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Full text for Articles for Yesterday, Friday, September 22, 2023 - 9 Articles


Kyle Moore announces run for state representative for 99th house district
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   WGEM Staff

- Kyle Moore, former Republican Mayor of Quincy, economic developer and small businessman, announced Friday he will run for state representative in the 99th House District, after the announcement from Representative Randy Frese that he will not be seeking another term.


Frese (R) announced Wednesday that he would not be seeking reelection next year.


“Randy Frese has been a strong voice for our area and we need someone who will continue to stand in the gap. Too many times, we’ve woken up to the news that big city politicians have rammed through laws in the dead of night, with little input from those affected the most. Those laws have made it more expensive to do business in Illinois, made it more difficult for families to put food on the table, and took important tools away from the law enforcement community. It seems like almost every day Chicago and Springfield give us more red tape, more unfunded mandates, and more debt on the backs of our children. We must do better, and we can do better,” Moore said. “That’s why I am announcing my candidacy for State Representative in the 99th district. The citizens of the 99th District deserve someone in Springfield who will hear them, advocate for them and be their voice. In the upcoming months, I look forward to meeting as many voters in the 99th District as possible, and earning their votes.”


Frese commented on Moore’s announcement, “It was encouraging for me to hear that such a quality individual as Kyle Moore was interested in running for the 99th District House seat. A solid Conservative, Moore has the leadership skills and executive experience to hit the ground running in the Illinois House. I have worked with Kyle in good times and through tough times...he is a quality person with a knack for getting things done,” Frese said.


Moore began his career working for his family business, eventually becoming an owner and vice president. While not working, Kyle would spend his time serving organizations like Big Brother/Big Sisters of West Central Illinois and Adams County Right to Life. In 2009, Kyle sought to serve his community in an elected capacity and was elected to the Quincy City Council.


Moore was elected Mayor in 2013, the first Republican to be elected since 1981. He was re-elected in 2017, serving until 2021.


According to Moore, while working with the city council, he was able to pass the first balanced budget since 1999, increased the city’s rainy-day funds and made historic investments in public safety and infrastructure.


Moore stated, in 2018, he formed a bi-partisan group of elected officials and community groups to save the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, which resulted in the State of Illinois providing $230 million for a new campus.


In 2021, Kyle was named President of the Great River Economic Development Foundation where he continues working today.


The 99th district stretches from Quincy to Jacksonville, the district includes portions of Adams, Brown, Cass, Morgan and Schuyler counties. A map of the district is below.

Rezin bill aims to regulate social media company’s interactions with minors
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Associated Press

It’s not uncommon to find teenagers, or even younger kids, spending hours scrolling through social media sites and shaping their world view based on the content they see on the sites. Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) is worried about a lack of safeguards for minors on the sites and how the content kids are consuming is driving them into deep mental health crises. 


“Repeated research demonstrates how social media platforms are intentionally crafted to foster addiction, promote detrimental habits and aggravate issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and feelings of inadequacy,” Rezin said during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. 


Rezin filed SB1126 to establish new safeguards social media companies would have to follow when providing content to children in Illinois. The bill requires businesses to assess what type of data they’re gathering from children, including how the design and algorithms of the site may encourage children to spend more time on the site. The sites must also find a way to estimate a user’s age and default privacy settings to the strongest levels of privacy when children are using it.  


“They’ve had the opportunity to [use more regulations], but instead opted to conceal reports, disregard concerns and slow-walk meaningful reforms because under the current system, their profit-driven business model takes priority,” Rezin said.  


Several social media and mental health experts testified in support of Rezin’s bill.  


Matthew Bergman, an attorney from the Social Media Victims Law Center, recalled several clients that have used his office for help following serious mental health issues stemming from social media use. Cases ranged from a 9-year-old girl who became addicted to social media and had behavior problems when she wasn’t using a social media site to teenagers who watched dozens of videos about suicide and ultimately killed themselves. 


“They’re not showing our kids what they want to see, they’re showing our kids what I can’t look away from…kids, based on the artificial intelligence that drives these platforms, become more and more and more susceptible to extreme content because that’s the way their engagement is maintained,” Bergman said.  


A key reason kids stay engaged with social media platforms is the design, Bergman said, and the ability to scroll endlessly through content.  


“The addictive nature of social media is neither an accident nor a coincidence but rather a direct result of the design decisions that these platforms have made to maximize engagement over safety,” Bergman said.  


Multiple witnesses explained that the sites resort to recommending extreme content based on what a user searches. Bergman said one client searched for workout videos, but the algorithm of the site would feed her videos about eating disorders.  


“You could solve 80 percent of the problems in two weeks simply by turning down the algorithms, making them less addictive, providing some verification so that a person really is who they are,” Bergman said.  


But business groups are coming out in opposition to the bill and worry Rezin’s legislation is too broad.  


“It is a major piece of internet online regulation that has unintended consequences that will be felt by internet platforms, both large and small, and much broader than ‘big tech,’” TechNet lobbyist Tyler Diers told the committee. “That is because the bill contains vague requirements that provide little or no clarity on compliance with a very broad impact. It would apply to websites that are likely to be accessed by a child under the age of 18.” 


