Senate Week in Review: Jan. 1-5, 2024

SPRINGFIELD – Now that 2023 has come to an end, the deadline for Illinois residents to register their now-banned firearms has passed.

In other news, the ongoing migrant crisis continues to worsen, increasing the strain on Illinois taxpayers. Also, longtime Chicago Alderman Ed Burke has been convicted on public corruption charges, while former House Speaker Michael Madigan’s corruption trial receives a new start date.

And the deadline to apply for two available Community Development Block Grants is just a few weeks away.

Deadline passes to register banned firearms

The crystal ball drop on 2023 has come and gone, and so has the deadline for Illinois firearm owners to register their “assault weapons” and attachments.

The implementation of the state’s assault weapon ban has been marked by controversy and confusion. While the sale and purchase of certain firearms were immediately banned when the Governor signed the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” on Jan. 10, 2023, Illinois residents who owned assault weapons and/or attachments purchased prior to the bill’s signing had until Jan. 1, 2024, to register those items with the Illinois State Police.

According to the Illinois State Police, 29,357 people registered their assault weapons before the state’s Jan. 1 deadline. Information about 68,992 firearms and 42,830 attachments was also submitted to the Illinois State Police. That total is roughly one percent of all gun owners in the state.

Meanwhile, several court cases challenging the constitutionality of the ban are ongoing, including two cases docketed with the United States Supreme Court.

Migrant crisis continues into new year

Since August 2022, more than 28,000 noncitizens have been sent to Chicago from the U.S. border. Now, the public outcry over the crisis is reaching fever pitch as the migrant problem is beginning to spill over from Chicago to its surrounding communities.

In mid-November, the Chicago City Council passed new rules stating that only two buses per hour could arrive at the City’s designated “landing zone” between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and that any bus company that ignored the new protocols could face a fine.

These new rules have resulted in some buses dropping off their noncitizen passengers in some surrounding suburbs without notice to local officials as the migrants continue their path to Chicago. This has prompted backlash from some local officials worried about a lack of available resources to handle the influx of noncitizens, and a push for these communities to pass their own ordinances allowing them to fine bus companies for unscheduled drop-offs.

With no real federal solution to the migrant crisis in sight, State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy)is concerned about the impact the crisis may have on the state’s already fragile financial future. Since Gov. JB Pritzker took office, Illinois has gone from spending roughly a million dollars per year to more than a billion dollars on programs dedicated to noncitizens, including more than a half-billion dollars per year on a free healthcare program for undocumented immigrants. Sen. Tracy says she fears that these types of programs will only continue to increase costs to Illinois taxpayers as more noncitizens choose Illinois as their destination.

More corruption charges show need for ethics reform

Former longtime Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was found guilty of all counts except one in his federal corruption case on Dec. 21, 2023. The former Chicago alderman faced 14 counts, including racketeering, bribery, and attempted extortion.

The case against the once influential Chicago City Council alderman centered around his use of his public position for personal gain. His sentencing will be June 19, and he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Burke’s corruption charges include an attempt to extort money from the Field Museum for the benefit of a close family friend. In another scheme, Burke tried to extort the owners of a Burger King to steer tax appeal business to his private law firm. Finally, he was found guilty of using his public position to shake down the developers of Chicago’s Old Post Office to use his law firm.

This week, former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had his first court appearance since he was indicted on his own corruption charges. At that hearing, Madigan’s motion to delay his federal bribery trial was granted and is now scheduled to begin October 8, 2024.

Sen. Tracy says these cases are just the latest examples in a very long list of corruption by public officials that has plagued Illinois for far too long. She has long advocated for stronger ethics laws.

Community Development Block Grants deadline fast approaching

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is currently accepting applications for the 2023/2024 Public Infrastructure and Housing Rehabilitation Grant. These grant opportunities are funded by the Community Development Block Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Public Infrastructure Grant aims to help finance water and sanitary systems and storm sewer construction projects that strive to improve public health, safety, and public welfare and help communities with substantial low-to-moderate income populations.

The purpose of the Housing Rehabilitation Grant is to provide units of general local government with funds to help address housing needs of eligible low-to-moderate income households. The program targets projects that preserve single-family, owner-occupied housing in need of rehabilitation and encourages neighborhood revitalization.

For more information and to apply for the Public Infrastructure Grant, click here. For more information and to apply for the Housing Rehabilitation Grant, click here.

Both applications are due Jan. 18, 2024.

Jil Tracy

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