Representative Dan Swanson’s October 6 Capitol News Update


  • Henry County drug trafficking suspects released due to SAFE-T Act
  • Recruiting more volunteer firefighters
  • Failings at DCFS
  • More news

Suspects arrested with 5000 pounds of marijuana, released due to SAFE-T Act

Two weeks ago state troopers pulled over a vehicle on Interstate 80 near Geneseo; just outside our district; and found more than 5000 pounds of marijuana inside. It was one of the largest drug seizures in the history of the Illinois State Police. The two California men in the vehicle were arrested and charged with several felonies, including cannabis trafficking and unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.

Unfortunately, the arrest occurred two days after Illinois’ new no-cash-bail law went into effect, and so even though the state’s attorney in Henry County sought to detain the two suspects, they were released and told to return for their next court date in November.

We are now just a couple of weeks into this new no-cash-bail landscape, and stories like this one are popping up all over the state. Police make arrests in very serious crimes, prosecutors file charges, and then the suspects are released back out into the community.

For example, in suburban DuPage County, six men smashed the window of a business and stole $68,000 in merchandise. One of the suspects cut his finger and police were able to track him down through a DNA match and arrest him. The suspect, already on parole for armed robbery and aggravated battery, was charged and released. The local state’s attorney said, “He’s a threat to the community,” but was unable to keep him in jail because of the new law.

Police and prosecutors warned that this is exactly what would happen when the SAFE-T Act was first passed in 2021. Now those warnings are coming true. Our first responsibility as lawmakers is to keep the people of Illinois safe. This law does the exact opposite.

Volunteer firefighter tax credit becomes law; not a moment too soon

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a critical shortage of volunteer firefighters in Illinois.

“In Illinois, about two-thirds of the state’s roughly 1,100 fire departments rely almost entirely on volunteers. And, with few exceptions, those departments are running out of volunteers.”

The story goes on to look at department after department, in different parts of the state, examining the dwindling number of volunteers and the effect this will have on public safety. Volunteer firefighters are often paid their expenses and sometimes a stipend per-call.

The need is especially acute in rural areas like ours. The problem grows more serious each year with an aging population, and new challenges to those in the firefighting field. Firefighters must be prepared to deal with new toxic chemicals being developed and put into use and must also keep up with advances in medical response technology in order to maintain their training requirements. It is a demanding, but essential job.

It was for that reason that I was proud to support legislation this spring to help recruit more volunteer firefighters into the service of the community. The bill, which was signed earlier this summer, would create a $500 tax credit for volunteer first responders as an incentive for individuals to enter the field. First responders who earn less than $5000 a year in stipends for services provided for a fire protection district would be eligible.

It is a small way of thanking those who serve in this important capacity, and hopefully a step toward encouraging others to join them.

Audit finds significant failings at DCFS

The Illinois Auditor General released a report indicating shocking failures at the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in sharing information to help at-risk children. On Wednesday the embattled director of DCFS announced that he would step down at the end of the year.

If there is a report of child abuse or neglect, DCFS is required by law to promptly move the report to the child’s school, local law enforcement and the local state’s attorney. But the audit found DCFS was failing to quickly share this information to those who might be in position to help. In one case, chemical tests on a newborn baby indicated the presence of one or more controlled substances. It took 920 days (more than 2.5 years) for the state’s attorney to be notified. Another incident involved a school not being notified for 890 days of an investigation into abuse of a child enrolled at the school. Some cases in which DCFS is required to make notifications within 24 hours ended up taking anywhere from 5 days to six weeks.

House Republicans have called for reforms at DCFS to better protect children in their care. That call was renewed once again following the release of this audit.

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