According to definitions in the bill, a site that is likely to be accessed by a child applies to an “online service, product or feature” that a child could access. “Online service, product or feature” only exempts broadband providers, telecommunication companies and physical products. Diers said this means virtually a business with a website will be subject to the regulations.  


“Just take for example a newspaper,” Diers said. “They would be expected under this bill to document risks that photographers and videos depicting the global effects of climate change, the war in Ukraine, or atrocities in Syria could cause minors anxiety and therefore harm children. Or the harm a video showing how to grill a steak because the video involves fire.”  


And if content is regulated based on age, that could open businesses up to First Amendment violations, Diers said.  


Diers said online platforms have ways to verify someone’s age, but many are flawed: self-reporting is easily lied on, not everyone has a drivers license or identification document to send to websites, and facial recognition could violate Illinois’ biometric information privacy law.  


Diers said Illinois lawmakers should also wait for additional guidance from the courts. On Monday, a federal judge struck down a California law that operates similarly to the proposed Illinois bill and even has the same name: “Age-Appropriate Design Code Act.” Tech companies sued arguing the law violates the First Amendment because it prevents companies from having control over their designs, the Washington Post reported.

Pritzker’s signature climate law has seen slow progress on clean energy, green jobs promises
Chicago Sun Times
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Brett Chase and Dan Gearino

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, signed by the governor, set a timeline for phasing out fossil-fuel energy sources by 2050.

Two years ago, Illinois legislators passed a law that made big promises to fight climate change.

It would reduce air pollution by phasing out electricity created by burning fossil fuels and lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in clean energy industries, especially for Black and Latino residents, who often bear the brunt of pollution because of their proximity to coal-and gas-burning power plants.

So far, though, only limited progress has been made toward reaching those goals.

On energy, the aim by 2025 is to have Illinois homes and businesses reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, are supposed to account for one-quarter of all power, the law says.

Today, renewable sources make up only 10.5% of power. That includes not only current projects but also others planned with promises they will soon come online.

On the promised new “equitable” jobs in clean energy industries, the state has yet to train or help place even one worker, though training programs are being set up to be in place by next year. 

The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker amid fanfare on Chicago’s lakefront, set a timeline for phasing out fossil-fuel energy sources, setting a deadline of shutting them down by 2050, with a sped-up timeline for communities most affected by pollution.

A lag in training and other workforce programs, though, has fueled a backup that operators of solar and other renewable energy businesses say is delaying their projects.

One big reason: Renewable energy companies have diversity requirements under the law and are expected to hire from the state-sponsored workforce programs — which aren’t yet in place.

“The slow rollout of job-training programs has led to some growing pains,” says Lesley McCain, executive director of Illinois Solar Energy and Storage Association. “While these programs require significant time and resources to launch, these vital programs are not yet producing the results the bill was intended to help. We’re hopeful that these programs will come online soon.”

Contractors, advocates and others called out Pritzker late last year for dragging his feet on workforce development.

Pritker administration officials say they need to take time to set up the job-training efforts “to ensure the programs are designed in a manner that benefits target populations.” Officials say all of the programs are expected to be in place by next year.

Officials with Pritzker’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity say the law “supports an equitable economic transition,” in part through training. 

“Creating clean energy jobs is an overarching, long-term goal of [the law], but it’s not a direct function,” they say.

Christopher Williams, owner of Millennium Solar in Calumet City, was excited when the law was passed two years ago. He was looking for the law to help his five-person business train prospective workers in the new green economy.

He hoped to train 1,000 students in five years — potential job candidates from disinvested communities or people formerly incarcerated or experiencing other hardships. 

Williams says so far that he has trained 600 people — with funding from past government programs — and has been frustrated that aspects of the law have been slow to come together.

He isn’t alone in seeking job-training dollars from other sources as they wait to see the state’s promises fulfilled.

Senyo Ador, co-owner of Sesenergi Eco Solutions Enterprise, has made job training a bigger part of his business thanks in part to help from the Chicago nonprofit Elevate.

He says his business has trained about 140 students in a little more than two years.

Ador says he’s thankful for the law because it’s helping foster a new economy, and that his business is still small, with just seven employees, but that he’s confident it will grow.

“Illinois has made it white hot,” Ador says. “We understand there’s going to be a gestation period.”

Elevate also is hoping to win grants from the state to help train more solar and other green energy workers.

“It’s taken longer than we hoped to begin rollout of the CEJA workforce programs,” says MeLena Hessel, Elevate’s associate director of policy. “We just want to see the forward momentum continue — to see the remaining programs bid out, winners to be selected and the program to be stood up and start training folks.”

One of the law’s major accomplishments was to bail out the state’s aging nuclear power plants, which have had a difficult time competing with less expensive electricity sources. The plants don’t generate carbon dioxide and, if they had been shut down, it’s likely that the state would have increased its use of fossil-fuel power plants to fill the gap, increasing carbon emissions. Unions lauded the bailout because it saved jobs.

In another job-saving move, Pritzker announced $281 million in grants over 10 years funded by the law to convert five coal plants into solar battery operations.

Another program provided $40 million in community grants to 50 local government bodies affected by closings of fossil fuel plants or coal mines. 

A clean energy advocate points to the Illinois Shines program, which encourages small-scale solar development. The program is a successor to one that suffered from underfunding and long wait lists before an update with the 2021 law.

