Senate Week in Review: Jan. 3-7, 2022

SPRINGFIELD – Following Democrats’ successful attempts last year to gerrymander Illinois’ legislative maps, the Illinois Supreme Court map, and the Congressional map, State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says action Jan. 5 to ram through a partisan gerrymandering of judicial sub-districts is yet another power grab by Democrat lawmakers – this time for control of the state’s judicial system.

Partisan games have also played a role in leaving Illinois without an ethics watchdog for the Legislature, as outgoing Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope’s last day was Jan. 6.

In other action, Republicans are renewing their calls to pass legislation to increase penalties for individuals who assault Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) employees, following the recent tragic death of DCFS caseworker Deidre Silas.

Also this week, Senate Republicans are asking Illinoisans to join with them to help uplift the spirits of people living in long-term care facilities by sending Valentine’s Day cards.

Democrat gerrymandering continues with Illinois’ court system

Legislative Democrats continued their power grab during the week by ramming through a partisan gerrymandering of judicial sub-districts, an action by the legislative branch of government that forces unwanted changes on a separate and co-equal branch of government.

On Jan. 5, Senate Democrats passed House Bill 3138, which creates several new judicial sub-circuit courts, using a sham redistricting process to rush through new maps that will help secure their power.

Nothing in Illinois law mandated or suggested the Legislature’s need to add new judicial sub-districts, which makes it clear that this was simply an attempt to gain more Democrat judges throughout the state.

Stewart says the most troubling aspect of the vote was how Democrat lawmakers continued their disturbing habit of rushing legislation through the system without sufficient public hearings or public input.

Partisan games leave Legislature without ethics watchdog

Six months of partisan games by legislative Democrats have stalled the process of selecting a new Legislative Inspector General (LIG) and left Illinois without a much-needed ethics watchdog for state lawmakers.

Jan. 6 was the last day that outgoing LIG Carol Pope was in office to perform her official duties. Until filled, the Office and its staff will be empty, leaving complaints of wrongdoing unanswered and uninvestigated.

Pope announced on July 14, 2021, that she would resign that post on Dec. 15, 2021, calling the LIG Office a “paper tiger” after a bill passed earlier in 2021 did not create meaningful ethics reform in Illinois. After an impasse within the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) to fill the vacant LIG position, Pope agreed to stay on through Jan. 6, 2022.

The LEC has been working for months to find a new LIG. There is a process in place for this task, but Democrat members have used tactics to push for a candidate not recommended by the LEC’s independent Search Committee, in an effort to hand-pick their own ethics watchdog.

Stewart says it is important to further empower the LIG to root out corruption in the General Assembly. He supports legislation (Senate Bill 3030) being introduced to make important changes in the way the LEC processes ethics complaints against state lawmakers.

Senate Bill 3030 will:

  • Require LEC meetings to be open to the public, and have the meetings publicly posted;
  • No longer allow elected officials to serve as members of the LEC; and
  • Provide the LIG with subpoena power to investigate ethics complaints against members of the Illinois General Assembly.

 

Senate Republicans renew calls to provide justice to DCFS workers

Following the recent tragic death of DCFS caseworker Deidre Silas, Stewart is renewing his calls to pass legislation he has sponsored repeatedly since 2018 to strengthen penalties for individuals who assault DCFS employees – reforms that were blocked every time by Democrat leaders.

This week, Gov. Pritzker announced his support for similar legislation. Stewart says that while he appreciates the newfound commitment to providing justice for those who serve to protect the most vulnerable, he wishes it would have come years sooner.

The four-year push by Republican lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives began when DCFS child welfare employee worker Pam Knight from Dixon died Feb. 8, 2018, as a result of injuries from being assaulted on the job.

“What has changed in the four years since Pam Knight died as a result of her injuries? Why have our attempts to protect state child welfare workers been repeatedly shelved or ignored? It is reprehensible and terrible that another state child protection worker has had to die to spark action,” Stewart said. “If Democrats had not delayed action on this issue for four years, these important protections would already be in place, and prosecutors could have been using them to go after the criminals charged with such assaults on state child welfare workers, including the person who allegedly attacked and killed Deidre Silas.”

Like paramedics and other first responders, DCFS workers often face uncertain situations. The risks are many, as there is often anger directed at them for doing their jobs. Many DCFS workers have reported increased violence and potentially dangerous situations, even when individuals come to their offices.

According to recent Springfield media reports, Silas, a DCFS child protection specialist, was stabbed to death while performing a home visit in the Sangamon County community of Thayer on Jan. 4. Senate Republicans say the case is very similar to the case of Knight, who was severely beaten Sept. 29, 2017, while picking up a child in the Carroll County community of Milledgeville. Knight died Feb. 8, 2018, as a result of her injuries.

Annual ‘Valentines for Seniors’ card drive

As the New Year begins, the Senate Republican Caucus is launching its annual “Valentines for Seniors” card drive to let senior citizens know they are an important and valued part of the community.

Stewart is asking students from public and private schools, church groups, Scouting organizations and other groups to create homemade cards that will be delivered to assisted living centers, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities across the state.

Cards, poems, and other well-wishes will be collected between now and Feb. 7 at Stewart’s 45th District office, located at 50 W. Douglas St., Suite 1001, in Freeport. Cards can be delivered in person or also mailed to the district office. Call 815-284-0045 for more information.

In 2021, Senate Republicans collected and delivered more than 45,000 Valentines through the statewide “Valentines for Seniors” program.

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