Senate Week in Review: Aug. 15-19, 2022

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers took action on a newly proposed rule regarding potentially dangerous individuals applying for FOID cards. The rule is designed to close a potential loophole that could have contributed to the suspect in the July 4 Highland Park shooting obtaining his firearms.

DCFS investigators are losing out on a highly regarded training program, reportedly due to the Department’s refusal to allow enough time for the training.

Also, this week a nearly $35 billion multi-year road construction plan has been unveiled, and the Illinois State Fair closes out its 2022 run.

Administration failures force lawmakers to take up rule change for FOID process

Lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) heard testimony on a new rule from the Illinois State Police (ISP) changing how the Administration requires the agency to handle “clear and present danger” reports when an individual applies for a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card. The rule was proposed in response to the July 4 shooting in Highland Park, where the suspect climbed onto a rooftop along a crowded parade route and fired shots into the people gathered below, killing seven and wounding dozens more.

The suspect in that shooting was able to obtain a FOID card and legally purchase firearms, despite the fact that Highland Police had filed a “clear and present danger” report with the state just months prior, alleging that the man had threatened members of his family and had threatened to commit suicide.

The Pritzker Administration says that its previous administrative rule had required the ISP to discard “clear and present danger” reports if there was no pending or active FOID card on record for the individual at that time. Following a 2019 shooting in Aurora, Governor JB Pritzker had announced that his Administration was going to review existing rules and procedures to make sure that dangerous individuals were not able to obtain firearms. However, no changes were proposed to the “clear and present danger” process between then and the Highland Park shooting.

State Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says if the Pritzker Administration’s rules had been updated before the shooting, it could have prevented the suspect from obtaining and purchasing firearms.

The new emergency rule, which received no objection by the members of JCAR and will remain in place for the 150-day limit, requires the ISP to keep all “clear and present danger” reports on file, regardless of whether the individual has a pending or active FOID card at the time.

Senator Stewart says that more work is also needed by the Governor and his Administration to clear up the other gaps found in their rules so that current law can be enforced to its fullest extent and so that going forward, dangerous people can be stopped from being issued a FOID card.

University ends training program for DCFS investigators

A prestigious training program will no longer be available for Illinois Department of Children and Family Service (DCFS) investigators. The University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) has announced that it is ending its contract to provide much-lauded training program and simulations.

The program has included in-classroom learning as well as simulations of the conditions that the investigators could likely face in the field.

According to officials from UIS, the university had strongly recommended that DCFS offer new investigators a five-week training course at the program, but the Administration was only willing to offer training completed during a single week.

DCFS also has simulation labs at Northern Illinois University and on Chicago’s south side.

The topic of DCFS investigator training and safety has become a focus, most recently following the death of Deidre Silas of Springfield, a DCFS child protection investigator fatally stabbed while performing a home visit in the Sangamon County community of Thayer on Jan. 4., 2022. Senator Stewart said the case is very similar to the case of Pamela Knight of Dixon, a DCFS child protection investigator who was severely beaten Sept. 29, 2017, while picking up a child in the Carroll County community of Milledgeville. Mrs. Knight died Feb. 8, 2018, as a result of her injuries.

DCFS has also faced significant controversy this year, with numerous reports regarding children the agency has interacted with, leading to the DCFS Director being held in contempt of court a dozen times.

Road construction plans unveiled

The Illinois Department of Transportation has unveiled the state’s Multi-Year Program (MYP) for road construction projects. The new MYP covers the years 2023-2028 and includes a total of $34.6 billion in funding for the projects.

Statewide, $6.36 billion is dedicated in the MYP to highway reconstruction and preservation, $6.4 billion will go to bridge improvements, $2.48 billion for engineering, land acquisition and other system support, $2.03 billion strategic expansion, and $1.55 billion for safety and systems modernizations.

In the 45th District, the plan includes $19,771,000 for 16 projects affecting 10.59 miles of roads during Fiscal Year 2023.

For Fiscal Years 2024-2028, the plan proposes $26,465,000 for 19 projects affecting 35.77 miles of roads in the 45th District.

State Fair in Springfield draws to a close

Large crowds of people took advantage of the break in sweltering temperatures during the week by heading to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. While organizers have yet to release any official attendance figures, many visitors to the Fairgrounds have reported good attendance.

On August 16, the annual Sale of Champions tied a record set last year, when the Grand Champion Steer owned by Austin Guyer of Scott County fetched $105,000. The Grand Champion Rabbit Market Pen shown by Chesney Thornton of Piatt County and the Land of Lincoln Supreme Champion Dairy Cow Print exhibited by Kamber Kilgus of Livingston County set new records at $7,600 and $5,500 respectively.

The State Fair in Springfield closes on August 21 with Family Day.

For people who haven’t gotten their Fair fix yet, the Illinois State Fair in DuQuoin kicks off on August 26 and runs through September 5. More information is available at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/dsf/.

Brian Stewart

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