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What’s next for the controversial SAFE-T Act? Gordon-Booth forecasts veto session changes

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria
Joe Deacon
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria.

With the November election cycle drawing to a close, the Illinois General Assembly soon will return to Springfield for the fall veto session.

One of the main topics legislators will consider is revisions to the controversial SAFE-T Act legislation that was signed into law nearly two years ago.

The no-cash bail provision of the law that's set to go into effect on Jan. 1 came under fire from opponents during the campaign season, while dozens of lawsuits challenging the SAFE-T Act have been consolidated into a single case against the state.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, says while she feels much of the outcry over the SAFE-T Act has been politically motivated, she admits more changes are necessary.

“I'm always very sensitive to issues that make people — from a legislative standpoint, not from a political standpoint, because politics is politics, which is a different thing — but policies that could be even perceived as making communities less safe,” said Gordon-Booth.

“When I say that there's a lot of politics that's happening, I also don't want to be dismissive of any real issues that may exist. So as we continue down this path, … I'm very confident that next month, we'll be going to veto session (and) we're going to have a body of work and a work product that is going to be a good work product.”

Gordon-Booth, who serves as the House’s deputy majority leader, said some negotiations on possible revisions to the SAFE-T Act already have taken place. But she said it would be improper to reveal details yet on what changes are being considered.

“The majority of things that we're talking about that have been brought to the table, that we're going to make the effect of changes on, there's consensus around it,” she said. “There may be like maybe one or two things that we're not at consensus point yet. But that's why we're continuing to work.”

Lawmakers have updated the SAFE-T Act three times since it was signed into law in January 2021, she said, and over the past nine months, she’s gotten regular input from Peoria County State’s Attorney Jodi Hoos, Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria, former Sheriff Brian Asbell and now Sheriff Chris Watkins in seeking guidance for updating the SAFE-T Act.

“No voice is going unheard. It's critically important that we're listening to folks and also being mindful of how we got here in the first place,” said Gordon-Booth. “All of this was passed coming out of the summer of 2020, where people were demanding that we change this broken justice system. So we're working to do just that.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.