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Unintended consequences

Sunday, May 29, 2011

* Doug Finke reports on a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing which looked at the House’s cuts to the human services budget

Things like phones and travel also took hits. Cutting those things plays well back home, especially travel. Everyone knows that when you talk about state travel, it means public employees going off on junkets to resort areas, right?

Well, members of the state guardian’s office testified about what those cuts mean to their operations. Cut travel? That means cutting the money for staff to make the home visits required by state law. Cut telecommunications? Most of that money is used for staff to access computer files on clients.

It all falls under the general category of unintended consequences. Expect a whole lot of those stories in the days and weeks after the General Assembly adopts a new state budget that lawmakers from both parties vow will cut state spending.


* The House passed a bill yesterday which cracked down on sex offenders

The latest bill would add conspiracy, “luring,” unauthorized videotaping and other offenses to the range of crimes that can land a person on the registry. It would also expand the minimum time on the list for misdemeanor offenders from 10 to 15 years.

Bills to expand the reach and restrictions of the registry are practically an annual requirement in Illinois for any lawmaker who wants to look tough on crime. “If it was your son or your daughter walking to school, you’d want to know who was trying to lure them,” said Dennis Reboletti, R-Addison, speaking in favor of Saturday’s bill.

But Kevin McDermott quoted legislators who had some serious concerns about what is usually a very popular category of Statehouse legislation

“We’re making it impossible for them to live anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to work anywhere, we’re making it impossible for them to go anywhere,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines. “We need to take a step back.”

Nekritz is a liberal Democrat, but concern about this latest expansion wasn’t limited to that wing.

“You’re making this more and more onerous for people to comply” with the registration list, warned Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore, a conservative stalwart.

Another, Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Park Ridge, acknowledged that “most of us will vote for it because it looks bad if you don’t,” but she expressed concern about the annual proliferation of “layers” of new laws regarding the list.

Pritchard and Mulligan both ended up voting “yes,” and the bill is now on its way back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. It will almost certainly pass, but the issue is clearly becoming less cut-and-dried than it used to be.

* I’m pretty sure that this Tribune headline was intended to have a very specific consequence

Lawmakers take holiday break with big issues left to tackle

They adjourned yesterday afternoon and are back this afternoon. That’s not much of a “holiday break.” Sheesh.

* Related…

* Backseat passengers need to buckle seat belts under bill sent to governor: “In the last year … 38 folks died unfortunately because they weren’t wearing their seat belt,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor. “This bill is going to definitely save lives.”

* Catching suburban texting drivers can be difficult

* Parents of disabled children giving up on Illinois - Families move to other states as Illinois’ social service funding shrinks

* IL lawmaker references own drug addiction to argue against immunity bill

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:12 pm:

    Cutting phones and actual work travel is a cheap headline. Seriously, phones? I don’t think many people look at a work phone of any kind as a luxurious perk.

    If you want people to do a job, you have to give them the rudimentary tools to do so.

  2. - Cindy Lou - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:39 pm:

    Instead of jotting off to resorts my site uses gas to obtain the upkeep and necessary travel to cover site. 20% cut in ‘travel expenses’ should be quite difficult being one end to the other can consist of a 100 miles. Phones? Pfft. Some of us out here in the sticks supply our own cell phones or there would be no communicating.

  3. - 47th Ward - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 3:41 pm:

    ===“most of us will vote for it because it looks bad if you don’t,”===

    Sigh. That’s a sad comment on political campaigns and voter attention spans.

    In Iowa, a lot of registered sex offenders sleep in rest areas on the interstates because their homes are within 1,000 feet of a school, a playground, a church, etc., and they’re not supposed to “live” within that perimeter. There is probably a bill to ban them from rest areas too. Or congegating with each other.

    It’s hard to advocate for or be sympathetic to sex offenders though, which is why it’s so easy to legislate these (mostly men) into camps in the woods outside of town. Maybe it makes the rest of us safer, but it also says a lot about our values.

    Making them wear a scarlet letter doesn’t sound as harsh as some of the proposals for keeping us “safe.”

  4. - state glacier - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:02 pm:

    Somehow Lisa Madigan has managed to get herself very popular on the issue of sex offenders while completely mismanaging the Sex Offender Management Board to the point that they have been audited twice for doing nothing. The AG is also known for ignoring evidence-based policies that would lower recidivism.

    Because no one has the big picture, and the AGs office is AWOL, Illinois just passes more and more policies with negative consequences at the whim of the legislators. You know it is bad if even they are complaining about it.

    It is no secret that Madigan hands these bills over to freshman legislators so they can look tough. They have no idea what they are passing, and many times these laws are redundant. Legislators like Mussman who sponsored SB1040 act like it is their birthright to get to pass sex offender legislation to take back to their districts.

