Criminal Law – prison reform
·         With 49,000 inmates housed in Illinois prisons and confinement spaces, the operational cost of the system has become one of the heaviest “fixed costs” in the Illinois budget picture.  With each inmate costing more than $22,000 per year to incarcerate, taxpayers must spend approximately $1.3 billion/year on Illinois prison operations.  These costs continue even during times, like now, when Illinois does not have a spending budget.  The operations of Illinois prisons are defined as matters of essential public safety, and they continue whether or not the money to pay for their operations has been appropriated by law.  Illinois prisons are operated by the Department of Corrections.

As part of long-term planning, Gov. Bruce Rauner has convened a Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. The 28-member panel, which includes executive criminologists and representatives of law enforcement, has issued a series of recommendations intended to reduce Illinois’ prison population by approximately 25% over a 10-year period. The recommendations center on three major policy areas: (a) improved classification of prisoners in terms of likelihood that they will commit new crimes after release; (b) improved behavioral-modification services, during and after imprisonment, for subgroups of eligible inmates; and (c) grant more leeway to trial courts and their judges when sentencing offenders for non-violent crimes. 

These and other recommendations match policies that are being considered or put into effect in several traditionally tough-on-crime states such as Georgia, Kansas and Texas.   Action by the General Assembly will be necessary to implement the Commission’s recommendations.    

State Representative John Cavaletto, minority spokesperson for the Special Needs Services Committee, this week opposed legislation that promises to fund some of the higher education needs in Illinois, but does not appropriate actual dollars to help students with MAP Grants or community colleges that are laying off workers and closing down programs.

“I voted against this irresponsible legislation that will add over $700 million to our deficit and does not include a funding source for these important programs. This plan by the Democrats is the kind of financial mismanagement that has Illinois where it is now and we need to stop making these hollow promises to community colleges,” declared Rep. Cavaletto. “Colleges need to be told the honest truth that there is no money for these MAP grants and operational programs in this legislation, but we do have legislation that does provide a funding source, if the majority party will let the bills out of committee,” explained Cavaletto.

According to the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, today’s legislation (House Amendment 2 to SB 2043) would make appropriations at funding levels the same as those contained in last year’s General Assembly-passed unbalanced budget, which was even opposed by some Democrats along with all Republican legislators and which was vetoed by the Governor. Today’s proposal provides no funding source to pay for the additional spending as it is not tied to spending reductions, revenue nor cost-saving reforms. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget concludes that House Amendment 2 to SB 2043 would add $721 million to the deficit, increase the state’s bill backlog by the same amount, and delay state payments to providers, vendors and contractors. Therefore, GOMB would recommend the Governor veto this legislation if it came to his desk.

House Bill 4539 and Senate Bill 2349, on the other hand, would appropriate $1.6 billion dollars for all programs included in SB 2043 and Illinois’ public universities. The legislation is tied to another bill, HB 4521/SB 2338, which would grant the Governor authority to respond to an unbalanced budget by reallocating funds and reducing spending in various ways. HB 4539/SB 2349’s approach is far more fiscally responsible than SB 2043 as it would help MAP students, community colleges and universities without exploding the deficit, skyrocketing the bill backlog or exacerbating the state’s cash flow crisis. Therefore, GOMB would recommend the Governor sign this legislation if it came to his desk with HB 4521/SB 2338.

Click here for Rep. Cavaletto comments on the 2nd State of the State by Governor Bruce Rauner.
State Representative John Cavaletto has received an update on the impact of his 2011 initiative to fight waste and fraud within the unemployment benefits area managed by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) which indicates the State has eliminated overpayments and fraudulent payments in the amount of $724,425,226.55.

“People ask me from time to time what good is accomplished in Springfield particularly when you are in the minority and here is a prime example of a common-sense idea that came from talking with constituents around my district,” commented Rep. Cavaletto. “My House Resolution spurred IDES to begin a cross-check of benefit recipients with jail intake logs for the first time beginning in November of 2011 and within the first month there were over 400 inmates stopped from receiving fraudulent payments and within the first year more than $120 million was saved by taxpayers,” he added.

In conjunction with a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the IDES, Illinois State Police and County Sheriffs association met to create a task force to coordinate efforts. After Representative Cavaletto’s initial efforts in 2011, additional cross-checks have been added to uncover fraudulent unemployment claims including the review of the National Directory of New Hires (2012), Work Search databases (2014), the Secretary of State database (2014), an Enhanced Inmate Crossmatch (2015), and an Invalid Social Security Number review (2015).

