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Witness protection program bill moves out of committee on partisan vote

Republicans argue it's time for new ideas to stop the increase in gun violence and car-jackings...
Republicans argue it's time for new ideas to stop the increase in gun violence and car-jackings across the state.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 5:27 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - One part of a larger legislative package passed out of committee today with some concern from Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Robert Peters proposed legislation that would establish a task force to look into crime and ways to stop it, as well as expand the witness protection program to provide better resources to those who are at risk for giving their testimony.

“We know a lot of people are too concerned or scared to be a witness when it comes to violent crime,” Peters said. “They need support so that we can be able to solve some of these cases.”

The piece of the bill that led to a partisan vote was who made up the task force.

Republicans took issue with what they considered unequal representation in the task force since minority leaders could only appoint one person each to the task force. Additionally, Sen. Neil Anderson (R - Moline) argued rank-and-file police officers should be involved in the discussion.

“I think a huge oversight is no rank and file officers,” Anderson said. “They deal with crime every day. I think their insight would be very valuable.”

Peters said he was considering adding in city and local governments and someone who advocates for victims but did not commit to adding in those requirements or increasing the number of people minority leaders can appoint.

The bill language as currently written requires the following members:

  • Two state Senators and House Representatives appointed by the Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.
  • One representative and senator from the minority leaders.
  • Dir. of Illinois State Police or their appointee.
  • Attorney General or their appointee.
  • Four justice-involved people of the public, one appointed by each minority leader, the Speaker and the President of the Senate.
  • The following people appointed by the governor:
    • a retired judge
    • a representative for statewide State’s Attorneys
    • a representative for statewide public defenders
    • a representative for county sheriffs
    • a representative for statewide chiefs of police
    • a representative of a statewide civil liberties group
    • one justice-involved member of the public

The bill passed on party lines, three Republicans opposed and six Democrats for the measure. Republican members said they weren’t against what the bill was doing, but rather the makeup of the task force.

“I like the idea,” Sen. Jil Tracy (R - Quincy) said. “What I find disingenuous is the fact that we are unwilling to make this a bipartisan task force. It’s a poison pill and I think it solidifies the direction we’re going in locking out the minority party.”

The bill heads to the Senate floor where it could get passed as soon as Tuesday night.

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