“There are parts of CEJA that are going gangbusters,” says Will Kenworthy, Midwest regulatory director for Vote Solar.

But that program is a relatively small part of the state’s plan to build enough renewable energy to meet goals like relying 25% on renewable energy sources by 2025, 40% by 2030 and 50% by 2040.

The state is at 10.5% renewables today, including current and contracted projects, according to the Illinois Power Agency. That’s based on the law’s counting method, which is limited to projects tied to renewable energy credits purchased by the state’s three main utilities: ComEd, Ameren and MidAmerican.

If all projects — even those not part of the utility programs — are counted, the share so far this year is about 15%, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Still, using either count, the state remains far short of its target.

To meet its goals, Illinois needs to have far more large wind and solar projects. But the state’s incentives for encouraging investment have drawn limited interest from developers, especially from wind power companies.

Developers have been reluctant to participate because the state’s requirements are too rigid and carry too much risk, among other issues, according to Jeff Danielson, vice president for advocacy for the Clean Grid Alliance industry group.

ComEd says the number of big projects coming online is “falling significantly short of achieving the state’s objectives and targets.

ComEd’s comments were part of the Illinois Power Agency’s process of analyzing and updating its rules.

That process is leading to changes to the state rules, designed to attract more developers by addressing their worries about contract terms and risks.

Kenworthy says the state is moving in the right direction but that he thinks there’s too much ground to make up to be able to reach the 2025 goal.

Companies that want to build wind and solar projects also face challenges outside of government control, including long waits and high costs to get connected to multistate electric power grids.

Much of the talk about the law at the time it was signed had to do with jobs. It’s difficult to draw conclusions based on statewide job totals, though, because so little time has passed.

Illinois had almost 124,000 clean energy jobs in 2022, up from about 121,000 in the prior year, according to the Clean Jobs America report released a week ago by E2, a clean energy business group. The majority of those jobs are through energy-efficiency programs, with the fastest-growing portion related to electric vehicle manufacturing. Total employment in Illinois is 6.2 million.

The state ranked sixth in the nation in clean energy jobs, one spot lower than the previous year, having been passed by Michigan. The top five are California, Texas, New York, Florida and Michigan.

Now that the state workforce programs seem to be closer to getting going, Williams, the business owner in Calumet City, says he’s getting more interest from developers.

“Lately, my phone has been ringing,” Williams says. “More companies, more contractors are reading the law and seeing they don’t have minority participation. I’m now getting the calls I should’ve been getting in the first year” of the law.

Gov. Pritzker, Mayor Johnson cheer Biden administration’s expansion of work permits, protections to Venezuelan migrants
Chicago Tribune
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Column  |   Laura Rodriguez Presa, Nell Salzman and Alice Yin

Illinois and Chicago leaders on Thursday rejoiced at the news that President Joe Biden will grant temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants who have crossed into the U.S., following months of anxiety over the rising pile of pending work authorizations from Washington.


Late Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department announced that about 472,000 Venezuelans who have entered the country by July 31 will receive Temporary Protected Status, which fast-tracks their approval to legally work. The development was heralded as a long-sought victory by Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who both spent this summer walking a delicate line between pressuring the White House to take more action on the now-14,000 migrants who have come to Chicago while maintaining good relations with the leader of the Democratic Party ahead of the 2024 national convention.


The announcement came a month after Johnson and Pritzker joined other Illinois elected officials in a massive news conference sounding the alarm for the federal government to expedite asylum-seekers’ work permits, with the mayor saying the city would be unable to support additional migrants without reprieve from the Biden administration.


“As we reach a critical point in our mission to receive new arrivals and put them on a path to resettlement, the action taken today by President Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Investigations Alejandro Mayorkas to expand the Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan immigrants comes at a welcome time for our city and our country,” Johnson wrote in a statement Wednesday. “Where there are labor shortages in our city … it is clear that authorizing new arrivals for work in these sectors would have a significant public benefit — both to our local and regional economies, and to the families and individuals who are new arrivals to our great city.”


Since assuming office, the humanitarian crisis surrounding the asylum-seekers in Chicago has become one of Johnson’s top issues as migration from south of the U.S.-Mexico border has ramped up with no end in sight. There are 1,600 migrants currently sleeping in Chicago police station lobbies, often under squalid conditions, but a plan by the mayor’s team to move them into tent base camps before the winter has garnered its own controversy.


The decision from Biden is expected to affect thousands of new arrivals in Chicago, though it was not immediately clear exactly how many. City, state and federal officials didn’t immediately respond when asked for an estimate of how many migrants in Chicago and Illinois would be affected.


The majority of migrants who have come to the city from southern border states such as Texas have been Venezuelans fleeing extreme poverty and political violence. Around July 31, there were at least 4,000 Venezuelans counted in the city’s census of migrant shelter population and those still awaiting placement, according to city data, but that does not account for those who exited the shelter system.


Pritzker issued a statement Wednesday evening saying he was “very pleased that President Biden has listened to my concerns and those of other governors and political leaders.” He also took another shot at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican governors in the south who have played a hand in busing or flying migrants north to liberal cities like Chicago and New York.


