Windhorst Weekly – March 21, 2022

Dear Friend,

The 2022 spring Session began amidst one of the worst spikes in violent crime rates throughout the State of Illinois. Seeing the daily carjacking and murder numbers outpace other cities, Chicago Democrats made some big promises on addressing the concerning increases. With very little time remaining to get things done, there have been no major pieces of legislation from Democrats aimed at the rise in carjackings, murders, and other violent crimes. House Republicans have introduced multiple bills to enhance penalties, target vehicle and retail theft rings, and even repeal the flawed SAFE-T Act passed by Democrats and signed by Governor Pritzker in 2021.

Governor Pritzker also promised big things in his budget address. He promised relief at the grocery store and gas pump, but so far no legislation is moving in Springfield to address spiking prices. I joined three of my fellow House Republicans last week for a Capitol press conference to highlight a number of bills we are sponsoring to provide relief at the gas pump and the grocery store.

Despite multiple proposals for relief from property, income, and various sales taxes being introduced by Republicans, Democrats so far haven’t budged.

With so many families facing inflation and struggling to make ends meet and afford their most basic needs, the time is now to move legislation to tackle rising crime and rising prices. We must also pass a balanced budget with NO new tax increases, and enact meaningful ethics legislation to prevent the kind of corruption that former Speaker Mike Madigan wrought on state government in an alleged decade-long self enrichment scheme.

I’ll keep you up to date on these issues and more in future Windhorst Weekly editions! Thank you for reading.

Windhorst Files Legislation to Address Inflation, High Gas Prices

SPRINGFIELD – State Representative Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) joined fellow House Republicans for a Capitol news conference on Wednesday to highlight legislation he’s sponsoring to address the rising price of fuel and consumer goods as families are dealing with record inflation.

“The State of Illinois charges sales tax on motor fuel above the usual motor fuel tax, which means the higher the price of gas, the more a customer pays in sales tax on a gallon of gas.  I have filed legislation, HB 5481, that would suspend the additional sales tax on motor fuel when the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index is more than 3% over the previous 12-month period,” Windhorst said. “I am also co-sponsoring legislation along with Leader Mark Batinick, Rep. Paul Jacobs and Rep. Dan Swanson that would cap the rate of sales tax at .18 cents per gallon of gas.  This bill would prevent the sales tax on a gallon of gas from ever going above that amount regardless of an increase in gas prices.”

Windhorst appeared with Reps. Amy Elik, Mark Luft, and Deputy House Republican Minority Leader State Rep. Tom Demmer, all legislators sponsoring tax cuts on a host of issues.

Windhorst says with inflation hitting fresh 40-year record highs every single month, middle class families and hardworking people are being squeezed at the gas pump and the grocery store.

“It’s easy to point out the problems. I’m a father and a husband, and I’ve heard from other working families that are struggling just to make ends meet. The Question is, what are we prepared to do about it?” Windhorst asked. “My colleagues and I have sponsored legislation to freeze, suspend, or outright reduce property taxes, various sales taxes, income tax, and these fuel taxes over the course of this General Assembly,” Windhorst said. “None of our proposals have been brought forward by Democrats for even a subject matter hearing. The lack of action by the Democrats on the issue of inflation and high gas prices is inexcusable, and is why I’m standing here with my colleagues today.”


DCFS – Blame Shifting Must End, Children Deserve Protection

One of the vital roles of government is to protect its residents, especially vulnerable children in state care. For a variety of reasons, Illinois children end up in the system, because of abuse from their parents or guardians, death of parents or guardians, homelessness, neglect, and even outright abandonment. As a society, we give up part of our income to the government to establish a social safety net to protect these children and provide them with vital services.

That is supposed to be the main purpose of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). But the agency charged with caring for kids has continually fallen short in big ways. While Governor Pritzker points a finger at previous administrations for past failures, one thing is certain, the ball is now squarely in his court. And, children are dying on his watch.

