative calendar.

** Senator Jil Tracy’s Office contributed to this story **

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