Brian's Column 08-13-2015

Federal Funds & Law Enforcement Reform
This past week was significant in that everyone agreed on a funding allocation for federal dollars.  I mentioned last week that Senate Bill 2042 had been unanimously passed by Senate Democrats and Republicans and based on the fact that this appropriations bill is entirely comprised of federal dollars, Governor Rauner publicly committed to signing the measure.

However, once again, my colleagues and I were put on an unfortunate political roller coaster that culminated in House passage of Senate Bill 2042, which will appropriate approximately $5 billion in federal only dollars currently being held up by the budget impasse.

While the House Democrats initially pushed to derail the measure, they eventually realized it best to provide a bipartisan stopgap relief measure to many state agencies. If the Senate concurs next week, the measure will help critical human services, child services, public health services and student assistance programs.

It is unfortunate that it could not be sent to the Governor the same day the legislation passed, but I am pleased that it now includes previously omitted funding for homeland security that was suggested by House Republicans.  

This is yet another step in the budget process, one that is not ideal given the piecemeal approach; nevertheless, this action makes sense as it allows the appropriation of federal dollars that should not be subject to the ongoing budget battle in Springfield.

Monumental law enforcement reforms were signed into law by the Governor.  The legislation, Senate Bill 1304, is a result of negotiations between all four caucuses and stakeholders from the police and legal community, which is a combination of police officer related bills that were held in Judiciary – Criminal committee and various Judiciary – Criminal sub-committees this past spring session, which I sit on.

Specifically, the legislation defines incidents with law enforcement involved deaths, provides for independent investigations and prosecutions, enhances reporting mechanisms, outlines traffic and pedestrian stop procedures, creates chokehold restrictions and allows for body cameras worn by officers.

The bill contains a large variety of reforms that came from both the community and law enforcement themselves.  As a former law enforcement officer, I don’t agree with everything that was put into this bill, but I do agree with the process, compromise and hard work that went into creating this legislation and that is why I was a co-sponsor.

The bill applies to law enforcement statewide and is effective immediately for provisions concerning funding of the Law Enforcement Camera Grant through fines and the Commission on Police Professionalism.  The remainder of the bill has no effective date and is thus effective January 1, 2016.

In light of some recent and unfortunate news, I’ll leave you with some words from former President Jimmy Carter, “You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.”