The latest victim of the state’s appalling failure to protect vulnerable children is 19-month old Sophia Davis. Sophia was beaten to death allegedly by her father’s girlfriend – just one month after a DCFS investigator determined a previous report of child abuse against the girlfriend was “unfounded.”

Sophia is not the only child to be failed by DCFS. In the last three months alone, two other children, Damari Perry and Zaraz Walker were killed, after reports were made to DCFS.

Illinois Inspectors General throughout the years have outlined the same internal issues at DCFS: Children killed after the agency left them with abusive parents or their partners, children sleeping on the floors in DCFS offices, and children kept beyond medical necessity in psychiatric hospitals. In 2021 alone, 356 children in DCFS care were hospitalized longer than necessary. In the last decade, 1122 children died either after DCFS intervention or in the direct care of DCFS.

A House committee hearing earlier this year revealed that DCFS is not working with the Illinois State Police on de-escalation tactics. That same Committee hearing revealed the agency is training its caseworkers virtually and has not resumed its use of simulation labs to train caseworkers how to handle potentially violent situations in in-person settings. Hiring at the agency is also a major issue, with 84 caseworker positions going unfilled from January 2020 to December 2021.

These cascading failures at DCFS are unacceptable and unforgivable. Who’s at fault? DCFS Director Marc Smith has been held in contempt seven times so far this year for failing to put children under the state’s care in proper placements. Smith has held the position for three years, and yes, he is still Director. Marc Smith is not the only leader to fall short at DCFS, many have preceded him. Governor Pritzker is not the only governor to fall short in protecting our children, but he made big promises to do big things if he ever ascended to the big chair. The ongoing crisis at DCFS demands Gov. Pritzker step up to meet this moment, and fulfill the big promises he made. The blame game won’t work when children are languishing in hospitals, dying in state care, and being repeatedly abused by their parents or guardians before, during, and after intervention with DCFS.

Even after budget increases, DCFS continues to flounder and there are no reforms in sight. More to the point, it appears there is no political will to change the status quo. Doing the same thing over and over again won’t affect the changes needed to keep children in the care of the state safe. Blaming others certainly does nothing to change the unacceptable dynamic.

Illinois children are depending on Governor Pritzker to come through on his promises. Governor Pritzker must fix DCFS, demand accountability of his failing appointed Director, and fulfill his promise to keep vulnerable children safe.

House Republicans call for immediate action to protect children in state care. State Rep. David Welter spoke at a Capitol press conference this week on the Governor’s lack of accountability amid the ongoing failures at the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) and the contempt of court citations against DCFS Director Marc Smith. Rep. Welter cited the tragic statistics of how many children have died in the state’s care and how many are listed as abused or neglected.

Other members of the House Republican Caucus including Rep. Steve Reick, Deanne Mazzochi and Tom Weber joined Rep. Welter to speak about legislation they have filed to better protect the safety and well-being of children in DCFS custody, all of which House Democrats have stymied to date.

State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Fox Lake, delivered an emotional plea on the House floor last week saying there have been too many tragedies.

“The stories that we hear and the failures at all levels, there continues to be resistance to change,” Weber said. “No state agency is above reproach or oversight, especially not an agency that is tasked with taking care of our children.”

Two children died in February after DCFS received allegations that they were abused.

CRIMINAL LAW – Police records show violent crime rates higher in Illinois than in U.S. as a whole

The numbers reflect police reports in the first quarter of calendar year 2022. Under federal law, law enforcement agencies nationwide are required to use standardized categories when recording and reporting criminal offenses within their districts. This enables valid statistical evidence to be gathered. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (CJIA) has oversight over Illinois police crime reports.

