SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Senate has passed a trailer bill that would clarify language on several parts of the controversial SAFE-T Act.
The Illinois Senate passed the bill after introducing it Wednesday with a vote among party lines of 38-17. Democratic senators all voted for it, while Republicans voted against it. The bill needed a supermajority of at least 36 votes to pass.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago), called Illinois on the forefront of civil rights for passing the bill.
“This bill protects the intent of the Pretrial Fairness Act,” said State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago).
The bill has several groups that formerly argued the current law officially sided as neutral to the bill including the ACLU of Illinois, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and the Illinois State Bar Association.
“It was pertinent to bring together a diverse group of individuals to create a comprehensive plan that maintains the intent of the SAFE-T Act while ensuring our court systems have the tools they need to serve their communities,” Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “I am proud of our effort to improve the consistency within the law.”
But Senate Republicans said the bill still has massive flaws.
“While this newest trailer bill takes some good steps, it is still far away from what we need to keep Illinoisans safe,” Sen. Jason Barrickman (R-Bloomington) said. “This bill does not address the millions of dollars in costs that the SAFE-T Act will create, and it does little to empower judges to keep dangerous criminals behind bars.”
The bill then headed to the House of Representatives later Thursday afternoon, where it was voted 71-40, also along party lines. 71 is the minimum number of votes to pass in the House of Representatives after May 31.
Democratic representatives in the House celebrated a compromise that all sides found fair while still eliminating the state’s cash bail system.
“We started to do the work to ensure that equal justice under law means exactly that,” Rep. Jennifer Gong Gershowitz (D-Glenview) said. “You don’t have somebody bond out, because they have a wad of cash in their pocket, or because they have enough money in their bank account. While somebody else is in jail, simply because they’re poor.”
Two Democrats, Curtis Tarver (D-Chicago) and Sam Yingling (D-Round Lake Beach), did not vote.
Republicans in the House of Representatives also echoed their Senate colleagues that they were not offered a seat at the table.
“When this bill was passed a few years ago, I said it was misguided, confusing scheme that will diminish public safety in all regions and streets throughout Illinois,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said. “I stand by that today.”
They also criticized that not enough offenses were viewed as eligible for pre-trial detention.
“We’ve created a detention net, that detention net still has holes.” Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) said. “We’ll see those holes in the detention net. And we’ll be back in a year to try to patch the hole. And then we’ll find another hole we back in the year and try to patch that hole. Just give judges the discretion.”
The bill then heads to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk, who thanked legislators for their hard work on the bill in a statement.
“I’m pleased that the General Assembly has upheld the principles we fought to protect, including bringing an end to a system where those charged with violent offenses can buy their way out of jail, while others who are poor and charged with nonviolent offenses wait in jail for trial,” he said.
The pre-trial release portion of the SAFE-T Act would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.