Legislators react to Lame Duck session

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

The clock ticked down to the final votes in the last day of the “Lame Duck” session of Illinois' 101st Assembly. The General Assembly works on cramming a year's worth of legislation into a few short days, before the new Assembly is scheduled to be sworn in on January 13.

Early in the session HB 163, now HB 3653 was introduced by the Black Caucus, a group of legislators in Illinois, with what is referred to as the “Four Pillars” of legislation designed to level the playing field for people of color. Legislation hinged on four areas: Education and Workforce reform, Economic Access and equity, Health Care and Human Services and the most contentious, Criminal Justice Reform.

Representative Dan Swanson, who is locally known for regular Facebook live updates on his page, when the House is in session, looking bleary eyed behind the mandatory mask, early this morning made statements about the bill, now reaching a whopping 764 pages, that they were only given 38 minutes to view. “HB 3653 and SB 841, otherwise known as Defund the Police and the Certification of Police, the most important bill we had to look at in this session, we were only given 38 minutes to debate before it was called to a vote. States' Attorneys, judges, Illinois Corrections officers, State Police, Sheriffs and local police departments should have all had a say in this legislation. Once called to vote, it remained at 58 yay votes for a long time (60 are needed to pass), while the majority party went on twisting arms to get the required votes. This is an underhanded way to do business.”

Swanson continued, “ This bill is not going to stop crime in Chicago. It begs the question on the no bail issue, 'Is this person threatened by the community?' as opposed to 'Is the community threatened by this person?' The bill was terrible on it's own, but the way it was handled was uncalled for.”

Comments from State Senator Neil Anderson (R ) Moline, focused on the all consuming issue of the last 10 months, which was largely ignored by the session. “In the waning hours of lame-duck session, the majority has shown us what their priorities are. Instead of focusing on the effects of COVID-19—getting people back to work and improving our economy, we have spent the last couple days focused on legislation that completely overhauls and rewrites state government to the tune of billions of dollars. The majority party is prioritizing an agenda focused on increasing taxes, defunding our police, and completely changing our law enforcement profession as we know it. The people and businesses of Illinois deserve better.”

State Senator Win Stoller, freshly sworn in last week to finish out the term of retiring Chuck Weaver, got an eye opening first taste of session. "What we just witnessed in the middle of the night is not the way democracy is supposed to work. Nearly 800 pages of new language landed on our desks and within an hour we voted on it at 4:48 am.

"If this bill was a good bill now, it would have been a good bill in a couple months after Senators and the public had a chance to analyze it. It is absolutely shameful that the majority arrogantly rushed this through without any time for thorough consideration.

"This legislation will have profound consequences for the people of Illinois and make life more unsafe. It handcuffs our courts and law enforcement and endangers our communities. It will allow dangerous and violent offenders back onto our streets.

"The Democrats decision to push this major piece of legislation through the General Assembly without giving us or the public a chance to thoroughly review it is wrong. These shady tactics are the reason why Illinoisans have no faith in their lawmakers or the legislative process. Lawmakers must stop playing these games if we ever want to gain the public's trust again.

House Bill 3563 passed the Senate by a vote of 32 to 23.

Dan Swanson