While most people were out enjoying the Memorial Day weekend, state lawmakers were hard at work in Springfield attempting to reach agreements on a host of issues from the budget and enhanced protections for immigrants to automatic voter registration and criminal law reform.
Regarding this last point, the Illinois House voted 70-41 to pass a measure granting judges the ability to hand down lengthier prison sentences to repeat gun offenders. However, this effort was halted — at least temporarily — by an arcane procedural maneuver undertaken by one representative on behalf of a highly influential group of lawmakers.
If passed, the measure, supported by both Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, would change the sentencing range for repeat gun offenders from three to 14 years to seven to 14 years with judges required to explain any departure from the guidelines.
After clearing the Senate back in late April, the bill was amended by its sponsor, House leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), to address concerns raised by the House’s Legislative Black Caucus.
Specifically, provisions were added calling for the creation of a trial program to help rehabilitate first-time nonviolent offenders charged with certain weapons crimes and for the bill itself to expire in five years in order to have its efficacy reviewed.
Shortly after its passage in the House earlier this week, however, Rep. Thaddeus Jones (D-Calumet City) filed what is known as a motion to reconsider, which effectively serves to stop the progress of the bill until its removal.
Jones, who filed the motion on behalf of the Black Caucus, indicated that the group believes the bill is incomplete as written. Indeed, he and other members are calling for the inclusion of revenue earmarked for violence prevention programs, job programs and educational programs, as well as a declaration of gun violence as a public health crisis.
It remains to be seen what will transpire. Durkin has expressed confidence that there will be enough votes to defeat the measure, meaning it would be sent back to the Senate for final approval. However, it should be noted that many lawmakers remain steadfastly opposed to it, arguing that increased prison sentences will do little to address gun crime.
Stay tuned for updates on this important story …
If you are facing any manner of serious felony charges at the state level, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.