House passes minimum wage increase; Pritzker to sign bill 'in coming days'

SPRINGFIELD – A bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 by 2025 needs only Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature to become law, and his office said he stands ready to act in the coming days.

“Today is a resounding victory for the 1.4 million Illinoisans who will soon get a hard-earned and well-deserved raise,” Pritzker said in a news release Thursday, Feb. 14. “After nearly a decade of delay, I applaud the House and Senate for passing a living wage with the fierce urgency this moment requires.”

The House galleries were filled with cheers from advocates – many of them currently making the minimum wage – as the final 69-47-1 favorable vote became official.

Prior to the final vote, Pritzker was on the House floor smiling and shaking the hands of Democratic lawmakers – even as Republican Minority Leader Jim Durkin was lamenting the lack of bipartisanship behind the effort in his floor speech.

“This is not the way to start out the General Assembly,” Durkin said, adding Republicans had “basically been told your interests and your thoughts are not valid and we don’t care.”

All in Durkin’s Republican caucus were joined by four Democrats opposing the bill while one, Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora, voted present after two hours of debate.

In their final efforts to derail the fast-tracked bill, Republicans once again shared stories from business owners, universities, colleges and schools within their districts detailing layoffs, closures and increased property taxes.

Rep. Charlie Meier, an Okawville Republican, said the bill would hurt agriculture and small-town businesses such as groceries.

“The small family farms will suffer the worst with the organic farms, orchards, vineyards, wineries, and the livestock industry being hit the hardest of all,” Meier said. “This is another Illinois law that will yet again put our region at a disadvantage.”

Rep. Tom Bennett, a Gibson City Republican, cited a National Federation of Independent Businesses study which said Illinois would see 93,000 jobs lost because of the increase. Rep. Terri Bryant, a Murphysboro Republican, said the bill would cost Illinois’ public universities $112 million by the time it is implemented.

Those minimum-wage workers will begin seeing their increases in January 2020, when the minimum rate goes from $8.25 to $9.25 before increasing to $10 on July 1, 2020, and $11 on Jan. 1 2021. After that, it would increase by $1 every January until it hits $15 in 2025.

PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS: A group of House Democrats have formed an official caucus they say will champion a liberal agenda “to provide a better direction” for Illinois.

Among their legislative priorities are increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, legalizing recreational marijuana, and campaign finance reform. The minimum wage increase has been approved by the Senate and House and awaits Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature.

The Progressive Caucus’s 16 members, most of whom are from Chicago and the suburbs, also plan to consider other initiatives, such as a progressive income tax and expansion of Medicare.

“We are a group of legislators who believe in a progressive vision for our state, one where our government guarantees stability and decency for all Illinoisans,” said Rep. Carol Ammons, caucus co-chair from Urbana, during a news event Thursday, Feb. 14.

The group met for several months over the summer to prepare for session, she added, writing bylaws, discussing strategy and crafting a framework of beliefs.

That evolved into the caucus’s Statement of Principles, based on an idea “there is an unjust concentration of power at the very top” of government, said co-chair Will Guzzardi, a representative from Chicago.

“We’re talking about the wealthy and powerful, systemic interests in our state, the very few — the elite — who control a disproportionate amount of both financial resources and power,” he said. “The folks who are connected, who are reaping the benefits from being connected, who are shutting everybody else out of the process.”

There are 118 members of the House, 74 of whom are Democrats.

RETAILERS OPPOSE WAGE HIKE: A group of downstate business owners on Monday, Feb. 11, warned of dire consequences should a $15 per-hour minimum wage hike which passed the Senate last week and the House on Thursday, Feb. 14, become law.

Several members of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association spoke of layoffs, businesses leaving the state and cutbacks in staff benefits, while advocating for a plan that would make the minimum wage rate $4 lower per hour in downstate counties than in Chicago.

“Treating the rest of the state as if it has the same strengths as Chicago is simply illogical,” Rob Karr, IRMA’s president and CEO, said. “No one else has 55 million visitors a year.”

Karr said two-thirds of Illinois’ population is within a 40-minute drive to bordering states, which could cause shoppers to spend their money elsewhere. Don Welge, president and CEO of Gilster-Mary Lee, a family and privately held food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, said businesses will begin doing the same.

“It’s just an open invitation to move operations out of the state of Illinois,” Welge said.

Welge said Illinois already has higher workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance rates than surrounding states, costing $600 more per employee annually than in Missouri.

“Everything we’ve opened up recently has been in Missouri,” he said. “We started in Illinois. We have a lot of loyalty to the state of Illinois, but we can begin to move and we will begin to move.”

