BRADY CALLS FOR GREATER COMMITMENT TO FEDERAL PROSECUTION OF GUN CRIMES
State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) has filed SR 223 a resolution calling on United States Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to seek a commitment from the new United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to aggressively pursue federal prosecution of firearms offenses within the Northern District. Brady says that greater prosecution of violent gun crime will enhance safety and security in the Northern District, will result in significant savings for Illinois taxpayers, and reduce the overcrowding in already overwhelmed Illinois prisons that often leads to early release.
“In the City of Chicago in 2012 there were more than 500 homicides reported, the vast majority of which involved the use of firearms,” said Brady. “We know from recent media reports that those convicted of firearms offenses in Chicago and Cook County get minimal and often inconsistent punishment.
“Greater federal prosecution of these crimes would not only act as a deterrent, making the streets safer, but prosecution by the federal government would also result in significant savings for Illinois taxpayers as criminals prosecuted by the federal government would be housed in federal prisons,” said Brady. “In Illinois it costs $21,000 a year to house an inmate at state prisons.
“In addition to the obvious cost savings, housing these convicted criminals in federal prisons would relieve overcrowding in Illinois’ already overburdened correctional facilities,” said Brady. “Federal prisons don’t have the overcrowding problem that facilities in Illinois’ correctional system do. Just look at Thomson Prison, which was recently sold to the federal government. It’s sitting empty.”
Beyond the benefits of saving taxpayer money and reducing overcrowding, most federal prisons are further downstate which means that gang members convicted of gun-related crimes and incarcerated in federal prison would be housed far away from their gangs, making it more difficult for leaders to continue to run gangs from prison.
Chicago ranks lowest in prosecuting gun-related violence. In 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago prosecuted, according to some, just 25 gun-related murders.
“Chicago spends too much of its resources and taxpayer money locking people up for non-violent crimes in hopes of stopping violent crime before it starts, but this strategy clearly isn’t working. We need to re-prioritize how these resources are allocated,” said Brady. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was recently quoted saying it costs an average of $143 a day to keep a person in a Cook County jail with an average stay of 57 days. That adds up to an average of $8,151 just to hold a non-violent offender in jail.
“Greater federal prosecution not only serves as a deterrent to criminals, but also frees up local resources so that local police can spend more time and energy working within communities to increase safety,” said Brady. “More federal prosecution is an effective means of combating violence in our communities.”
Brady’s resolution also calls for greater collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies and the referral of firearms offenses that qualify for federal prosecution to the federal government. According to Brady, other cities that have moved toward this style of collaborative zero-tolerance enforcement and education have proven that when local and federal law enforcement agencies work collaboratively to prosecute these violent crimes, crime rates drop.
“We all agree that we need to do something to curb gun violence and I believe that through more comprehensive prosecution of these cases we can ensure that our communities and state are safe from increasing gang violence and other violent crimes, as well as saving the taxpayers some money along the way.”
TENSE EXCHANGE OVER GAMING
An April 11th hearing over expanded gaming in Illinois became heated at times as Aaron Jaffe, Chairman of the State Gaming Board and a former Illinois House member, went up against the sponsor and supporters of the latest gaming expansion proposal.
Supporters grew frustrated when Jaffe seemed unable to offer specific objections or suggestions on how to fix what he viewed as flaws with the legislation.
Jaffe expressed concerns about the size and complexity of the legislation, saying "it's impossible to read.” He emphasized that the gaming board must be given the same regulatory and investigative authority that it has over other gambling outlets in the state, over any Chicago casino.
TAKING AIM AT GRANT ABUSE
Several important measures currently working their way through the Senate address the use of state-financed grant dollars for political purposes, and increase transparency of state grant dollars given to non-profit and community based organizations. While Illinois allocates hundreds of millions in state grant funds every year, there is no straightforward way to review just how these dollars are being used.
A CNN investigative report found that millions in taxpayer dollars had been misused by Gov. Pat Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) grant program. Their 4-month investigation uncovered that state grant funds were used to pay teens to perform activities like marching in parades with the Governor, handing out flyers promoting inner peace, taking field trips to museum and attending yoga classes.
In response to these startling revelations, the Senate Criminal Law Committee advanced Senate Bill 2380 this week, which prohibits grantees or their employees from intentionally using grant funds, or goods and services paid for using grant dollars, for a prohibited political activity. In a similar vein, grant funding also cannot be used to compensate someone for time spent engaged in political activity. Current state law, which only applies to state officials and employees, bans political activity on state time and also prohibits the use of state resources to carry out political activity. Senate Bill 2380 targets situations like those uncovered by CNN, where NRI grants were used to pay volunteers to walk in a parade with Quinn, which is considered a political activity.
Another measure, Senate Bill 2381 was previously approved by the Senate Executive Committee and would require the state to add a searchable database to a publicly available state website that would allow the public to view the names of all community-based or non-profit organizations that receive state grants, the zip codes of the locations served and the state agency that made the grants or distributed the funds. The bill also requires an annual report on state grants be given to the Governor and the General Assembly.
JOB CREATION, VETERANS, ELDERLY AND CHILD PROTECTION
Among the more significant pieces of legislation that moved through the Senate this week are measures that encourage job creation, help Illinois veterans, and offer special protections for children and the elderly.
Legislation designed to encourage manufacturing was among the more significant bills that passed the Illinois Senate this week. Senate Bill 1519 would allow counties, cities, villages, and townships to offer a property tax break to qualified tool and die properties, beginning in the 2014 tax year. Any other taxing districts would also be able to abate the portion of their taxes on the property.
The measure is designed to encourage investment in manufacturing. Recent studies have shown that, despite the state's chronically high unemployment rates and generally sluggish economy, manufacturing has been among the bright spots in the state.
Senate Bill 1908 gives local authorities more flexibility to hire veterans as police officers, by allowing them to count military service in lieu of an associate's or bachelor's degree.
Measures targeting criminal activity are also moving through the General Assembly. In order to protect the elderly, Senate Bill 1287 would ban people from being appointed to serve as a guardian of an elderly person or an estate of an elderly person, if they have been convicted of felony harm or threat to a minor. Previously, only a person convicted of a felony involving a threat or harm to an elderly or disabled person was not allowed to serve as an elder guardian.
Another measure designed to protect potential victims was Senate Bill 1814. The proposal allows evidence of prior offenses of child abduction that involve the luring of a child to be introduced in a trial to prove a propensity of the defendant.
BILLS PASSED THE SENATE
Dozens of other measures were also passed by the Senate and will now be up for consideration in the Illinois House. Follow this link for a full listing.