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CAPITOL RECAP: November 5, 2022

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Capitol News Illinois
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https://capitolnewsillinois.com

Election nears; research looks to contextualize cash bail's end

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ELECTION 2022: In the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election, Illinois voters will cast a ballot on a state constitutional amendment, every statewide constitutional office, every seat in the General Assembly and, in 12 counties, a spot on the state’s Supreme Court.

For more information about voting, including how to and where to cast an in-person ballot on election day and prior to it, you can visit your local election authority. You can find information for all local election officials on the Illinois State Board of Elections website. Information on where your Election Day polling place can be found here.

Governor’s Race: Gov. JB Pritzker is facing off against state Sen. Darren Bailey, a Republican farmer from downstate Xenia. The candidates’ views diverge widely on just about every topic, from abortion to state spending to pandemic response to addressing gun crime. The Libertarian candidate is Scott Schluter.

The candidates’ differences are demonstrated by Bailey’s voting record on some of the major policy proposals backed by Pritzker. Bailey was a “no” vote on almost all of them, saying in one public appearance that he’d like to repeal “everything” Pritzker signed into law during his first term in office.

Pritzker’s refrain in recent debates has been that Bailey “has no plan” for Illinois, and he has painted the Republican as a conservative “extremist.”

Bailey, meanwhile, has focused his attention on crime, especially in Chicago, taxes and state spending.

Comptroller’s Race: In Illinois, the position of chief fiscal officer is that of comptroller.

Democrat Susana Mendoza has been elected to that post twice, for a partial term beginning in December 2016 before gaining reelection in 2018. She touts the reduction of a $16 billion bill backlog to a standard 30-day billing cycle, the state’s largest-ever $1 billion balance in its rainy-day fund and a pension payment that went $500 million beyond statutory levels in the current fiscal year as some of her greatest accomplishments.

Her opponent, Shannon Teresi, is a newcomer to state politics and is the McHenry County auditor. It’s an experience, she said, that will help her root out “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government – one of her most-repeated reasons for running.

The Libertarian candidate is Deirdre McCloskey.

Treasurer’s Race: The race for treasurer – the state’s chief investment officer – pits two-term incumbent Michael Frerichs against Republican Tom Demmer, a deputy minority leader in the General Assembly and House GOP point person on budget issues. The Libertarian candidate is Preston Nelson.

Frerichs touts more than $1 billion in investment gains as his greatest achievement while emphasizing his administrative work on returning unclaimed property, a state college savings plan and other programs overseen by the office.

Demmer has focused his race on being a statewide check on Democratic power when it comes to tax and budget issues.

Secretary of State’s Race: Incumbent Secretary of State Jesse White is stepping down at the end of his term, creating a vacancy in the office for the first time in 24 years.

The race to succeed him features Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, a former state treasurer from Chicago, and Republican State Rep. Dan Brady, of Bloomington. Each has a long list of initiatives they would like to implement to modernize the office.

While Giannoulias has White’s endorsement, the outgoing secretary has also spoken highly of Brady. And Brady has the endorsement of Republican former governor and secretary of state Jim Edgar.

The Libertarian candidate is Jon Stewart.

Attorney General’s Race: Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Republican private practice attorney Thomas DeVore differ starkly on a number of issues, with the AG’s response to COVID-19 executive orders leading that list.

DeVore was a frequent challenger of the governor’s executive order authority throughout the pandemic, while Raoul defended that authority in court.

DeVore has defended his use of the private lawsuit to go after individuals, including the governor and a special education teacher, who he believes have defamed him. Raoul, meanwhile, said it’s a waste of court resources.

They also differed on the SAFE-T Act, which DeVore wants repealed, and whether the AG should be prosecuting public officials. The Libertarian candidate on the ballot is Dan Robin.

Constitutional Amendment 1: Voters will decide on whether the state’s constitution will be amended to give a right to workers to unionize.

Supporters of the amendment say it is needed to prevent future governors and lawmakers from attempting to pass “right to work” legislation, which former Gov. Rauner attempted to do. Right to work laws prohibit employers from requiring membership in a labor union as a condition of employment.

Opponents, meanwhile, argue that passage of the amendment would give public-sector labor unions greater power, which could lead to more expensive government contracts that create upward pressure on property taxes.