“Since day one of this humanitarian crisis, I have heard one thing from migrant families and their advocates — they want to build better lives and work,” Pritzker wrote. “Despite traveling thousands of treacherous miles and then being used as political chess pieces by those who should have welcomed and helped them, they are eager to contribute to their new communities and get to work. Reducing wait times for employment approvals and expanding protection status for those coming from Venezuela will get people working and on a path to building a better future for themselves and their families.”


The extension and re-designation of Venezuela for temporary status protections will last 18 months and aim to grant work permits within 30 days, but only to the asylum-seekers who crossed with the mobile app, called CBP One, or through parole granted to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. About 242,700 Venezuelans in America already qualified for the temporary status before Biden’s decision Wednesday. Those who arrived after July 31 will not be eligible; in Chicago, city records show at least 2,500 new arrivals have come since that date, though not all of them are Venezuelans.


Secretary of Homeland Security Investigations Alejandro Mayorkas, whom Johnson had spoken with multiple times throughout this summer, underscored the danger Venezuelans face in their home country in Wednesday’s announcement.


“Temporary Protected Status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return,” Mayorkas wrote. “That is the situation that Venezuelans who arrived here on or before July 31 of this year find themselves in. We are accordingly granting them the protection that the law provides. However, it is critical that Venezuelans understand that those who have arrived here after July 31, 2023, are not eligible for such protection, and instead will be removed when they are found to not have a legal basis to stay.”


Since assuming office, the humanitarian crisis surrounding the asylum-seekers in Chicago has become one of Johnson’s top issues as migration from south of the U.S.-Mexico border has ramped up with no easy solution in sight.


This week, news of a recent contract the city signed with a private security firm, GardaWorld, regarding the base camps alarmed immigration advocates and aldermen who said the company choice and its plan for the encampments worried them. GardaWorld also has a contract with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive office to run his relocation program that flies migrants to blue cities.


Then there is the fiscal strain. Chicago is projected to reach a $538 million shortfall in Johnson’s first budget, with the total cost of supporting Chicago’s migrants is expected to reach $200 million next year. The city has already obligated an estimated $144 million on migrant care this year.


Though he has ruled out raising property taxes, Johnson himself warned this month: “So the sacrifices that will be required in this moment will be necessary from all of us, every single level of government,” when asked about whether additional revenue will be needed to support the migrants.


The Associated Press contributed.

Top deputy to Gov. J.B. Pritzker named to head host committee for 2024 Democratic convention
Chicago Tribune
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Rick Pearson

Christy George, a top deputy for economic development to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, was named Wednesday as executive director of the Chicago host committee for next summer’s Democratic National Convention.

”I am thrilled to lead the host committee and tell Chicago’s story to the nation,” George said in a statement. “I am confident we will put on one of the best conventions in living memory, and I look forward to working with our partners to showcase our city and the Midwest!”

George since 2021 has been first assistant deputy governor for budget and economic matters in Pritzker’s office, with duties including leading business attraction and workforce development efforts. She also had a role in drafting the governor’s electric vehicle manufacturing strategy.Previously, George was executive director of the utility rate-making Illinois Commerce Commission. She earlier held various roles with the city of Chicago, including deputy budget director for Public Safety, assistant commissioner at the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, and assistant corporation counsel in the city’s Law Department.

”Christy George has dedicated her career to public service and brings a wealth of experience to the host committee,” Pritzker said in a statement.”She has been a critical member of my team and a trusted partner on issues related to the budget and our economy. "

Named as a senior adviser to the Chicago host committee was Keiana Barrett, who most recently was chief diversity and engagement officer for developer Sterling Bay. She previously was deputy director of the Heartland Alliance, national press secretary for Rainbow PUSH and was director of communications for the Congressional Black Caucus.

”I look forward to sharing the signature stories and values of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods with the country,” Barrett said in a statement.

Kaitlin Fahey, who has been the host committee’s interim executive director, will move to a general consultant role and remain involved in host committee operations through the convention.

Biden administration responds to Pritzker and Johnson's call for help in migrant crisis
Crain's Chicago Business
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Peter Hancock,
The Department of Homeland Security will speed up the processing of work authorizations for asylum seekers and extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan migrants, actions that could help thousands of migrants who have arrived in Illinois in recent months.

Those moves were announced by the Biden administration Wednesday in response to pleas from leaders in Illinois, New York and other states for help in dealing with the ongoing migrant crisis that is taxing the resources cities like Chicago, where many migrants have been sent, sometimes without any notification.

At an Aug. 30 news conference, Gov. JB Pritzker, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and state business leaders called on the administration to ease work restrictions for asylum seekers and other long-term undocumented workers. At that time, Chicago officials said the city had received more than 13,000 asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom had no official authorization to work in the United States.

Among other things, those officials requested DHS to allow states to sponsor asylum seekers for work authorizations. And while that was not one of the actions DHS announced Wednesday, Pritzker said he was happy with the actions the agency took to make it easier for those individuals to find employment.

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“I’m very pleased that President Biden has listened to my concerns and those of other governors and political leaders and expanded Temporary Protected Status to migrants from Venezuela, thousands of whom have been sent to Illinois over the last year,” Pritzker said in a statement Wednesday.