    But no one speaks up about the many unintended consequences this causes. We have a lot of homeless sex offenders in Illinois, and at least 1000 who have to stay in prison at taxpayer expense because the residency restrictions would make them homeless and they are not allowed to be homeless on parole.

    I have great respect for the legislators who are finally speaking up here. Their constituents sent them to Springfield to pass good legislation. They aren’t there yet, but at least they are thinking about the effects of the laws they are passing.

  5. - W.H. - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 4:08 pm:

    Refreshing to hear that some lawmakers at least recognize the need to resist this tsunami of bills to expand the sex offender registry–it seems to have a force and life of its own beyond what anyone would consider practical. There are so many people on the registry that no one can be effectively monitored, and the restrictions of the law are so ornate no one can comply. The result–the sex offenders wind up lost from the grid. This impulse to expand the registry does not protect us.

  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 6:24 pm:

    Shall we make a list of all of the programs which prevent abuse and are being cut in this budget?

  7. - Not a Newcomer - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 6:45 pm:

    I would like to see a vote analysis of those in favor of mandatory seatbelts but not in favor of mandatory motorcycle helmets.

  8. - Marty - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 8:06 pm:

    I don’t for a minute believe that the cosnequences of cutting travel and communications budgets are “unanticipated.” The committe members know perfectly well what they are doing, and have professional staff advising them.

    No, it’s a calculation that voters will like the raw meat of kicking the administrative budget, and not care about the actual effects and how trivial the savings are compare to a deficit this size.

    We get the politicians we deserve, we vote for them. They don’t do what they’re pretty sure we won’t like, and they do what they think we will like or a least they can get away with–and they’re the experts on that.

  9. - DuPage Dave - Sunday, May 29, 11 @ 9:56 pm:

    I disagree that the committee members know what they are doing. Ordinary voters are not paying attention to the shenanigans going on in Springfield this week.

    For example, DHS has programs where we make home visits. In rural areas this is a ton of miles on the caseworker’s car. So the legislators want us to not do the job required by law (which was approved by the legislature)?

    I don’t believe they are thinking this through. I think this is a knee-jerk reflex that the hope might sound good someday.

    And no, we don’t get the politicians we deserve. We get the politicians that are put into gerrymandered districts and who face no primary opposition. Most elections are effectively uncontested.

  10. - Marty - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 12:36 am:

    I think the legislators want to get credit for making cuts and just figure somehow, someone will keep the wheels from falling off–that is usually what happens—some employees work extra hours, some administrator uses discretion to shift accounts, and the thiung holds together despite what the pols did.

    But, hey, have it your way, they are busy doing stuff they don’t have a clue about–does that really make you feel better about it all? Either they know what they are doing and are doing it anyway, or they don’t know and don’t care to find out. Potato, potahto.

    I agree about the gerrymandering, etc., I was thinking of the voters collectively. Of course, lots of us, as individuals, are usually dissatisfied.

  11. - Helper - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 8:46 am:

    As a social worker who has worked with victims for years, I also am in favor or ‘taking a step back’ in regards to re-evaluating IL sex offender laws. One broad sweeping size does not fit all, we have gone too far! I work with whole families, we forget how these draconian laws affect them.

  12. - caring - Monday, May 30, 11 @ 9:44 am:

    It’s not a surprise, but sad that legislators who recognize that sex offender and violent offender registries are ineffective in protecting the “public,” still feel the necessity of voting for them for fear of an opponent using their vote to suggest they are “soft on crime.” The thoughtful senators and representatives who are seeking to identify what does work, are the ones we need to keep in office, and not by pressuring them to vote for something they know - or should learn - is not the best use of resources. Absolutely, some sex offenders and violent offenders need to be locked up and kept away from “society,” and/or their whereabouts need to be monitored. But we know from research that for the majority of offenders, especially juvenile sex offenders, registries and restrictions in movement, do not work. Resources, supportive services, jobs, support networks, make the difference. Pushing an individual off the street and limiting his/her ability to interact with “healthy” persons, only limits the options to remake their lives and become productive citizens. Even if one seeks punishment and making life harder for the offenders, the bottom line is that we want to/must protect non-offending, law-abiding citizens. And registries and incarceration in prisons where individuals only learn better criminal skills is not the way to do it. At a time when we are debating which human services to cut, which early intervention programs to reduce or eliminate, how to cut law enforcement, passing a bill that merely increases the numbers and types of sex offenders who must register, is an enormous drain on a state budget with dollars that could be put to far better use to prevent reoffending. Illinois stands to receive far less federal dollars than it will cost the state to implement the requirements of SB 1040 (and yet neither the state, the Attorney General’s office, the legislators supporting the bill have spent time researching this) - and while the requirements may protect the seats of some legislators, be assured it will not protect the public.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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