Senate Week in Review: February 1-5

With the recent cancellation of in-person legislative session days during February, Republican senators are preparing to start their new committee roles in a virtual setting for the start of the 102nd General Assembly, according to State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport).

In other news, Republican lawmakers are voicing their concerns over a controversial new rule pending before the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (JCAR) that will have a lasting impact on Illinois teachers and students.

Senate Republicans are also reviewing the input and notes provided by local law enforcement in recent Zoom meetings about House Bill 3653, the dangerous criminal justice reform proposal awaiting action by the Governor.

Republican lawmakers take on leadership roles in Senate committees

Senate Republicans have announced leadership appointments for Senate committees during the 102nd General Assembly.

The Minority Spokesperson serves as the primary Republican leader on each appointed committee, representing the caucus, and leading debates and discussions.

“We are lucky to have a caucus with such diverse expertise,” said Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “Our state has many important issues to address this year, and our caucus is ready and well-equipped to put forward policy solutions that will get Illinois back to work.”

Minority Spokesperson appointments include:

Sen. Bailey: Agriculture
Sen. Curran: Assignments; Ethics
Sen. Rose: Appropriations; Labor
Sen. Bryant: Behavioral and Mental Health
Sen. Rezin: Education; Energy & Public Utilities; Human Rights
Sen. Tracy: Environment & Conservation; Judiciary
Sen. Barickman: Ethics; Redistricting
Sen. Plummer: Executive Appointments; Financial Institutions
Sen. Svyerson: Health; Healthcare Access & Availability; Insurance
Sen. Turner: Hospitality & Tourism
Sen. Anderson: Licensed Activities; Public Safety
Sen. Fowler: Higher Education; Commerce 
Sen. Wilcox: Labor; Veterans Affairs
Sen. Stewart: Pensions
Sen. DeWitte: Revenue; Transportation
Sen. McClure: Criminal Law
Sen. Stoller: State Government

Controversial teaching rule pending before JCAR

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about a new rule pending before JCAR that would create additional, unnecessary demands on teachers, would step away from knowledge-based learning, and would promote progressive political viewpoints in the classroom.

In December 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education approved a new rule for Illinois teachers called the “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” (CRTL). This new rule creates a burdensome, confusing, and vague set of progressive requirements and standards that teachers will use to guide their teaching narrative. 

Main concerns contained within the new proposal include:

The standards throughout the rule are extremely vague, overlooking substantive knowledge and performance indicators.
While being perpetuated as standards to promote inclusivity, the new rule could actually threaten alternative viewpoints and silence the voices of many students and educators.
This new rule requires teachers to take on a new role: activist nurturer. Unfortunately, there is no clear definition as to what that role will entail.
This rule clearly seems designed to shift classrooms away from knowledge-based learning and move them toward promoting left-leaning political viewpoints.
The standards are redundant in many ways, repealing and replacing existing rules that already require that teachers create an inclusive environment.

While Republican lawmakers support a positive learning environment where students can develop the ability to understand and interpret events and issues for themselves, and are respected for their differences, the CRTL standards are ambiguous and create demands on teachers that opponents say are not conducive to a healthy learning environment.

Sen. Stewart is encouraging constituents to voice their thoughts on the proposal by reaching out to members of JCAR or by signing his petition in opposition to the new standards. The petition is available at http://senatorstewart.com/News/790/Sign-the-Petition-Oppose-ISBEs-rule-change/news-detail/

To read the full text of the CRTL standards, click here. Members of JCAR are expected to take up the new rule at their next scheduled meeting on Feb. 16.

Local law enforcement provide feedback

Sen. Stewart and many of his Senate colleagues have received feedback from local law enforcement after hosting Zoom video conferences recently about the controversial criminal justice reform proposal that is awaiting action from the Governor.

House Bill 3653 was rammed through lame-duck session with no Senate Republican support.

On Jan. 27, Sen. Stewart 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.

In the last two weeks, Senate Republicans have brought together almost 500 representatives of Illinois’ law enforcement community to discuss House Bill 3653. This radical proposal would change Illinois’ criminal justice system and impact how law enforcement professionals are able to perform their duties.

Major concerns voiced by law enforcement during the meetings include:

Efforts being undertaken to eliminate cash bail;
Financial burdens being placed on local police forces resulting from unfunded mandates;
Concerns about enforcement of the law, including Class B or C misdemeanors;
Not being allowed the opportunity to have input in crafting the legislation;
Ongoing concerns and potential threat to qualified immunity;
Restrictions being placed on law enforcement officers, including not allowing officers to review body camera footage before writing a report.

Forced through the Senate and the House of Representatives, House Bill 3653 now sits on the Governor’s desk.

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 citizens and stakeholders.