CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push to stiffen penalties for illegal guns hit an unexpected roadblock in the Illinois House on Thursday, as black lawmakers managed to halt the proposal for now.
The measure would have imposed a mandatory minimum four year sentence for a criminal convicted of a repeat violation of illegal gun possession, up from the current three-year mandate. It also would have required defendants to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, rather than qualifying for day-for-day good behavior credit.
The sponsor, state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) stripped out a provision that would have set up a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for first-time offenders, though he left in a measure requiring such first-time offenders serve 85 percent of the current one-year minimum sentence.
WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, blocked the legislation, by requesting several “fiscal impact notes,” requiring research on the financial effect the measure would have on the prison and courts systems.
“The fiscal notes that I put on the bill slowed it down, for an opportunity for us to put together a comprehensive approach in going after the bad guys, making sure that we provide preventive, and rehabilitative, and redeploy, and monies for police in the city of Chicago,” Dunkin said.
It’s common for lawmakers to request such fiscal impact notes on proposed legislation, but Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) was not happy with Dunkin’s maneuver.
“The carnage that happens on the streets of Chicago is just going to continue. We just lost valuable time in trying to implement some public safety measures that would make a difference in the lives of citizens all across the state,” Reboletti said.
Zalewski said he was not prepared to file a corresponding countermotion that might have avoided the need for the impact notes Dunkin had requested.
“You can hold the notes inapplicable, given where we were in the process. I frankly wasn’t sure where we were in the process to know if it was an appropriate motion,” he said.
The House adjourned indefinitely on Thursday, but could return to Springfield later this month, or next month.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reoprts, although the Chicago City Council is on record supporting the stiffer sentences for illegal gun possession, some aldermen said they’re fine with the House not voting on the measure yet.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said, even with the changes to remove three-year prison terms for first-time offenders, he was unhappy with the legislation, and was happy it didn’t get a vote during the veto session.
“I think that was a wise decision on the House’s part,” he said. “Studies show that the mandatory minimums do not do what people intend for them to do. In fact, it just increases the population of individuals that are incarcerated, which does not – without any other help – does not benefit our community.”
Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), said he supports stiffer sentences for criminals repeatedly caught with guns, but fears law-abiding citizens also would have been caught in the net.