Lawmakers Lance Yednock, Sue Rezin vote against police reform bill

‘This is no way to pass laws’ Rezin said of bill’s late-night passage

“To those legislators from outside the Illinois Valley who forced through this legislation please let us know when and where you wish to have a legitimate and transparent reform discussion and we will be there.”

—  Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei

State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, said earlier this week that he hoped the General Assembly would take a step back and reevaluate some of its initiatives in the criminal justice reform bill.

The bill passed both the Senate and the House on Wednesday, but Yednock voted against the measure.

Yednock said he understands the need and intentions of his fellow lawmakers, including the Black Caucus, and said he understands their sense of urgency. But he also said earlier this week that changing law enforcement protocols cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution.

“This a big change,” Yednock said, “and it would be better to have more time to negotiate some of these things.”

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, also joined Yednock with a no vote.

About 5 a.m. Wednesday, the criminal justice omnibus bill, House Bill 3653 – formerly House Bill 163 – passed in the Illinois Senate. State Sens. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills, voted against the bill.

“What we just witnessed is no way to conduct business,” Rezin said. “At 3 a.m. [Wednesday], Senate Democrats dropped their final proposal for criminal justice reform, which was well over 700 pages. Then we were only given an hour to review this legislation before it was called for a final vote. This is no way to pass laws, especially a bill that will completely overhaul our criminal justice system, tying the hands of our judges and law enforcement.”

Like others across the state, La Salle and Bureau counties’ law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns about the bill.

The legislation is made up of several provisions that touch all facets of the criminal justice system. The Pretrial Fairness Act, a longtime passion project to end cash bail in Illinois of Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, and a complete overhaul of police certification crafted by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul both were absorbed into the omnibus package, according to Capitol News Illinois.

Local police leaders worry that reforms to qualified immunity will make it more challenging to be insured for liabilities. They also are concerned about collective bargaining rights, eliminating bail for lower-level offenses and new guidelines for recruiting police, among other items.

Local attorneys expressed concern about the cost of new police equipment, such as body cameras.

Local police and attorneys said there are portions of the bill they support, but they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.

“This bill is an extreme proposal that will empower criminals while hurting our law enforcement efforts to keep us safe,” Rezin said. “I stand with the men and women who take to the streets day after day to serve and protect. I am utterly disappointed in both the outcome of this vote and the process that it came about. A bill of this magnitude should not be rammed through the General Assembly in the middle of the night of lame-duck session. The citizens of Illinois should have been given a chance to provide their input.”

House Bill 3563 passed the Senate by a vote of 32-23. The Senate met to debate the bill about 4 a.m. Wednesday and voted on it just before 5 a.m., moving it to the House floor. The House adjourned about that time and made plans to reconvene in the morning.

“What we just witnessed in the middle of the night is not the way democracy is supposed to work,” said Stoller, whose district includes Bureau County. “Nearly 800 pages of new language landed on our desks, and, within an hour, we voted on it at 4:48 a.m.

“If this bill was a good bill now, it would have been a good bill in a couple months after senators and the public had a chance to analyze it. It is absolutely shameful that the majority arrogantly rushed this through without any time for thorough consideration.”

Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei thanked Rezin and Yednock for their “no” votes.

“Their voting no today [Wednesday] regarding the draconian and harmful changes to Illinois law enforcement is greatly appreciated,” Bernabei said. “Those of us in local law enforcement always have and always will stand ready to work toward a better and improved law enforcement system, but to advance legislation in the dark of night is counterproductive. Government is always better in the daylight.”

Bernabei issued a challenge: “To those legislators from outside the Illinois Valley who forced through this legislation, please let us know when and where you wish to have a legitimate and transparent reform discussion, and we will be there.”

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.