Democrats and Republicans did find a few areas of agreement Monday. They teamed up to overwhelmingly approve legislation that would bring automatic voter registration to Illinois, and members of both parties voted in favor of a measure that would allow judges to give repeat gun offenders longer sentences.
The measure is backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and was negotiated with the help of House Republican leader Jim Durkin and Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul. Instead of a range of three to 14 years, judges would hand out sentences in the range of seven to 14 years. If they wanted to depart from that guideline, they would have to explain why.
Opponents, including members of the Black Caucus, argued there is no proof tougher sentences do anything to drive down crime, saying the proposal would lead to a spike in arrests of African-American and Latino men. Durkin sought to address the concerns of some lawmakers by offering changes that establish a trial program for first-time, nonviolent offenders charged with certain weapons crimes that is focused on rehabilitation and keeping them out of the prison system. He also changed the bill so it would expire in five years, at which point lawmakers would have to review its effectiveness.
While the legislation passed on a vote of 70-41, Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, used a procedural maneuver to keep the legislation from going back to the Senate for final approval. Durkin said he hopes to overturn that motion Tuesday.
* Here’s the relevant rule…
Usually when you sponsor a controversial bill, you line up someone to file a “friendly” motion to reconsider before the opposition can do so. That obviously didn’t happen and I’m not sure why.
According to State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, the motion was filed to allow for further negotiation on the bill. Ford, who voted yes for the bill, said Jones wants a trailer bill attached, with additional criminal justice reforms that were discussed in negotiations. […]
Durkin said additional requests aren’t a condition of the bill as passed.
“The bill has already been vetted, super vetted in committee and also on the floor, and this is a priority right now for the city of Chicago, the mayor and the superintendent,” Durkin said. “But this is the kind of stuff we expect, unfortunately, in the weaning hours of the Legislature. It’s just gamesmanship.”
“We believe this bill is incomplete in its current formation. We are seeking to work on a holistic solution that includes revenue to impacted communities that will fully fund violence prevention programs, enhance public educational opportunities, job programs while also allowing police officers the tools needed to properly identify gun offenders,” Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said in a statement. “We believe gun violence should be declared a public health crisis and we will review the timetable on the hold and will work for a better solution. This bill does not provide that solution.” […]
In a bid to make the measure more palatable to critics who say that it will drive up the state’s prison population at a time the state can ill-afford it (and as Gov. Bruce Rauner is seeking to reduce the inmate population by 25 percent by 2025), the plan reduces the felony charge for non-violent vehicle burglary, and – at prosecutors’ discretion – allows first-time, non-violent offenders under the age of 20 to enter a diversion program instead of prison.
Black Caucus members fought stridently against the plan during the lengthy, and sometimes contentious, debate on Senate Bill 1722: Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said that it’s the wrong time given a federal investigation that showed a pattern of excessive force by CPD, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, challenged why the measure applies statewide if it’s aimed at Chicago crime and Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, said that the focus should instead be on resources to hire more police who can catch shooters as “if people are certain they are not going to be caught … they will run amok.”
“It just goes to show you how racist all of this is,” said Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, as she argued that Chicago’s violence stems from systemic racism that has kept African-Americans in a cycle of poverty.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson did himself no favors by over-promising during recent House committee testimony. Johnson pledged that the legislation would cut violent crime in half. Black Caucus members noted that six gun crime penalty enhancements passed in recent years haven’t stemmed the tide.
*** UPDATE *** The hold has been removed.