“Despite traveling thousands of treacherous miles and then being used as political chess pieces by those who should have welcomed and helped them, they are eager to contribute to their new communities and get to work,” the governor added.

Pritzker was referring to actions by Republican Govs. Greg Abbott, of Texas, and Ron DeSantis, of Florida, who have been busing migrants from their states to so-called “sanctuary” cities such as Chicago and New York City.

Asylum seekers are people seeking temporary shelter and protection in the U.S. because they have suffered, or fear suffering, persecution in their home country due to factors such as race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.

To be eligible for asylum, people must be physically present in the U.S. and apply for that status, usually by filing an online application form known as an I-589, within one year of their arrival.

Federal law still requires asylum seekers to wait six months after filing their claim before they can apply for a work permit, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document, or EAD. But starting Oct. 1, DHS says it will dedicate additional staff to reducing the median processing time for those applications from 90 days to 30 days.

In addition, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will increase the maximum validity period for EADs to five years for certain noncitizens, including those admitted as refugees or granted asylum, those who have been granted withholding of removal, and applicants for asylum.

DHS will also extend Temporary Protected Status for 18 months to Venezuelan migrants who were living in the U.S. on or before July 31. That’s a temporary immigration status for people from certain countries experiencing issues that make it difficult or unsafe to return home.

According to the humanitarian aid group World Vision International, as of August 2023, more than 7.7 million people had fled Venezuela since 2014, due largely to political unrest brought on by years of hyperinflation, political corruption and economic problems. Most of those have fled to Caribbean and other Latin American nations.

Under the socialist government of former president Hugo Chavez, the country was almost entirely reliant on oil revenue to fund government operations. But that revenue dried up when oil prices plummeted in 2014, resulting in a collapse of the Venezuelan economy and dire shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Cash bail comes to an end
Illinois Times
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Column  |   Dean Olsen

New pretrial systems are in place, but outcomes still uncertain

Roy Williams Jr. has seen it happen many times.


Someone is arrested and can't afford bail to get out of jail until a criminal case is resolved, whether the cost is a few hundred dollars or a few thousand.


Immediate family members who themselves are strapped for cash then try to gather money from various relatives and pool their resources. When the arrested person is released, however, Williams said many relatives don't understand why they can't get their money back right away, or even in the future, after the case is resolved and after fines, court fees and other legal costs are subtracted.


"It just causes a disruption in family relations," Williams, the Springfield City Council's Ward 3 alderperson, told Illinois Times. "It's a common thing in the Black community with bond."


These sorts of disruptions related to bond, also known as bail, ended Sept. 18 when Illinois became the first state in the nation to eliminate cash bail.


Thirty-two months after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly approved the move, law enforcement and criminal justice officials in Springfield and other parts of central Illinois said they are ready to carry out the Pretrial Fairness Act but uncertain whether crime will rise or jails will house fewer defendants awaiting trial.


"I think in three months, we'll have a very good idea," Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said.


Sangamon County State's Attorney Dan Wright, a Republican, was among most state's attorneys in Illinois who joined a lawsuit that unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the law.


But Wright told Illinois Times on Sept. 18: "All stakeholders in Sangamon County are 100% committed to making sure the new law is fairly and equitably implemented while doing everything within our power to protect the public."


Going forward, some criminal defendants – including most charged with crimes of violence such as murder and gun-related offenses – will be held in jail without bail. Others will be released without paying anything and required to comply with certain conditions and show up for court hearings.


Still others no longer will be brought to the jail and booked but given notices to appear in court. And most people charged with drug-related offenses, property crimes and theft won't even be eligible to be held in jail while their cases are adjudicated.


More than 2,000 Sangamon County defendants each year will be affected by changes brought by the Pretrial Fairness Act, Wright estimated.


Circuit Judge Ryan Cadagin, presiding judge in Sangamon County, said the judicial system will be "prepared to fully implement the law and all its provisions."


Effect on public safety unclear


Campbell, a Republican and high-profile opponent of the law and the legislative process that led to its passage, said police in the county have been trained on the law's nuances, but he remains concerned about the potential for confusion over the law's interpretation by those who enforce it.


In addition to the potential for more crime by either people who are released or those who may feel less fearful of punishment, Campbell worries morale among police officers will drop and the public will lose faith in law enforcement, especially when it comes to the way police will be restricted in responding to people trespassing on private property.


Police won't be as free to remove someone from the premises, he said.


"When you take away what we have been taught to do, our entire career is 'arrest the bad guys,' 'remove them from the scene of a crime' or 'remove them from a disturbance,'" Campbell said. "Now we're afraid that we are going to disappoint our citizens because we will have to cite some people and walk away."


Cash bail comes to an end


Williams, the Springfield alderperson, rejected the notion that the law will jeopardize public safety. He is a board member on Springfield's nonprofit Faith Coalition for the Common Good, one of many Illinois social-justice organizations in the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice that have worked to eliminate bail for seven years.


"When we have change in our society, people resist it," Williams said. "They throw the bogeyman out there. ... We need to move forward."


Vanessa Knox, Faith Coalition's transformational justice chairperson, added: "For too long, our pretrial system punished people for being poor, creating generations of impacted people. Those days are over. This law will make us safer by ensuring people don't lose their jobs, homes or custody of their children because they couldn't afford to pay a money bond."


