Springfield, IL – Three different inauguration ceremonies highlight a new term and the beginning of the 103rd General Assembly for Senate and House Republicans. That follows the end of two weeks of “Lame Duck” session, where several controversial bills advanced. The legislation garnering the most headlines is likely the “assault” weapons ban that was signed into law the same night it cleared the General Assembly. A sweeping new abortion and transgender bill also moved forward. Opponents have claimed that they will pursue court cases against both of them.
In other news, the SAFE-T Act has been likewise halted by the Illinois Supreme Court as the highest court continues to review the constitutionality of the law. This is to ensure that bail systems remain consistent on a state-wide basis, rather than differing per county.
Governor Signs Assault Weapons Ban
In the Lame Duck Session this week, an “assault” weapons ban was passed and signed into law, with the vote split mostly along party lines. There were a few concessions made from the original bill; however, the current legislation overall prohibits the manufacture, sale, and future purchase of “assault weapons.”
While the new bans most citizens from purchasing certain firearms, existing guns are grandfathered in. Owners of those guns are required to register those weapons under the new law.
After passing in both the Senate and House, the Governor quickly signed the ban into law at a press conference at the Capitol.
In response, Second Amendment advocates promised to challenge the constitutionality of the ban in court.
Abortion Bill Passes in General Assembly, Awaiting Governor’s Signature
On Tuesday both assemblies passed another abortion bill designed to increase access to abortion and gender reassignment procedures. The legislation is designed to protect people undergoing these procedures and those performing them in Illinois, including those traveling from other states where the procedures may be illegal. Additionally, the bill will also expand on who can perform these procedures and will expedite the licensure process for medical professionals coming from other states. Lastly, the bill will target insurance companies and compel them to provide coverage, if they already provide pregnancy coverage, for certain abortion medications.
This bill was written and filed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In cases of individuals (traveling to Illinois for abortion procedures) being charged with breaking abortion laws in other states, this new legislation would prevent the Governor from extraditing those being charged.
Opponents of this bill cite multiple concerns with the legislation. One concern is that by allowing non-doctors to perform certain abortion procedures will result in potential severe injury. Also among them is the concern that prioritizing abortion licensure will result in delay in approving other licenses for different illnesses, including those potentially terminal like cancer or brain tumors.
SAFE-T Act Is Partially Paused in the Illinois Supreme Court
After the Kankakee County judge ruled parts of the SAFE-T Act as unconstitutional in a lawsuit filed by multiple counties, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled December 31st to halt the implementation of the no-cash bail system that was supposed to go into effect on January 1.
The ruling is in response to a lower court ruling that would have stopped the participating counties from enforcing the no cash bail law. The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued to make sure different systems weren’t being used in different counties while the court case moves forward. In its order, the Illinois Supreme Court said the ruling was to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois.”
While this ruling does place a momentary stop on the no-cash bail system, it does not stop all of the SAFE-T Act. Other changes still in force include: requiring body cameras on law enforcement by 2025, more police training in accountability and transparency, and new guidelines for the decertification of police officers. Some cite the increased financial burden these requirements place on municipalities, however.
As of now, a firm date has not been set yet for the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit. However, the Court has released a loose schedule for the case to follow. Opening briefs will run from late January to the end of February and oral arguments will be held sometime in March. Then it is up to the Justices to make their decisions and draft their opinions. Currently the Court is made up of five Democrats and two Republicans, with terms lasting ten years.
Inauguration Ceremonies Herald the 103rd General Assembly
This week saw multiple inaugural ceremonies, as first the elected statewide officials were sworn in on Monday. Members of the General Assembly were sworn in at two different, simultaneous ceremonies on Wednesday. The Senate’s was held inside the Old State Capitol while the House of Representatives traveled to the Performing Arts Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
In the Senate, Republicans elected a new Senate Republican leader, Senator John Curran (41st District, from Downers Grove). Soon after, the rest of the Republican leadership team for the 103rd General Assembly was released. In the following speeches, both party leaders mentioned a hope for a bipartisan future for Illinois, citing the trouble of divisive politics and arguing that citizens should focus on overcoming this division.