Update from Senator Bennett: April 8

Senate Republicans Introduce Legislation to Reform Prisoner Review Board

In response to a controversial decision made by Governor JB Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board (PRB) to release a convicted domestic abuser, allegedly leading to the murder of a young boy less than 24 hours later, the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus has introduced reforms aimed at prioritizing victims, depoliticizing the appointment process, and ensuring accountability for decisions made by the board.

Crosetti Brand, a dangerous felon with a history of domestic violence, is accused of stabbing his former girlfriend and killing her son as the boy attempted to defend his pregnant mother from the brutal attack. The incident has sparked outrage and prompted action from Republican leaders.

At a news conference on April 2, Senate Republicans unveiled legislation aimed at reforming the PRB. The proposed reforms include:

  1. Putting Victims First – Requires the Prisoner Review Board to immediately inform a victim of the early release of a prisoner, including following a hearing about whether or not to revoke parole. Mandates yearly training for board members on domestic violence and sexual assault. 
  2. Putting Experience Ahead of Politics – Requires that appointees to the Prisoner Review Board must have at least 20 years of cumulative experience in the criminal justice system.
  3. Increasing Transparency and Holding PRB Accountable – Requires the PRB to written notice publicly available within 24 hours of a decision to release in cases following a final revocation hearing when an individual has violated the conditions of their mandatory supervised release. 

Republican lawmakers also introduced new legislation to increase penalties for violating orders of protection, aiming to provide greater protection for victims of domestic violence. 

Crosetti Brand’s case is just the latest in a string of controversial decisions made by the PRB, which has released numerous convicted murderers and violent offenders under Governor Pritzker’s watch. In recent years, members of the Senate Republican Caucus have raised serious questions about the highly political process the Governor had used to appoint controversial members to the board. 

Senate Republicans view this legislation as a first step in the larger process of reforming how the Prisoner Review Board operates. 

Senate Republican Legislation Takes Aim at Growing Teacher Shortage 

According to a recent survey conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, over 90% of schools in Illinois are currently grappling with a severe shortage of teachers. 

Temporary educators, such as retired teachers and substitutes, have been enlisted as a makeshift solution to fill vacancies in permanent positions. Increasing class sizes and combining classes are other methods schools have used to try to handle the growing shortage. However, these are only stopgap measures that can lead to other issues, such as less one-on-one time for teachers and students, increased behavioral issues, and less overall learning. 

To address this issue, Senator Bennett co-sponsored new legislation aimed at easing the teacher shortage in addition to his legislation last year, SB 1468 and SB1488.  

  1. Senate Bill 1487 would streamline the process for allowing a professor at a college that recently closed to become a licensed teacher. 
  2. Senate Bill 2265 creates a tax credit for participating teachers in the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Program. 
  3. Senate Bill 3634 would lower the requirement to be eligible for a substitute teacher license from 90 credit hours to 75 credits in an educator preparation program, and removes fees for retired educators attempting to get relicensed. 

Senate Republicans contend that these bills are solid steps toward addressing the growing teacher crisis, but that more needs to be done to make the teaching profession accessible and appealing to qualified candidates. 

Last session, Senator Bennett voted in favor of Senate Bill 1468, which allows a person receiving a retirement annuity to work as a part-time, short-term teacher, and Senate Bill 1488, which removes a controversial assessment requirement for aspiring teachers who complete a teacher preparation program. Both measures were signed into law. 

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,577,908,545.34 to  state vendors, including 14,021 pending vouchers. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $139 billion. At the same time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.

Did You Know?

The 2024 Solar Eclipse is taking place today, Monday, April 7th between 1:58 and 2:06 p.m. The path of totality refers to the track that the shadow of the moon traces on the Earth during a total solar eclipse. It is the area where the eclipse is visible as a total eclipse, meaning that the sun is 100% covered by the moon and day turns to twilight for a few minutes.

According to the Planet Society, 0.5% of the world’s population live in the path of totality. Totality enters Illinois as it crosses the Missouri state line southwest in Carbondale at 1:58 p.m. The eclipse will follow a diagonal line crossing over Fairfield and exit Illinois at Mount Carmel at 2:06 p.m. This is the last chance to see a total solar eclipse in the United States until 2044.

This Week in the 53rd District

State Senator Tom Bennett – Working full-time to represent you

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