As it is written now, Senate Bill 1 would raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 over a six-year period, starting with a $1 increase in January 2020, then a 75-cent increase in July 2020, bringing the wage up to $10. Another dollar would be added to the wage every January until 2025.

The group said it was not against raising the wage, but the current structure – particularly the increase of $2.75 in the first calendar year – was too steep and too quick.

They argued for a regional alternative – a $15 rate in Chicago within five years, a $13 rate in the suburbs within seven years and an $11 rate for downstate communities within five years.

ABORTION LAW: A bill overhauling Illinois’ abortion law and replacing it with a more liberal version has wide Democratic support in the House.

The Reproductive Health Act, proposed by Rep. Kelly Cassidy, repeals the current law dictating abortion policies in the prairie state and replaces it with policies to “protect individual decision-making.”

Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced her intentions in filing this bill at a news event Tuesday in Chicago at the headquarters of the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As a woman, a mother and someone who has been a longtime supporter of full access to reproductive care, from contraception, abortion, pregnancy and postpartum care, it is time to modernize and update these laws to reflect the equality of women in Illinois,” she said.

Cassidy’s proposal follows a pledge Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made to “make Illinois the most progressive state in the nation for access to reproductive health care,” his spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

Under the proposed legislation, private health insurance companies operating in Illinois would need to cover abortion procedures without implementing “any restrictions or delays on the coverage.”

This would expand a law signed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner, which allowed tax dollars to be spent on abortion procedures through Illinois’ Medicaid and and state employee health insurance programs.

This initiative is one of two Democrats are pushing this legislative session to expand reproductive rights, they said at Tuesday’s news event. The other is Senate Bill 1594, a measure proposed by Sen. Elgie Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago), to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. It requires a minor to consult with her parent or guardian before terminating a pregnancy.

Cassidy’s legislation is House Bill 2495. It is sponsored by about 40 other Democrats.

ADJUTANT GENERAL: The Illinois National Guard welcomed a new leader Friday, Feb. 15, when Air National Guard Col. Richard Neely was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and took over the reins as the state’s 40th adjutant general.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Feb. 6 that he was naming Neely to the post. He succeeds Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, who is retiring.

“He represents the very best of what leadership and service mean in our state and he takes the helm of an exceptional National Guard, one that leads the nation in audit readiness, state partnerships, diversity and community engagement,” Pritzker said during a promotion ceremony Friday at the Illinois Military Academy in Springfield.

Neely said that his top priorities as adjutant general will be to focus on making sure units are combat ready, supporting the National Guard’s personnel and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the units.

Prior to his promotion, Neely served as group commander of the 183rd Mission Support Group based in Springfield.

Neely, 52, grew up in Easton, about 40 miles northeast of Springfield. He is only the second Air Force officer to lead the Illinois National Guard.

DUAL ROLES: A bill intended to rein in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s outsized role in state politics was rejected by Democrats in a House subcommittee Thursday, Feb. 14.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena), would have prohibited anyone who is the leader of a legislative chamber from serving simultaneously as a state party chairman.

Madigan, the longest-serving speaker of any state House of Representatives in U.S. history, has also chaired the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998. He is also believed to be the only state-level House Speaker who simultaneously serves as the state party chairman.

McDermed acknowledged the Chicago politician’s situation inspired her to offer the bill, but she denied it was aimed specifically at him.

“It’s not about one person,” she said. “It’s about the ethical conflict that every other state has ruled out.”

On a party-line vote of 3-2, the subcommittee voted against advancing the bill to the full Judiciary Committee on civil law.

DIVORCED PARENTS: Fathers’ rights advocates are making another attempt this year to push for a change in Illinois family law that sparked immense controversy in 2018, “equal parenting time” legislation.

Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) is the lead sponsor of a bill that would create a “rebuttable presumption” in divorce cases that both parties should be given equal parenting time with any children of that marriage.

It would also require that when judges in divorce cases deviate from the standard, they explain in writing why they decided one parent should have more time with the children than the other.

That would be a sharp departure from the current legal standard in Illinois, which allows judges wide discretion to assign custody and parenting time in a way that reflects the “best interests of the child.”

But James Bedell, a psychologist who practices in suburban Chicago and a proponent of the bill, said the “best interests of the child” standard is vague and flawed, and that equal parenting time actually is in the best interests of children.

“Children have a fundamental bonding attachment to each parent,” he said. “They establish that in the course of the marriage. They establish that in the course of both parents (having) fundamental and equal involvement with the child. And when divorce occurs, there is no necessary reason why a child who has equal access to both parents should suddenly not have equal access to both parents.”

