Not a Banner Day for the General Assembly

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OPINION

Driving away from Springfield last night, I was feeling particularly sour on the entire legislative process. It had more to do with adults acting like children than over actual policy.

Sure, the General Assembly made a bad law better, and that’s a good thing. I don’t know that anyone will tell you they made it a great law, but it is surely better. But, the way lawmakers acted Thursday was frustrating and should be below the dignity of the legislature.

Instead of a logical, thoughtful, engaging debate on an important topic, we saw much of the worst of both parties.

Democratic sponsors Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) and Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) deflected, refused to answer questions directly, and in Slaughter’s case, were almost incoherent in their defense of what is supposed to be a crowning achievement for Democrats. Other Democrats who spoke during legislative debate were a wink and a nod short of calling every Republican a racist pig. Helpful.

Republicans were also a mess.

There was no cohesive message, a lot of screaming and shouting about things that didn’t actually apply to the bill (like media access to court records…I’ve accessed so many thousands of court records in counties all over the state from my days as a reporter and they weren’t even on the right planet). They continue to believe complaining about process and being shut out of the discussions is going to win with voters. It won’t.

“Never once in two years have we been allowed the opportunity to participate,” said Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove), the incoming Senate Republican Leader. “If we’re really going to tackle difficult issues in this state, we’re going to need to include all voices. I think we can do better.”

Instead of pointing out real issues with the law (like how people who smashed up Michigan Avenue stores in 2020 wouldn’t be held under the law), there were odd hypotheticals and broad statements that continued to overstate the actual likely impact of the law.

“A sincere effort at a bipartisan fix would have involved the minority party, but Democrats chose to go it alone to continue to mislead Illinoisans. This bill does nothing but support criminals, make residents less safe and exploits victims of crime,” said incoming House Republican Leader Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna).

If there is credit to be had for what we saw yesterday, it belongs with four State’s Attorneys, Democrats Julia Rietz of Champaign County, Jodi Hoos of Peoria County, and Jamie Mosser of Kane County as well as Republican Bob Berlin of DuPage County.

(Disclosure: I’ve known Rietz for many years and handled media buys and messaging on her 2016 re-election campaign and we’ve argued about this issue repeatedly over the past two years.)

“We were very unhappy with the process of the original legislation but we are very pleased with having been a part of the negotiations and the discussions to get to this trailer bill,” Rietz told a senate committee yesterday. “We have expressed our opinions very strongly. There has been give and there has been take and I believe we have come to a final bill that we can move forward on and get started on January 1st.”

After the bill passed, there were a lot of hugs and celebrations and self congratulations by Democrats after they made minimal fixes to a law prosecutors said was fatally flawed. Not necessarily a reason to party, guys.

Following the Senate vote, Peters insinuated Democrats were forced to make changes to the law they weren’t interested in making.

“There were compromises and conversations, but the original intent is in tact,” he said. “I would have preferred to have been at this point in a very different manner and not under the sort of political pressures we saw over the last three months. But that’s where we are right now and I’m very grateful we were able to get this over the line in the Senate.”

Depending on how the new system actually works when it takes effect January 1 or if a court throws out any or all of the law, we may see further tweaks to the legislation next year.

Let’s hope both sides can do better.

Ino Saves New

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December 2, 2022 at 05:24PM

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