Democracy endangered, Democrats anti-police agenda advances
By Illinois State Senator Terri Bryant, 58th District
Just two weeks ago, on January 13, I stood with my Senate Republican colleagues during our Inauguration Day ceremony, taking the Oath of Office and promising to do everything in my power to represent the hardworking men and women of the 58th District.
In the 11th hour of lame-duck session, Democrat lawmakers in both Chambers rushed through legislation that calls for a massive overhaul of our criminal justice system and threatens the law enforcement profession of our state.
House Bill 3653 is a proposal that is being touted as “criminal justice reform” when in reality, it’s a dangerous, thoughtless anti-police bill that endangers the safety of our families, friends and communities. The nearly 800-page proposal was dropped on Senate Republicans in the early hours of the morning with no time to fully understand the long-term impact such a massive, complex proposal would have on our local police officers or our communities. After it was pushed through the Senate, the exact same tactic was taken in the House. The entire process by which Democrat-majority leaders chose to move this bill is shameful and a disgrace to our democracy.
While Republican lawmakers feared the proposal was overreaching, now that we’ve actually had time to parse through the massive, convoluted proposal, we’re just now realizing the full scope of the damage contained within House Bill 3653. The bill calls for the complete elimination of cash bail by 2023, putting violent criminals back on the streets. At the same time, this proposal gives criminals the upper hand and places our police officers in the line of fire. It’s shameful.
While our officers are left defenseless, the unfunded mandates aspect of this proposal further hurts our local law enforcement. House Bill 3653 imposes a number of requirements and demands on police departments, but fails to allocate the funding needed to cover the additional cost burdens. In turn, police departments will either have to reduce their force numbers, or communities will see their property taxes skyrocket. In a state that already carries one of the highest tax burdens in the nation, and with criminals being empowered through other aspects of this proposal, neither path forward is a feasible option for Illinoisans.
Despite the fact that no proper vetting was allowed and this bill was completely devoid of transparency, the legislation passed the Senate and the House. But we still have time. For House Bill 3653 to become law, it needs the signature of Governor Pritzker.
Opposition to this proposal isn’t about resisting criminal justice reform and it doesn’t have to be the end of the discussion. My hope is that this proposal gives us momentum in the coming weeks to come together to discuss and craft realistic reforms that protect our communities, keep our law enforcement safe, and have the support of Illinoisans.
The safety of our state is at stake and with the momentous amount of public outrage this proposal has inspired, I urge the Governor to recognize the magnitude of this situation and embrace our willingness to work together.