A similar bill was introduced in the 2018 session but failed to make it through the House process. Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), who chairs the subcommittee handling the bill, opened a hearing Thursday, Feb. 14, by recalling the intense debate last year when, she said, supporters of the measure, “engaged in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior,” including bullying, threats and harassment of those who opposed it.

IDENTITY THEFT: Thirty-one state attorneys general, including Illinois’ Kwame Raoul, are advocating for tougher safeguards against identity theft in the Federal Trade Commission’s rulebook.

“We must keep in place federal protections for consumers to guard against identity theft and protect their finances,” Raoul said Thursday, Feb. 14.

In 2017, 16.7 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity fraud and theft totaling $16.8 billion, according to a letter sent to the FTC by the attorneys general.

These numbers are so high, they write, because not only are consumers increasingly unaware of just where their information is, but because identity thieves can so easily collect consumer data from broad breaches.

In their letter, they write that one of the best indicators of identity fraud is when an email or cellphone number is changed at the same time as a physical address, or when a replacement credit card, for example, is requested as well. They argue that companies should be required to notify consumers when this happens at their old addresses and phone numbers.

The attorneys general also advocate for more multifactor identification rules, which require two or more pieces of evidence to work – a card number along with a fingerprint, for example, or a password along with a secret-token USB stick.

UNDERFUNDED PENSIONS: Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is putting together what it calls a comprehensive plan to restore the state’s pension system to financial health that might include issuing up to $2 billion in new debt and selling off state-owned real estate.

Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes discussed those ideas Thursday in a speech to the City Club of Chicago, an organization made up of prominent business, civic and government leaders in the Chicago area.

In addition to issuing bonds and selling assets, Hynes said the administration hopes to earmark a portion of the governor’s proposed new graduated income tax to fund increased payments into the pension funds, extending an optional pension buyout program that lawmakers authorized last year, and extending the period for paying down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities by an additional seven years.

“Collectively, these five actions will expand our tax revenue base, invest in priorities that will grow our economy, and we’ll be able to put our pensions on a sustainable path that keeps our promises to retirees,” Hynes said.

The state’s pension systems have a combined $134 billion in unfunded liabilities. That’s the difference between the value of all the pension obligations the state has incurred, and the current value of the pension funds plus the funds’ expected earnings over the anticipated length of those obligations.

CAPITOL STATUES: Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Pontiac) is sponsoring two bills -- House Bills 168 and 169 -- that propose a respective four and six new statues of notable Illinoisans to be built around the Capitol grounds.

But their construction would likely cost millions of dollars, according to the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, and the grounds already have about 15 statues adorning them. Why, then, would there be six more?

Bennett calls this a prime example of how state government sometimes works. “Two steps forward, one step sideways. You just gotta keep going,” he said.

It’s the result of more than a year of discussions that have morphed and ballooned to accommodate various interests.

Putting a statue of Ronald Reagan on the Capitol grounds has been in the works since at least last year, when similar legislation to this year’s bills came with the support of the Bicentennial Commission celebrating Illinois’ 200th birthday.

Bennett says big interest in Reagan’s statue came from his constituents, because Eureka College, where Reagan went to school, is in his district.

“That thought led to the next one -- let’s do something bipartisan,” Bennett said.

So a proposal for a statue of Barack Obama was made. Reagan and Obama are the only two of four Illinois presidents -- behind Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln -- not to have a statue yet.

From there, separate amendments were added to finally include the longest-serving Illinois governor, James Thompson; labor leader and longtime AFL-CIO president Reuben Soderstrom; former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington; and Chicago’s first resident, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable.

Those bills went nowhere, but the interest remained. So Bennett brought up the idea again this year, “making several bills [with the] thinking: let’s put combinations of the plans out there, and see which ones have more interest going forward.”

ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: A Republican state lawmaker has proposed legislation to impose new restrictions on access to late-term abortions.

Rep. Patrick Windhorst, a freshman from Metropolis and a former Massac County state’s attorney, proposed to outlaw the procedure in Illinois once the fetus becomes viable, except when a woman’s life or “major bodily function” is threatened.

“This bill is an effort to protect the life of an unborn child after the point when they can survive outside the womb, when basically you’re just talking about an issue of location — when the child is deemed protected by the law or not,” he said Wednesday, Feb. 13. “Now, obviously there’s going to be times when there may be a serious physical health reason that would justify the procedure, and that’s why that exception is included in the law.”