Other advocates said the law will increase public safety because it will provide judges more detailed information about defendants when deciding whether to keep people in jail. People won't be held unless there is evidence they will be a danger to someone else or the overall community, or unless there's evidence they plan to evade prosecution.


Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Hillside, said at a Sept. 18 news conference in Chicago, "Today, Illinois is no longer criminalizing poverty, and their entire nation has its eyes on us."


The origins of the Pretrial Fairness Act


The 2021 passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act was finalized in the early-morning hours of Jan. 13, 2021, after all-night sessions of partisan debate in Springfield. It all took place while the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, many legislative hearings were held remotely, lawmakers were wearing masks and the Illinois House met in the BOS Center to promote social distancing.


The Pretrial Fairness Act was part of a broader racial-justice reform law known as the SAFE-T Act, which stands for Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today. The Pretrial Fairness Act was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court two months ago.


Before, during and after the Pretrial Fairness Act's passage, there were allegations from Republicans – disputed by Democrats – that the majority party rammed the measure through the legislature without enough input from law enforcement.


The SAFE-T Act was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and gained momentum after the May 2020 suffocation death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minnesota police officer, as well as the deaths of other Black people in police custody across the country.


Advocates of the act pointed to additional evidence of what they consider unequal treatment. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said in a 2022 report that there was a 433% increase in the number of people detained pretrial nationwide from 1970 to 2015.


Black and Hispanic defendants have higher pretrial detention rates, and more than 60% of defendants overall are detained pretrial because they can't afford to post bail, the report said.


But opponents of the Pretrial Fairness Act said crime rates in Illinois will rise as a result of more defendants at risk of violating the law being released before trial. Supporters disagreed.


Both sides have cited conflicting studies of Cook County's judicial system, which began reducing the use of bail in 2015, and other jurisdictions in other states, to bolster their arguments.


Supporters said the statewide legislation, signed into law in February 2021 by Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, will reduce the economic and social harm that people presumed innocent until proven guilty suffer for simply being too poor to afford bail.


State Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, said the Pretrial Fairness Act will help address the "mass incarceration crisis" that disproportionately affects poor, Black and Hispanic people and promotes generational poverty.


Because bail often is paid by defendants' families, Benjamin Ruddell, director of criminal justice policy for the ACLU of Illinois, said doing away with bail halts a system that "extracts wealth from communities that can least afford to pay."


A new system goes into effect


A key part of the law, and a change from the status quo, requires hearings to be conducted within 24 or 48 hours of arrest to determine whether a person is detained or released, if the charges make that person eligible for detainment.


Anyone else would be arrested, brought to a jail and released, or would be ticketed at the scene of an incident and receive a notice to appear in court.


If state's attorneys don't have enough information to request detention, they have up to 21 days to do so.


A person arrested before the Sept. 18 effective date and subject to a previously-set cash bond may petition the court for reconsideration of their pretrial conditions under the new law and without the option of bail. The court then could end up allowing pretrial release. Depending on the charge, petitions must be heard by the court within seven, 60 or 90 days.


Sangamon County already has had a judge in court every Sunday for bail hearings, so the county didn't have to arrange for weekend court to meet the new deadlines for detention hearings, Cadagin said.

During the week, mid-afternoon hearings will be held each weekday, if needed, when the state's attorney files requests for defendants to remain in jail.


The Sangamon County state's attorney and public defender's office have beefed up their staffs to provide judges adequate information to make a determination, Wright and Public Defender Craig Reiser said.


"Absolutely, no question – the legislation creates more work for prosecutors and defense attorneys," Wright said.


Wright said he added two paralegal positions to his staff, and Reiser said he received approval to add a paralegal to his staff.


Reiser, whose office represents the majority of people who are jailed in Sangamon County, said he is in favor of the elimination of bail.


"We start with the premise that all of our clients are innocent until proven guilty," he said. "And the decision whether an individual is detained while awaiting trial should not be determined by how much money they can post."


The Public Defender's Office may see an increase in clients. Sangamon, like some other counties in Illinois, allows private attorneys to be guaranteed payment at the conclusion of a case from at least part of any bail posted. The money is an incentive to lawyers in private practice.


Without bail, however, fewer defense lawyers may be willing to represent otherwise indigent defendants, Reiser said.


"I anticipate we may get additional cases, but we don't know," he said.


More expenses, less revenue


In total, the SAFE-T Act will cost Sangamon County about $1 million more annually, according to Sangamon County Administrator Brian McFadden. Of the total, $270,000 will be spent to fully equip all sheriff's deputies with body cameras.


New personnel for the State's Attorney's and Public Defender's Office will cost about $390,000 per year, and the elimination of bail will mean an estimated loss of $300,000 annually for the sheriff's department and Circuit Clerk's Office, McFadden said.


The sheriff's department has an annual budget of $23 million, and county government as a whole operates with a $129 million to $160 million annual budget, he said.


Property taxes won't rise, and services won't be cut in other areas, to afford the additional net expenses, McFadden said. The county has worked to become more efficient, and there are plans to install an electronic case management system for the State's Attorney's Office as part of the effort, he said.


