This week marks three weeks of legislative session remaining until the scheduled adjournment of the House and Senate on April 8th. The next three weeks will be jam packed full of legislative action. I appreciate everyone that has taken the time to reach out to my office to express opinions on bills that are moving through the process. I want you to know that my staff and I work very hard to address constituent cases. If you are ever in need of assistance, please feel free to reach out to me at (618) 440-5090 or email me at Severin@ILHouseGOP.org. This week’s edition of Severin Says wraps up all the action from last week, includes pictures with some awesome students that came to serve as a Page for a Day at the Capitol, and more! Thank you for reading!
Rep. Severin Welcomes Pages for a Day to the
Thank you to Jacob Janello for coming to town. I’ve known Jacob’s dad for many years, as his family is from Christopher. Here’s the video of me introducing Jacob to the Illinois House as my Page for a Day!
Thank you also to my three pages that came to the Capitol on St. Patrick’s Day, 7th graders Kallie Carollo
Makena Carollo, and Katie Norvell from Ewing Grade School! Thank you also to their grandparents Dr. Robin and Marsha LaBuwi for bringing them to Springfield. We had a fantastic time touring the Capitol. The girls also had the special privilege of meeting the Consul General of Ireland, who addressed the IL House on St. Patrick’s Day.
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.
ENERGY & TAXES -House Republicans call for tax relief for Illinois families
While consumer prices and the price at the pump continue to rise, House Republican lawmakers are advocating for reforms to provide relief for Illinois families.
At a Capitol press conference Wednesday, Rep. Amy Elik said, “I stand here today just as frustrated as every person in Illinois and every family that is outraged with the rising cost of gasoline and many other items we purchase on a day-to-day basis. Illinoisans are paying more and more while state government continues to tax everything politicians can get their hands on. Immediate relief can start today. Inflation is at an all-time high, now is the time for taxes to be reduced.”
According to the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the last 12 months has increased 7.9%. Increases in the indexes for gasoline, shelter, and food were the largest contributors to the seasonally adjusted all items increased over the last year. The cost of eating at home has risen 8.6% since last year. It costs nearly 7% more to eat at a restaurant, clothing costs 6.6% more, owning a home, renting a home, and paying for a hotel is up 4.7% over the last year. And used cars are up 41.2% compared to new cars at 12.4%.
Rep. Elik added, “It is not uncommon to see gas prices in Missouri anywhere from 50 cents to 70 cents a gallon cheaper than Illinois on a given day. The citizens we represent are feeling the impact of inflation and they are looking for some relief from their elected leaders. I stand here today with my colleagues to urge the Democrat leadership here in the General Assembly to stand with us to provide relief to every taxpayer and family in the state of Illinois.”
State Rep. Mark Luft of Pekin spoke to the media alongside Reps. Amy Elik of Alton, Patrick Windhorst of Harrisburg, and Tom Demmer of Dixon. They focused on stalled Republican bills to provide relief to Illinois drivers.
The bills, all of which remain in the House Rules Committee, include HB 5481 to suspend a gas tax in times of inflation, HB 5723 to limit gas taxes at a certain percentage, and HB 5155, to provide income tax credit for families struggling to pay for necessities.
In addition to his role as representative, Luft is also the mayor of Pekin. He says the price of gas has cut deeply into his city’s budget. While Pekin budgets for fuel for its police cars, school buses, and other city vehicles, the rising price of gas means that money may not last until the end of the fiscal year.
“Every mayor in Illinois is having to look at these numbers and make tough choices. Do we cut services? Do we raise taxes? I don’t think that people in my town would be too happy if I told them we were going to make up the difference by cutting back on police patrols or cutting back on fixing our streets,” Luft said.
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.
My office in Marion is available to serve you by appointment or phone Monday through Friday 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM. You may reach my office any time at 618-440-5090 or by visiting RepSeverin.com/contact and sending me a message. You can correspond by mail with my office at 600 Halfway Road, Marion, IL 62959