The numbers from all 50 states have now been tabulated, and Illinois’ violent crime rates were once again higher in 2022 than in the U.S. as a whole. This indicates high levels, in Illinois, of crimes such as carjackings sexual assaults, and armed robberies. Furthermore, after reporting rising Illinois violent crime incidents in 2021, Illinois police once again tabulated an increase in early 2022, creating a two-year trend. The pattern of increases followed enactment by Illinois Democrats of the so-called “SAFE-T Act” of January 2021. House Republicans have repeatedly called for the repeal of the SAFE-T law, which hurts law enforcement and will put dangerous criminals back on the streets, and we have been joined in this call by many Illinois law enforcement leaders and police officers.

JOBS – Ten states, but not Illinois, celebrate record-low jobless rates

The federal calculation of unemployment is based upon persons actively seeking work as a percentage of the total workforce. Based on current numbers for January 2022, ten states – including the neighboring state of Indiana – began calendar year 2022 with the lowest unemployment rates since authorities began counting this figure. In the Hoosier State, unemployment was 2.4%. Numbers less than 3% or 4% are generally taken to signal “full employment,” with everybody who wants a job being able to get one.

The ten states with record-low unemployment – Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia – are states with a large energy-production infrastructure, an economic climate seen as friendly to job creation, or both. These factors do not apply to Illinois, which in January 2022 had an unemployment rate of 5.0%. While Illinois is also generating new jobs, it is doing so at a much slower rate than in Indiana, Georgia, and other states enjoying economic boom conditions.

TRANSPORTATION – Expiring drivers’ licenses extended until July 31, 2022

This extension covers both drivers’ licenses and non-drivers-license ID cards.  The extension, announced by the office of Secretary of State Jesse White on Friday, March 11, is part of a series of moves intended to reduce pressure on Office of Driver Services ID-processing facilities.  Illinois residents will continue to be allowed to make reservations, come into a Driver Services office, and apply for or renew their identification cards; but if they are in a renewal cycle their old cards will continue to be good until July and they will not have to renew their cards on an urgent, immediate basis.  The extended cards will expire on July 31, 2022.

The conventional drivers’ license extension grace period does not apply to Illinois commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs), which will continue to expire on the date printed on the license.  CDL license holders must maintain up-to-date licenses at all times.

The Secretary of State Driver Services offices have had high customer demand issues for more than two years.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of the offices to shut down to face-to-face interactions for long periods of time; most have since re-opened on a reservation basis.  The pandemic also coincided with a transitional push away from insta-print photo IDs, the old kind of drivers’ licenses that many of us carried from many years, to new “REAL-ID” cards.  The REAL-ID card, required by the federal government as a method of increasing the security of U.S. airlines and federal buildings against terrorism, cannot be printed on site.  Furthermore, applicants have to submit significant verification documents in order to get standing to apply for the new card.  This has meant long customer lines and waiting times at pandemic-affected Secretary of State Driver Services offices.  The REAL-ID drivers’ license and identification card can be identified by a white star in a yellow circle.  The circle and star verifies the card as a valid document for entry into the secure zone of an airport, federal building, or post of the U.S. armed services.  The REAL-ID law will go into effect nationwide on May 3, 2023.

VETERANS – Set of LaSalle Veterans Home lawsuits filed

The legal actions target the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), an arm of the Pritzker administration.  The lawsuits, filed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, assert that the deaths of 36 residents at the LaSalle Veterans Home could have been prevented if the care home had followed pandemic best practices.  Millions of dollars in damages are sought.  The lawsuits were filed by survivors and heirs of the residents who died at the Home.  A wave of deaths took place at LaSalle in late 2020, as a variant of coronavirus lodged itself inside the home and infected vulnerable residents.

In the coordinated filing on Tuesday, March 15, 27 separate lawsuit documents were filed.  The lawsuits all alleged a fact pattern that had resulted in the deaths of 36 residents at LaSalle.  All of them were veterans of the U.S. armed services.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus “best practices” had demanded that U.S. nursing homes and congregate care facilities strictly separate vulnerable patients from the outside world.  These protections were breached at LaSalle through pathways not yet disclosed by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.

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