Some of the additional costs could be offset by funding from the state for the Public Defender's Office and for body cameras. The legislature has set aside funding for those purposes, including $10 million for public defenders statewide, though McFadden said the funding either has been delayed or not yet disbursed.


Many Sangamon County officials suspect that the jail population – which currently hovers around 300 – will drop as a result of the new law. But no one knows for sure it will, and if so, by how much.


The average population would have to drop by 50 to 75 inmates for the county to realize any cost savings on jail personnel, food and related expenses, McFadden said.


Sangamon County's court services office may end up monitoring more defendants who are released rather than jailed, but Kent Holsopple, the office's director, said there are no plans to increase staff.


Many less-populous counties never before offered pretrial services but will receive them through a new Office of Statewide Pretrial Services that was created by the Illinois Supreme Court.


"It's not Armageddon"


The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts plans to monitor caseloads and other aspects of the Pretrial Fairness Act for positive and negative effects. That monitoring will include the impact of new requirements for people facing misdemeanor and felony charges related to alleged domestic violence, according to Christine Raffaele, director of policy and systems advocacy for the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


The coalition supported the law's passage because it helps ensure the most dangerous defendants will be held in jail pretrial. The law, Raffaele said, calls for "more robust hearings" and makes the safety of victims paramount in a judge's decision-making process on release.


The law also provides greater assurance that alleged perpetrators who violate an order of protection will be arrested and jailed until a hearing can be held, she said.


The bail that used to be set for domestic violence defendants "never made anybody safe," she said.


Sheriff Campbell, however, said he believes neighborhoods will be less safe, especially when it comes to people trespassing and disrupting the peace.


Several pieces of follow-up legislation, known as trailer bills, were passed to clarify or modify the new law. Included was a section that allows police to arrest and bring a person to jail if he or she is trespassing and refuses to leave or produce identification. The original legislation didn't allow for arrest.


But other people who would have been arrested and removed from the scene in the past now will be given a citation and could return later, prompting another call to police, Campbell said.


And people arrested for retail theft no longer are eligible for detainment. They could return to the scene of the crime after being booked, fingerprinted and released, Campbell said.


"We're afraid people will think we're not doing our job, which then can impact the morale of our deputies," he said.


People arrested for burglary of a business also aren't eligible to be jailed pretrial, Campbell said.


"My experience is the drug trade is tied to all these thefts and burglaries," he said. "They're stealing anything of value that can be pawned or traded for drugs. They're going to go out and continue to commit these thefts and burglaries to feed their drug habit."


In response to complaints, the General Assembly, in one of the trailer bills, made it easier for prosecutors to ask judges to detain people charged with certain crimes if the defendants pose "a real and present threat to the safety of any person or persons in the community." Those crimes include robbery, residential burglary and kidnapping.


Under the original legislation, people charged with these crimes qualified for detention only if prosecutors could meet the high bar of proving "a high likelihood of willful flight." After legislative tweaks, the law now lists willful flight as one of several risk factors prosecutors can pick from when arguing that defendants should remain in jail while awaiting trial.


Campbell said he surveyed the background of 20 random inmates in the jail in August 2022 and found that the average number of arrests among those inmates was 26. He didn't count the number of convictions.


The sheriff said proponents of the Pretrial Fairness Act portray most jails as a "pauper's prison ... and that these are just good people that made a mistake and they should not be held in jail." But Campbell said most people in the jail have been convicted of serious violent felonies in the past.


"This tells me that when they are not locked up, they commit crimes," he said. "This is what they do for a living. If they weren't in our jail, they're not going to get up and go to work the next day. So I'm concerned about public safety in our community."


Campbell acknowledged the inherent unfairness of bail for low-income people. But he faulted supporters of the Pretrial Fairness Act for not seriously considering adopting a system similar to the federal courts, which also doesn't allow for bail – only detainment or release pretrial – and requires even more hearings in front of judges.


He also acknowledged that such a switch, which no state has made, would be more expensive than even the new system that went into effect Sept. 18.


Morgan County State's Attorney Gray Noll said he has concerns that people at risk of future crimes may be released and commit more crimes if he doesn't have information soon after an arrest, or up to 21 days later, to use in a petition for detainment.


But he said: "It's not Armageddon. There's not going to be an influx of horrible people being released."


His bigger concern is that people who were arrested for methamphetamine possession in the past and held in jail because they couldn't afford bail no longer qualify for detention pretrial.


Time in jail allowed many of them to go through detoxification behind bars, Noll said. That experience motivated many of them to get into treatment later, he said. Now, he suspects many will continue using and suffer fatal overdoses with drugs often laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl.


However, Rachel King-Johnson, director of clinical outreach for Phoenix Center, said pretrial incarceration diminishes a defendant's tolerance for illegal drugs and puts people at "a significant risk for drug overdose following release from incarceration."


Elimination of cash bail "ensures continuity of care for folks utilizing drug treatment programs, medication-assisted treatments such as methadone and suboxone, harm reduction and recovery services," she said.


Christian County State's Attorney John McWard said he is not in favor of many parts of the law and doesn't like the fact that spitting in the face of a police officer – which can be charged as aggravated battery – doesn't qualify a defendant for detainment in most cases unless there is "great bodily harm."


Defendants in mostly rural Christian County also aren't eligible to be detained if they allegedly break into a farm shed and steal property, McWard said.


