On October 20, I joined a number of my Senate Republican colleagues at the Capitol’s Illinois Police Memorial to renew our calls for comprehensive public safety reforms to address the surge in gun and other violence across Illinois. We were joined at our Wednesday press conference by Amber Oberheim and her four daughters. Amber is the widow of slain Champaign police officer Chris Oberheim, who was gunned down while on duty in May of this year. The offender who is accused of taking the life of Officer Oberheim was a repeat felon using an illegally-obtained gun.
You may recall we have a local connection to the increase in violent crime, as earlier this year an 18-year-old from Elgin was stabbed multiple times and killed in an attack that was caught on video. Even though clear evidence identifying the perpetrator existed on video, the Cook County State’s Attorney refused to press felony charges against the perpetrator. In fact, as of today, no charges have been filed against him at all. He is walking around free. Click here to listen to my press conference remarks.
We filed our package of public safety bills two weeks ago. The package includes a “Fund the Police” component, which would provide a major infusion of resources to criminal justice and mental health programs, and several other measures, including:
- Requiring those who assault police officers or bring weapons into penal institutions to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
- Increasing sentencing for violent gun offenders to a mandatory 10-year sentence for a first offense, and a sentence of life for a second offense.
- Requiring a minimum 10-year sentence for those who would purchase or supply a gun to any individual who is prohibited from owning a gun.
During her remarks, Amber Oberheim echoed the calls from Senator Republicans to take action, urging Democrat lawmakers to bring the public safety reform package before members of the General Assembly during the final days of the fall veto session. As part of her remarks, she said, “You had an opportunity to send this proposal to committee yesterday and you didn’t. You have four days left. Do not let the State of Illinois down. Do something to ensure the safety of the residents who elected you to make these decisions.”
The fall veto session is set to conclude on Oct. 28, and as of this writing, all of the bills remain blocked from consideration by the majority party. If you would like to hear the full Wednesday press conference, click here.
ISBE Changes Course, will Submit Mask Enforcement Rules to JCAR
After initially indicating they had no intention of using the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules’ (JCAR) rule-making process to create the enforcement policy for Governor Pritzker’s Pre-K-12 mask mandate for schools, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) reversed course this week and told members of JCAR on Tuesday that rules would be filed in the coming days.
I am one of six Republicans who sit on this oversight panel. JCAR serves an important purpose, as we are responsible for ensuring state agencies do not arbitrarily set policies that do not align with state statute or with legislative intent behind bills that are signed into law. A few months ago, members of JCAR learned that ISBE had been using a different set of rules to enforce Governor Pritzker’s school mask mandate for public and non-public schools. Whereas public schools were given a defined time period to respond and remediate after being notified of non-compliance, private schools were allowed virtually no due process. In some cases, private schools had their recognition status pulled by ISBE on the same day they were notified of non-compliance.
We simply cannot have a different set of rules for public and non-public schools, especially since it is the students who would suffer the consequences. Private school students stood to lose a great deal through ISBE’s lopsided enforcement policy. Challenges to the school mask mandate continue to work their way through the court system, and while ISBE quietly changed course and offered due process to private schools a few weeks ago, as of this writing, official rules requested by JCAR have not been received.
Senator DeWitte to Host Seminar on Maximizing Opportunities for College Financial Aid
On Monday, November 1, I am partnering with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ILAC) for a free online seminar on applying for federal and state student financial aid and options for repaying student loans. The one-hour webinar starts at 6:00 PM.
This event is tailored for current college students, high school students exploring their collegiate options, and families that want to learn more about available financial aid. Specifically, the webinar outlines the financial aid process and provides insight on how financial aid works, how to apply for it, student eligibility, and how it can be used to help pay for college. It introduces the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid, along with summarizing state and federal aid programs for undergraduate and graduate-level students.
Because this is an online event, registration is required. Information on how to join the webinar will be sent to registrants prior to the November 1 event. To register, please visit: https://www.ilsenategop.org/sen_dewitte_virtual_fafsa_student_loan_seminar.
For additional information about this free webinar or for assistance with registration, please contact Senator DeWitte’s office at (847) 214-8245, or contact Paige at PBuente@sgop.ilga.gov.
Court Seizes Redistricting Process from Illinois Democrats
On October 19, a federal court declared the initial legislative map crafted by Democratic lawmakers behind closed doors in May to be unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, Republicans filed a lawsuit, McConchie v. Illinois, asking the courts to review the legislative maps crafted by Democratic lawmakers, noting that the original proposal was drawn without the use of comprehensive Census data and drawn by party politicians.
Under the ongoing case, a federal court granted the motion for summary judgment filed by the Republican caucuses and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), declaring that the Democratic map (Public Act 102-0010), passed by the Democratic majorities and signed by Gov. Pritzker, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The court has declared a remedial phase, concluding the court has the duty to determine and approve any legislative map going forward. Said another way, the court has seized control of the state’s redistricting process from the Governor and the Democratic majorities.
This ruling validates the concerns of Senate Republicans and other advocacy groups regarding the Democrats’ unconstitutional attempt to gerrymander Illinois’ legislative districts. I look forward to being part of a process that is constitutional and inclusive of all Illinoisans.
Parental Rights Under Attack
As veto session continues, members of the Senate Republicans are continuing to bring attention to attempts to repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion (PNA) Act.
The Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act requires that parents of minors be notified before their child receives an abortion procedure. Currently, the law simply stipulates that a parent be informed of the procedure. Parents are not required to provide consent.
Leading up to session, Democrat lawmakers indicated they may attempt a repeal of the PNA during the fall veto session, and Governor JB Pritzker has expressed his support for the effort. In response, the female members of the Senate Republican Caucus hosted a press conference on October 19 to oppose any efforts to repeal the long-standing act and take a stand for parental rights.
While opponents of the law continually argue that the PNA endangers victims of abuse, Republican senators argue that the PNA law, as written today, actually provides for those who feel they cannot inform a parent or guardian for safety reasons. A process for exemptions exists.
October is Manufacturing Month
October has been declared as Manufacturing Month, recognizing the vital role of manufacturing throughout Illinois. The month-long celebration highlights the work of those in the manufacturing industry and serves as an opportunity to promote and advocate for future growth and development for Illinois’ manufacturers.
According to the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, approximately 550,000 men and women are employed in the manufacturing sector in Illinois. The industry also generates the largest share of any industry to the state’s Gross Domestic Product, contributing approximately 12 percent.
The IMA notes that manufacturing is an economic powerhouse that will eventually face a workforce shortage, with an estimated 300,000 men and women expected to leave the industry and retire in the coming years. Senate Republicans note it is more important than ever that lawmakers support the industries that create jobs and opportunities in the state, including manufacturing.