“I am happy to report that after four years of this cross-checking by IDES, nearly 142,000 fraudulent claims have been stopped and over 724 million dollars have been saved for Illinois taxpayers. Employment Security Director Jeffery Mays indicates there are six new states that have agreed to share data to begin cross-checking with this year and I look forward to working with him to expand these efforts further,” concluded Cavaletto.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is sponsoring a series of one-day seminars to provide farmers with the latest information about soil and water conservation practices.

The series begins January 26 at the iHotel Conference Center in Champaign. Other seminars will be held throughout the month in Godfrey and Milan.

Each seminar will have its own agenda. However, all three will include local agricultural producers and resource experts will share information and personal experiences on soil health improvement options, cover crop success, and wise nutrient management techniques. Read more here.
When it comes to background checks — the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's executive actions to keep people who should not have guns from legally purchasing them — Illinois already is far ahead of the rest of the country.

But those on both sides of the gun debate agree that the president's new policies will have little, if any, direct impact on the flow of illegal guns that are used to commit crimes in Chicago.

"We don't think this will solve the gun violence problem, but it's a step in the right direction," said Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence. "The president doesn't make laws, but what he is doing is enforcing existing laws. It's providing guidance."

As the last state to allow residents to carry concealed firearms in public, Illinois lawmakers put together a law in 2013 that incorporates universal background checks as well as tough licensing guidelines for anyone who purchases or sells a firearm in the state.

Since 1968, Illinois has been the only state to require that all gun holders obtain a state-issued Firearm Owner's Identification Card, or FOID card, to purchase guns or ammunition. While it is not foolproof, the FOID card makes it much more difficult for criminals and mentally ill people to obtain firearms through legal means. Read more of the Chicago Tribune article here.
If you’re one of the first ones to file your tax return in hopes of being the first to get a refund, the State of Illinois has disappointing news. The Illinois Department of Revenue announced Monday that Individual Income Tax refunds for the 2016 tax filing season could be delayed until March 1, 2016. The agency says it is once again taking extra time examining tax returns to combat tax fraud and identity theft, the same as it did last year. KWQC has the story.
State Continues Supporting Communities Dealing with Flood Impacts

Governor Bruce Rauner today added 11 counties to the state disaster declaration for widespread flooding. Those counties include Cass, Cumberland, Iroquois, Lawrence, Marion, Menard, Moultrie, Pike, Richland, Sangamon and Vermilion. 
Last week, Gov. Rauner declared Alexander, Calhoun, Christian, Clinton, Douglas, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Morgan, Randolph and St. Clair counties state disaster areas after heavy rains caused several rivers and waterways to surge to record or near-record levels.  Today’s announcement brings the total number of declared counties to 23.
A state disaster declaration makes a wide variety of state resources available that can help communities respond and recover from flooding.  Such resources include sandbags, sand, pumps, trucks, inmate crews and other assistance to ensure public safety.
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield was activated Dec. 28 to coordinate the state’s flood response and has operated since that time to coordinate deployment of state personnel and resources to help communities protect public health and safety.
As flood waters begin receding in some areas, local emergency management agencies are beginning to collect damage information from affected people and units of local government. That information will be forwarded to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), where it will be reviewed to develop a picture of the overall impact on people and local governments.
If the initial damage information shows losses that may meet thresholds for a federal disaster declaration, the state could request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA ) join state and local officials for a more thorough assessment of the damage.  If it appears the state meets the federal assistance criteria, the governor could request a major disaster declaration from the President.
There are two separate federal assistance programs. The Individual Assistance program offers grants and low-interest loans to people affected by disasters. The Public Assistance program provides reimbursement up to 75 percent of eligible costs incurred by local governments as they dealt with the disaster and subsequent recovery.
While there is no defined damage amount for Individual Assistance, the state’s past experience with requests for federal assistance shows that it takes hundreds of homes with severe damage to qualify for the program. The Public Assistance program does have a population-based threshold, which for Illinois is $18.1 million statewide. Once the state meets the statewide threshold, individual counties would also prednisone have to meet a threshold of $3.56 times the county’s population.
IEMA Director James K. Joseph says it will take a few weeks to gather the initial damage assessment information from local emergency management officials since some impacted counties are still dealing with high waters.
For updates on the current situation, visit the Ready Illinois website at

The American Red Cross, in coordination with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will be determining Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) sites in the near future.  The Department of Insurance will have representatives available at these sites to assist your constituency with any insurance questions they may have.  The MARC site information will be offered on our website as it becomes available. 

Please feel free to have your constituents visit our website at or call our Consumer Assistance Hotline at 1-866-445-5364.