"What I am concerned about is the public's trust in the judicial system prosecuting crimes," he said. "I'm concerned that people may have distrust for what we're trying to do."


Christopher Reif, chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Sangamon County, and presiding judge in Morgan County, said the new law will create scheduling challenges for rural counties in which judges juggle criminal cases in multiple counties.


"We just don't know the effect long term," he said. "Talk to me in three or six months."

The law may result in a backlog of civil cases because the criminal cases will take precedence, Reif said.


When asked whether the law could result in him releasing someone pretrial who then commits more crimes, Reif said: "I had these same concerns in the prior system. ... It's going to put more burdens on prosecutors and defense attorneys. These people are already overworked and busy."

Rep. Tony McCombie: The end of cash bail puts Illinois families at risk
Rockford Register Star
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Associated Press

Be aware, Illinois.


As of Sept. 18, Illinois courts are no longer empowered to hold a hearing to require that a criminal defendant post cash bail as a condition of pretrial release.


The Illinois Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision in July upholding the end of cash bail as required in the controversial SAFE-T Act will inevitably lead to increased recidivism, reduced public safety, and eventually local tax increases.


The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling comes after a long battle over the provision of the SAFE-T Act, passed in January 2021, that ends the practice of requiring cash bail for criminal offenses.


Cash bail is important to our system of justice because it is a middle ground between holding someone in jail pending trial or simply releasing them. It requires an individual accused of a criminal offense to have some financial skin in the game.


When someone is arrested and released on cash bail, they have an incentive to return for their next court date or they forfeit their bond. That incentive to return to court has been eliminated by the SAFE-T Act, heightening the risk of dangerous outcomes for Illinois families and communities.


Jurisdictions in other states have experimented with extreme reforms of cash bail and experienced disastrous repercussions. Reports of criminals being caught and released multiple times in the same day, sometimes even re-arrested by the same police officer during that officer’s shift, should serve as a warning.


The end of cash bail has had predictable harmful effects in other cities and states, and we have no reason to believe Illinois will be any different.


The end of cash bail makes it more difficult for police officers to keep our communities safe, hurts our court system, and puts our citizens at risk by ensuring that offenders can walk free shortly after committing heinous offenses.


The new law purports to give the courts an alternative pathway to impose pretrial detention on some criminal defendants.


However, the pathway to legal pretrial detention for courts and law enforcement professionals will be a narrow one. Prosecutors seeking legal pretrial detention of a dangerous offender will have to take on the burden of submitting a series of findings of fact to the court, and only a widespread array of patterned facts will justify the court imposing pretrial detention on any individual defendant.


In simple terms, the legal deck is stacked against the victim and community in favor of the criminal, including violent offenders.


Beyond the risk to public safety, the elimination of cash bail will require additional resources for Illinois’ court system that will potentially come from tax increases.


Ultimately, our court system will suffer until it receives additional resources to address the issues caused by the elimination of cash bail, like higher recidivism.


Local property taxpayers will eventually be paying for these policy changes because courts will need more money to function.


In every conceivable way, ending cash bail is the wrong policy for Illinois.


We can only hope that innocent victims’ lives are not the ultimate price we have to pay.


Tony McCombie

State rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, is Illinois' first female Republican House leader. Her 89th Illinois House district covers much of northwest Illinois, stretching from the Mississippi River to Genoa south of Freeport and Rockford. The district consists of all or parts of Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Davies, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties. 

New dispensary planning for future changes to state’s marijuana law
Friday, September 22, 2023  |   Article  |   Cole Henke

Constructing a business plan is all about planning for the future, but what if your plans are illegal in the present?


The owners of Share. — Springfield’s newest dispensary — don’t think that’s a problem.


“It’s hard to be able to count on, you know, the state or local governments to do things,” part owner Chris Stone said.


The owners are already building a drive-through window on the building. Drive throughs are not allowed by law now, but lawmakers have already considered the change in the past. The state did allow curbside delivery for dispensaries during the pandemic, but that measure only applies to medicinal dispensaries now.


“I do think that when we built it out, this way, we built it out with the idea that that we don’t see a lot of opposition with respect to putting drive-throughs in,” Stone said.


The owners of Share. also operate Springfield Seed — one of the city’s first craft grow operations. That craft grow will eventually supply the dispensary when it is up and running, but they are also already planning for the state to legalize THC-infused beverages. That way, they can make them at Springfield Seed as soon as possible if the state gives them the go ahead.


“I’d really like to be able to see that the legislature takes a real hard look at being able to expand the ability for us to be able to sell THC-infused drinks,” Stone said. “I would say low THC-infused drinks into restaurants, bars, taverns, maybe convenience stores or grocery stores.”


Chicago Democrat Lashawn Ford chairs the marijuana working group in the Illinois House of Representatives. He said the priority right now is making sure license holders have the resources they need to get up and running.


“We still have a lot of tightening up of the current law to make sure that current conditional license holders and current dispensaries does open have the support they need,” Ford said.


But he also said it’s more than likely that changes like allowing drive throughs will eventually be made.


“A good business person sees the future,” Ford said. “And there is no doubt that with with the industry budding that there will be drive throughs in Illinois one day.”