Rep. Stephens February 2023 Legislative Update

We welcome a new month and upcoming observances like Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, President Lincoln’s birthday, and the season of Lent beginning on February 22nd with Ash Wednesday. It is also Black History Month, and you can learn more about this historic month and prominent African American Illinoisans at: Black History Month: Notable Leaders with Illinois Ties.

Let us also take time to recognize the upcoming year anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine. We witnessed live online and on TV shocking images in Eastern Europe as Russian troops moved into Ukraine in an act of war the likes of which had not been seen in Europe since 1939. With our rich Ukrainian American community in the 20th District and many with Eastern European ties in our area, my heart continues to go out to families and individuals who know or are impacted by this terrible war. We continue to pray for peace in Ukraine.

This month, we are back in session with lots of important dates coming up. After convening on January 11th to take our oaths of office, House members have filed more than 1,200 bills thus far for consideration this spring. We are in session today and every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this month, as well as Friday, February 24th.

Abolition of Cash Bail, a Key Element of the Democrats’ SAFE-T Act, Declared Unconstitutional

The decision by a circuit court, grounded in the Illinois Constitution of 1970, led directly to a move by the Illinois Supreme Court to stay implementation of the controversial and far-reaching change to Illinois’ Criminal Code; the Supreme Court’s action is valid statewide. Based on this stay, Illinois courts statewide will continue, for now, to have the right to demand cash bail from defendants as a condition of pretrial release.

Law enforcement professionals have repeatedly testified that cash bail is an essential public safety tool. The text of the Constitution of 1970 (Section 9, Article I) recognized this fact and included language that assumed that bail would be one of the tools in the toolbox available to the court. The circuit court found that by enacting this Act with the language signed by Governor Pritzker, the legislature and the governor had unconstitutionally combined to interfere with the right of the Illinois Courts, a separate branch of the political system, to use the tools in its toolbox.

Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court against Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)

The lawsuit alleges the Department—which has legal responsibility over hundreds of children with multiple challenges that include their legal status—misused their responsibilities with regards to juveniles who required care but were subject to detention. Instead of giving these children essential and vital care services, DCFS oversaw their confinement in places of juvenile detention. The lawsuit presents evidence that the non-providing of needed care by DCFS to at-risk challenged juveniles has been and continues to be a full-pledged policy of the Department.

The class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago demands recompense for knowingly-detained children deprived of needed care. While in juvenile detention, the children were allegedly exposed to violence and danger, including conduct perpetrated by security guards and their fellow detainees. This endangered them as individuals and stood in the way of their developing psychological pathways needed for healing and care.

Responding to the lawsuit, DCFS said they try to find the best care settings possible for persons under their jurisdiction, some of whom include children in juvenile detention. Appointed by Governor Pritzker, DCFS Director Marc Smith has been repeatedly cited by other courts for contempt of court for failing to comply with previous court orders. DCFS and Director Smith have been repeatedly sanctioned by the court for failing to place juveniles in appropriate care settings.

Governor Pritzker has failed the children of Illinois by allowing such rampant dysfunction to continue at DCFS. The agency needs to be thoroughly investigated to ensure our state’s most vulnerable children are protected.

House Deputy Minority Leader Norine Hammond (R-Macomb)
State Rep. Amy Elik (R-Alton)

House Republican Budget Team Heads Named

The Governor’s Budget Address and State of the State is on Wednesday, February 15th and we will also begin considering the State’s budget. Appropriation hearings, which will generate a sum to fit into the State’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, will begin.

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (Savanna) announced the House Republican’s budget team on Friday, naming Deputy Leader Norine Hammond (Macomb) as Chief Budgeteer for the caucus for the 103rd General Assembly and announced Rep. Amy Elik (Alton) will be elevated to Deputy Budgeteer.

Hammond has worked for increased funding for universities and community colleges throughout Illinois, successfully passing legislation to tackle the teacher shortage, keep Illinois students attending Illinois colleges and universities, and fairly fund K-12 public education. She has also been a strong advocate for procurement reform and other cost-cutting measures which keep dollars focused on strategic goals instead of overhead and administrative costs.

Elik has spent the past 28 years as a Certified Public Accountant and auditor for businesses and government bodies. She previously served on the House Republican budget team, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, and other relevant financial committees which have prepared her to take on this role in the budget process.

Cook County Expects Record Number of Opioid Deaths in 2022

The Office of the Cook County Medical Examiner oversees death certificates in Illinois’ largest-population county. Lab work continues on Cook County cases that arose in 2022. Based on current trend lines, the Examiner’s Office is likely to count approximately 2,050 Cook County opioid-toxicity deaths in calendar year 2022. 1,599 of these deaths have already been counted and confirmed. Evidence is moving forward to classify between 400 and 500 additional deaths due to this cause, and any number within this range would push the 2022 opioid toxicity death count above the 2021 record of 1,936 deaths (more than five deaths per day).

Reports on opioid toxicity repeatedly focus on fentanyl, a drug that has proven to be far more dangerous than heroin and other opioid controlled substances. Nearly 85% of the opioid toxicity fatalities logged in 2021 were linked to fentanyl and preliminary numbers for calendar year 2022 indicate that this percentage is up to 91%. The Cook County fentanyl-opioid toxicity report was published on January 3rd.

Scott’s Law Crashes Tabulated – SLOW DOWN & MOVE OVER

The Illinois State Police collects and tabulates reports of Scott’s Law crashes and violations, including incidents involving their own troopers. On the weekend of January 14th and 15th, the State Police counted the first Scott’s Law crashes of 2023. The incidents took place in Cook and Kankakee Counties and involved State Police troopers who stopped on road shoulders and activated their emergency lights. In both cases, the driver was charged with a DUI.

State law forbids the act of passing a stopped and shouldered first-response vehicle in an adjoining lane at high speed. Drivers who see police or other first response vehicles on the shoulder with lights flashing MUST either MOVE OVER to the next lane or, if this is impossible, SLOW DOWN and pass at a rate of speed that would be safe for the first responder. Usually it’s best to move over if possible. Let’s work to keep first responders safe! Drive safely!

Tax Filing Season Began January 23rd

In the final full week of January 2023, the Illinois Department of Revenue began accepting State income tax returns for tax year 2022. Taxpayers are urged to file electronically and get their returns in early. IDOR wants Illinois residents to know a taxpayer can opt into an instruction that any refund be directly deposited into the taxpayer’s account. The deadline for filing this year’s income tax return is Tuesday, April 18th.

Illinois Flashback: History from the Prairie State

  • A Second Illinoisan in the White House: When Illinois attained statehood in 1818, it had the smallest population of any state on the day it entered the union – a distinction we still hold today. In the 50th-birthday year, a second Illinoisan was elected to the White House.

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