Lawmakers are returning to Springfield this coming week and changes are expected to be made to the controversial SAFE-T Act, which among other measures, abolishes cash bail in Illinois.
The Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today, or SAFE-T Act, was passed by the General Assembly in 2021.
The criminal justice package has been criticized by both sides of the aisle, including dozens of state’s attorneys around Illinois who have filed a lawsuit to have the legislation scrapped.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked Wednesday if he expects Democratic lawmakers to change anything about the SAFE-T Act.
“I will be watching carefully,” Pritzker said. “I’ve made my thoughts clear and we’ll see if we can get something done during the veto session to address the changes that we ought to be making.”
A proponent of the legislation, the People’s Lobby, said election results prove Illinoisans are in favor of ending cash bail, the most controversial provision in the law.
“Republicans know the facts and data about pretrial incarceration are on our side, so they tried to win people over by stoking fear and outrage,” state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, said. “What they don’t understand is that Trumpian tactics don’t work in the suburbs.”
Illinois will become the first state in the country to abolish cash bail on January 1.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, a former prosecutor, said there are other stipulations in the act that also should raise a red flag.
“There’s another provision in here which says there is a 90-day trial requirement for anybody who is detained, otherwise they will be released from custody and that includes people who are charged with perhaps a detainable offense like armed robbery up to someone who has been charged with multiple murders. It’s outrageous,” Durkin said.
The consolidated lawsuits against the SAFE-T Act are expected to be heard in Kankakee County court in early December.
Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis said the case may go to the state’s highest court.
“If the law is declared unconstitutional, then obviously there is no law,” Weis said. “However, an appeal will then go directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, has questioned Republicans’ ability to work with the Democrats on the measure.
“The SAFE-T Act is an example of the Republicans being negligent in their oath of office by not negotiating honestly, and coming to the table to represent,” Ford told The Center Square.
State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, is calling for the removal of the act altogether and told The Center Square that Democrats gave Republicans no chance to negotiate the measure.
“In a perfect world, it is a complete repeal,” Neimerg said. “This bill was passed at 4 a.m. in the Senate and at 6 or 7 a.m. in the House. There was no debate allowed on this piece of legislation.”
Niemerg also questioned the legality of the measure.
“We are at a particular point in time where this will go into effect on Jan. 1, and we have 100 out of 102 states attorneys that are highly questioning this piece of legislation,” Niemerg said. “Furthermore, there have been many questions on the constitutionality of this measure.”
Ford said some changes are coming but he did not provide details.
“We have worked together to make sure we passed three trailer bills,” Ford said. “We are working on even more to make sure that we improve the SAFE-T Act.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the bill is not expected to be “gutted” but members of a working group of state’s attorneys, law enforcement, lawmakers and advocates are still negotiating language that would become part of a trailer bill.
The trailer bill is expected to be introduced during the fall veto session which begins Tuesday.