‘Technical’ fixes to SAFE-T Act expected as Illinois lawmakers close first week of veto session

Illinois state lawmakers left Springfield Wednesday without taking up changes to the no-cash bail provision of the SAFE-T Act that kicks in statewide Jan. 1.


The measure includes the Pretrial Fairness Act, which ends cash bail statewide, making Illinois the first state to do so. State Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, helped usher the bill through the legislature in January 2021. After last week’s election, he said the dynamics have changed.


“People wanted to either gut it or backdoor gut it. That is not what we are doing,” Peters said at a news conference Wednesday in Springfield. “We’re willing to make sure that we deal with the technical changes, make sure that the implementation goes well. But we are not going to fall into the idea of gutting it.”


Peters wouldn’t speak to the consolidated lawsuit state’s attorneys and sheriffs have against the measure. That case is set to be heard next month in Kankakee County. State’s attorneys and sheriffs across the state sued to block the measure’s implementation. Some have said how they interpret the law will lead to the release of violent criminals pending trial.


Supporters of the measure say people are innocent until proven guilty and should not be charged bail for their freedom.


Peters said there will be technical fixes, but didn’t elaborate.


“Those are literally ongoing conversations. I think that that is where we’re at,” Peters said. “The idea is to get this done before January first.”


State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, opposes the measure. He said his constituents are concerned about public safety.


“We’re open to some pretrial changes on this but we just can’t go all or nothing,” Wilhour said. “We can’t go all criminal and nothing for the victims.”


Other concerns raised are if a criminal suspect is released without cash bail pending trial, they could go and re-victimize a victim. Some law enforcement officials have also raised concerns about whether they’ll be able to arrest a suspect for criminal trespassing.


Wilhour said it may require a political sea change to bring substantive fixes.


“It was always an all or nothing proposition with the Democrats here,” Wilhour said. “So until there’s some electoral checks on these people, they’re just going to do whatever they want.”


Lawmakers canceled Thursday’s session. They’re back for three scheduled days the week after Thanksgiving before the end of the year.

Illinois Radio Network