Senate Week in Review: Jan. 25-29

Newly-compiled and shocking numbers related to the state’s vaccination rollout warrant the need for a clear explanation from the Pritzker Administration.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican lawmakers are hosting a series of Zoom video conference calls with local law enforcement, as part of their continued “call to action” against controversial criminal justice reform legislation that could pose a risk to community safety.

In other news, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has announced that $8 million is now available for the fifth round of funding for the Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Program.

And the Senate Republican Caucus gained a new member this week with the appointment of Sally Turner of Beason to the 44th Senate District seat in central Illinois.

Illinois lags behind nation in vaccination rollout, ranked 47th

In the year since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Illinois, the residents of our state’s long-term care facilities have been hard-hit by the virus, resulting in thousands of deaths and forced isolation from families and friends.

These facility residents, along with every Illinoisan, received a glimmer of hope for a possible return to normalcy as the first vaccines were given out on Dec. 15. However, a month later, it seems the state has failed these residents.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, of the 537,050 doses of vaccines available and allotted to the state’s long-term care facilities, only approximately 20 percent of them has been administered to these residents—a population that makes up nearly half of COVID-related deaths.

In addition, according to the latest data from the New York Times, Illinois ranks 47th in overall vaccine distribution, with just 4.8 percent of Illinoisans receiving at least one shot. Illinois is ranked last compared to its sister states of Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and California. 

Senate Republicans say these staggering numbers are unacceptable. Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Pritzker Administration has taken a go-it-alone approach when it comes to the handling of this virus. Now is the time for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to provide the citizens of Illinois with a clear explanation as to why his vaccination program has placed Illinois among the worst states when it comes to getting vaccines to the people who need it most. 

Zoom calls with local law enforcement

On Jan. 27, State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) and State Sen. Neil Anderson (Andalusia) hosted a Zoom video conference for local law enforcement officers who live and work throughout northwestern Illinois. The lawmakers were joined on the Zoom call by more than 100 local police chiefs, police officers, sheriffs, deputies, fire department chiefs, firefighters, and other public safety personnel to discuss their concerns about the impact that House Bill 3653 will have on the law enforcement profession and ultimately community safety.

Participants were given the opportunity to discuss their ongoing concerns about provisions in the legislation, including unfunded mandates, creation of a task force to study the feasibility of removing qualified immunity, changes to “use of force” language, and anonymous complaints.

The process by which this legislation was passed is an affront to the system of democratic government. In the dead of night, just hours before the inauguration of a new General Assembly, a 764-page criminal justice reform amendment was revealed. Senators were given one hour to review it and allowed only two speakers in debate before a vote was taken. This is no way to conduct legislative business.

This bill, if signed into law, will drastically change Illinois’ criminal justice system, and change how law enforcement are able to perform their duties. Legislative reforms of this magnitude require in-depth discussion from all stakeholders. Instead, lawmakers witnessed a non-transparent, one-sided effort to ramrod this bill through the Senate despite our concerns and our opposition.

Although this legislation was forced through the Senate and the House of Representatives, our fight against it isn’t over. Please continue to voice your opposition by contacting the Governor’s office and telling him DO NOT SIGN House Bill 3653. Contact Gov. Pritzker’s office at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/contactus/Pages/VoiceAnOpinion.aspx

Senate Republicans hope to use the upcoming spring session to renegotiate criminal justice reform and help draft a bipartisan proposal that can be properly vetted by all the citizens and stakeholders.

IHDA releases funding to help strengthen neighborhoods

The IHDA recently announced that $8 million in funding has been made available for the state’s Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Program (APP). The program is meant to help stimulate community redevelopment by eliminating blighted and abandoned residential properties.

The APP was first created in 2010 under the Save Our Neighborhoods Act. Funding for the program was expanded by subsequent legislation in June 2013. The current $8 million is part of the program’s fifth round of funding since its inception.

The APP application process is open to municipalities, counties and land banks until Feb. 16. Find information about IDHA’s revitalization and repair programs at https://www.ihda.org/my-community/revitalization-programs/

Sally Turner appointed as Illinois State Senator 

Sally Turner is the newest member of the Senate Republican Caucus after being appointed over the weekend by the Republican County Chairs of Logan, McLean, Menard, Sangamon and Tazewell counties. She will fill the 44th Senate District seat formerly held by State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who announced his retirement last month. 

A University of Illinois graduate of Legal Studies and a Master’s Degree recipient in Organizational Leadership from Lincoln Christian University, Sen. Turner became a juvenile probation officer before serving six years as a paralegal in the Office of the Logan County State’s Attorney. Her public service career began in 1994, when she was elected as Logan County Clerk followed by five more consecutive re-elections. 

Sen. Turner and her husband, John, live in rural Beason in Logan County and have two adult children. 

The 44th Senate District is in central Illinois and includes all or parts of McLean, Menard, Logan, Tazewell, and Sangamon counties.

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