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CASH BAIL'S END: While a new law overhauling Illinois’ system of pretrial detention continues to face scrutiny ahead of its Jan. 1 implementation date, new research suggests that the old cash-based system “results in much less pretrial detention than is generally assumed.”

That’s according to the Loyola University of Chicago Center for Criminal Justice, which has been measuring the potential effects of the provision commonly referred to as the Pretrial Fairness Act, which will abolish cash bail come Jan. 1.

“What we’ve found is that, while it’s true that many people are jailed under the current cash bail system, most jail stays are brief,” researchers wrote in an Oct. 26 brief that examined data from six counties. “Most people pass through jails, being held for relatively short periods before bonding out — and that includes people charged with the kinds of serious offenses that are designated ‘detainable’ under the PFA.”

David Olson, a Loyola professor and Center co-director, spoke to Capitol News Illinois for an episode of the Capitol Cast podcast.

The PFA, passed in 2021 as part of the SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform, will end the wealth-based system that decides whether an individual is released from custody while they await trial.

It replaces it with one that allows judges greater authority to detain individuals who are accused of violent crimes and deemed a danger to the community or a risk of fleeing prosecution. But the new system also limits judicial discretion when it comes to lesser, non-violent offenses.

Under current law, bail hearings typically occur within 72 hours of arrest and last fewer than five minutes. Prosecutors detail the defendant’s charges and may recommend a bail amount. The judge then decides the conditions of their release, including how much money, if any, the defendant must post before their release.

The new process will allow a prosecutor to petition the court for pretrial detention and a defendant is given the right to legal representation at their first hearing, with the detention hearing typically taking place within 24 or 48 hours of the first appearance in court.

Olson said the research can’t predict whether more or fewer people will be jailed while awaiting trial once the PFA takes effect, but the makeup of jail populations is likely to change. It’s likely, researchers found, that lower-level defendants will spend less time in jail, while stays may get longer for those accused of violent crime because they can no longer free themselves on bail.

One study estimated that a judge would not have been able to detain the defendant in 56 percent of arrests that occurred statewide in 2020 and 2021 had the PFA been in place.

But another analysis showed only 19 percent of individuals with pending felony cases were in jail custody while awaiting trial on average from 2017 through 2019, with another 17 percent on electronic monitoring or pretrial supervision.

That means about 64 percent of individuals awaiting trial for felony charges over that timespan were living in the community without any sort of supervision, the study found.

A full story and podcast on the Center’s research can be found here.

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MADIGAN PLEA: Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and his longtime political ally Michael McClain entered not guilty pleas Tuesday to bribery and corruption charges involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison and telecommunications company AT&T Illinois.

Both were charged previously in the ComEd scandal, but federal prosecutors last month added new charges involving AT&T after that company entered a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a $23 million fine.

ComEd entered a similar agreement in July 2020 and agreed to pay a $200 million fine.

In those agreements, the companies admitted they engaged in yearslong schemes to influence Madigan by making payments or awarding jobs and contracts to his associates in exchange for favorable legislation.

In the case of AT&T, the alleged payments to a Madigan associate were aimed at influencing Madigan to support passage of a 2017 “carrier of last resort,” or COLR, bill that gives the company the opportunity to opt out of a requirement that it offer landline service to any customer in its service territory who requests it, if approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

In the case of ComEd, that involved the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, which established a formula-based system of setting utility rates that effectively bypassed the Illinois Commerce Commission. It also involved the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act, which, among other things, provided ratepayer-funded subsidies to two nuclear power plants owned by ComEd’s parent company Exelon.

The 23-count indictment, which was unsealed Oct. 14, charges both men with multiple counts of bribery, racketeering, wire fraud and use of interstate commerce facilities to carry out illegal activity.

Both Madigan and McClain waived their rights to appear at the arraignment Tuesday, which was conducted by teleconference in federal court in Chicago. Their not guilty pleas were entered by their attorneys.

Madigan has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying the alleged bribes had no influence on his legislative decisions, and he has defended the utility legislation as good public policy.

His arraignment came exactly one week before the Nov. 8 general election in which Republicans are hoping to make gains in the General Assembly by tying Democratic incumbents to the so-called “Madigan Machine.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Capitol News Illinois