First Half of House Committee 2 Day 1 Debates
In the first half of committee action on Friday March 4, MIG House Committee 2 met on the floor of Vista 1 to debate five bills related to government affairs and judiciary. Jacob Lemon of Southeastern Illinois College (SIC) chaired the committee and brought the session into order shortly after 10:00a.m.
The first bill on the docket was HB1969 which states that it would amend the Criminal code of 2012 by creating the offense of penal institution riot. The bill synopsis states: “A person commits the offense when he or she is an inmate in a penal institution and knowingly and in consort with one or more other inmates disturbs the good order of the institution by use or threat of force.” Any violation of this would result in a Class 4 felony which would result in a prison sentence of 1-3 years and fines of up to $25,000. The Democratic caucus, represented by spokesperson Chasatte Simeon of Governors State University, opened arguments against the passage of the bill. Simeon said the definition of rioting was too vague for the caucus to rally around the bill.
Minority Leader Rep. Alex O’Daniel of SIC represented the Republican caucus and said that the bill would create safer correctional facilities and would create better rehabilitative practices. Spokesperson Simeon began debate by yielding time to Majority Leader Aleece McLeod, also of SIC, who asked the committee how the term “riot” was to be discerned. “The riots [of January 6] forced Congress to go on lockdown, damaged the halls of government and spilled blood on the marble and only 169 people have been arrested” said McLeod. “But the rioters in our prison correctional facilities, who are trying to be better people and serve their time, are going to get different reprimands for this. I don't understand this.”
At the end of the first round of debate Spokesperson Simeon told her Republican colleagues to imagine themselves in the inmates position. She said that the [correctional] system was chaotic and that “when you enter that system, you have to be in survival mode.”
Minority Leader O’Daniel thanked the Democratic spokesperson for acknowledging the broken system and said that HB1969 would deter any kind of “rowdy behavior.” Rep. Delaney Gatine of Principia College suggested the Democrats propose an amendment to the bill, so as to explicitly define the term “riot,” but caucus never pursued it. The bill never advanced from the floor. Majority Leader McLeod joined the dissenting side.
HB3499, or the CROWN Act, was the next bill to be discussed by the Committee. The CROWN, short for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” Act, asserts that “race” includes traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists,” especially in the workplace.
Spokesperson Simeon opened the debate by saying that she herself had natural hair and that is how she is able to express herself. “We all have our own identity or a way that sticks out to other people … We live in an America that is diverse. We love diversity,” said Simeon.
Rep. Gatine assumed the position of Minority Leader while Rep. O’Daniel was participating in another committee. “We absolutely support the rights of people of any race to be employed by any business,” said Gatine. “That's simply not what this bill is about. This bill is about placing further constraints on businesses.”
According to Rep. Gatine, the constraints that businesses would feel if the bill passed would be having a clientele base that felt less comfortable. “There's nothing wrong with a certain hairstyle, but it's about following the ethics of the decorum of the business,” Rep. Gatine said.
Rep. Simon Koziol of Triton College added to the Dems argument. “Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles…have been used to justify the removal of Black children from schools, black adults from employment opportunities,” Koziol said. “Due to this Black people are left to conform to Eurocentric grooming standards, investing time money and altering their hairstyles and risk facing consequences at work or school with natural hair.”
Rep. Gatine finished arguments by stating that the passage of this bill would result in a slippery slope. “What we really want is to have a state and a place where businesses can conduct their business the way that they want to, while still being completely fair to people of any race, shape, size, color,” said Gatine.
The bill reached a constitutional majority and advanced from the floor.
HB2445 was debated next. This bill would amend the election code so that any person desiring to vote would need to present a government-issued identification card or a voter identification card.
The Majority opened debate and Spokesperson Simeon stated that this bill is not inclusive and is discriminatory especially against minorities. The Democrats would like for everyone of voting age to be able to vote. Those on the other side of the aisle claimed that this bill would produce safer and more secure elections.
Spokesperson Simeon proceeded to yield her responsibilities to Majority Leader McLeod who stated, “Many Americans do not have forms of identification acceptable for voting. These voters are disproportionately low income from racial and ethnic minorities. There are other people, our elderly, and other people with disabilities. Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining IDs.”
Rep. Jenna Haile of Western Illinois University added to the Democrats’ argument in saying that voter IDs reduce turnout. “A study in 2014 found that strict voter ID law reduced turnout by two to three percentage points or which can translate into 10s of 1000s of votes lost in a single state,” said Haile.
Minority Leader O’Daniel had returned to debate by this point and rebutted the Dems argument by stating that it is necessary to use an ID card to purchase things like tobacco, alcohol, firearms and even super glue. “They don't ask for your ID because they're racist or sexist,” said O’Daniel. “They do it because people must know who you are, and you're capable of doing such thing.”
The bill eventually failed to pass. Rep. Haile joined the Republicans in dissension.
HB3005, or the Downstate Impact Note Act, provides that every bill brought before General Assembly should have a note stating how it would affect “downstate Illinois,” which is defined as “means all counties in this State other than the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will.”
The Democrats opened debate by stating that they were against the bill. Spokesperson Simoen said that Illinois is a diverse state and this bill would encourage the separation of peoples within it.
Minority Leader O’Daniel did not disagree on the topic of diversity with his colleagues on the left. He said that the Republicans felt this bill would allow “downstate” the ability to see how each bill will affect them and not just those in and around Chicago. Majority Leader McLeod reiterated the Democratic point that the bill would lead to separation which would be detrimental to the state as a whole, but especially to the residents of downstate Illinois.
“In a paper released earlier by the year by the Paul Simon Policy Institute, a think tank for the university [of Carbondale], political scientists, John Foster and Don Jackson said analysis of I revenue and budget over the recent year shows that downstate Illinois will be worse off from Chicago and their northeastern neighbors, than they believe,” McLeod said.
The Republicans stated that the bill would not separate the state, as the Democrats had claimed, but simply adds a note on each bill on how it affects the southern residents. Rep. (Comptroller) Callie Oxford of SIC joined the Republican caucus and stated that all but 14 of Illinois’ 102 counties experienced population decline this last decade and that it is imperative to understand why the exodus is happening. She noted that there are bills that are being created that affect downstate, but the residents are not aware of how they affect them.
“We need to understand that bills catered to Chicago, but not specific to Chicago, will have an impact on the rest of our state,” said Oxford. “We need to understand and be held accountable. I can’t imagine why the left is not going to be held accountable.”
The bill secured 6 ayes, with Reps. Haile and Koziol dissenting from their party, and the bill passed.
HB0827 and HB1872 were the last two bills on the docket. The former is also referred to as the Partial Birth Abortion Act and the latter would amend the elction code by repealing the provisions that prohibit an incarcerated person from voting until his or her release.
The Democrats opposed HB0827 and supported HB1872. The Republicans were in support of HB0827 and were strongly opposed to HB1872. Both bills failed to advance.