According to his measure, a “medical emergency” and “major bodily function” includes normal function of the immune, digestive, neurological, respiratory and circulatory systems, among others.

His bill does not provide an exception for protecting the mental health of the mother.

GUN LAWS: A bill introduced in the Illinois House would add several layers of state regulation to the production and distribution of 3D-printed and home-assembled guns and parts.

Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, filed House Bill 2253, which would penalize as a Class 2 felony: the possession of an un-serialized firearm that has been 3D-printed or self-assembled; distribution of downloadable firearm printing instructions unless the distributor performs background checks and procedures consistent with a legal gun transaction; and unlawful manufacture of an un-serialized firearm.

Class 2 felonies are punishable by three to seven years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

“I’m not calling for a ban on them, I'm just saying that you need to have the same background checks as you would if you were going to purchase a regular gun at a gun dealer or a gun shop, and that means you have to have a valid FOID card,” Willis said Tuesday, Feb. 12.

The bill also requires a FOID card for anyone possessing “unfinished frames or receivers” defined in the bill as “a frame or lower receiver blank, casting, or machined body that requires further machining or molding to be used as part of a functional firearm.”

Todd Vandermyde of the Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, a lobbyist on behalf of gun sellers, called the bill an attempt to criminalize the distribution of information, which goes against not only the Second Amendment, but also the First.

“It makes it illegal to digitally share files and blueprints, so if you’re trying to get a custom part made and you need to have a blueprint of a part made and you try to transmit that via a PDF or a drawing or with the actual code, this criminalizes the sharing of that information,” he said.

LINCOLN HERITAGE AREA: On Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday, his home state’s two U.S. senators advanced a bill to expand the Lincoln National Heritage Area in Illinois.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a news release The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area Amendment Act, which passed the Senate as part of the Natural Resources Management Act, will add Livingston County, the city of Jonesboro in Union County and the city of Freeport in Stephenson County to the heritage area.

According to the release, this will increase economic opportunities for Illinoisans working to preserve the historic site and create new recreation, tourism and educational projects.

U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois’ 16th District, has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House.

“I am grateful to Senators Duckworth and Durbin for their efforts to pass this legislation, and look forward to working with them and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation to get this bill through the House of Representatives and signed into law,” said Looking for Lincoln Executive Director Sarah Watson.

The existing Lincoln National Heritage Area was established in 2008 and consists of 42 central Illinois counties stretching from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River. This bill would expand it to 43 counties and the communities of Freeport and Jonesboro.

Lincoln developed his legal career and participated in the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates in the areas added under this legislation.

The site generates approximately $260 million in economic impact, supports more than 3,000 jobs and generates $25.5 million in tax revenue. The release said the legislation would not add money to the deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

CENTRAL ILLINOIS RAIL: The Illinois Department of Transportation will receive $5,083,719 in federal funding to increase speeds and operational flexibility for passenger and freight rail services in Madison County, according to a news release from U.S. Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

The funding is for the Lenox Interlocking Reconfiguration Project and comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program.

“Dozens of freight trains used the old Lenox Interlocking System each day, slowing traffic and causing significant delays for rail and highway users,” Duckworth said. “This critical funding will help our state modernize the interlocking and relieve this bottleneck to improve reliability and bring local jobs to Madison County, while also updating our regional and national transportation systems.”

According to the release, IDOT will use these funds to reconfigure the Lenox Interlocking System in Mitchell, which is a critical gateway into St. Louis and a chokepoint on the Canada-US-Mexico trade corridor where four rail lines carrying 46 daily trains intersect.

The release said the project is estimated to reduce Amtrak trip times and freight train delays by more than two hours per day, which would also reduce gate downtime at a nearby grade crossing by two hours per day.

BROOKFIELD ZOO: Officials from the Brookfield Zoo in the suburban Chicago area said Wednesday, Feb. 13, they will ask the state to help fund an estimated $260 million in needed upgrades and repairs as lawmakers consider a larger statewide capital improvements bill.

Backed by a coalition of environmental and education advocates, zoo officials said that without state funding, the zoo is in danger of having to cut back on its hours of operations and some of its educational programs, as well as raise the cost of admission.

Officials said the aging facilities, which date to the 1930s, have deteriorated, leading to leaky roofs and gas lines, failing electrical systems, potholes, buckled pavement and inadequate exhibits.

Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the zoo, said the coalition will not ask lawmakers for the full $260 million. He said the zoo also receives funding from Cook County, philanthropic donations and revenue from ticket sales.

In 2004, lawmakers increased Cook County’s bonding authority to pay for other upgrades, but Strahl said that authority has been exhausted. The last capital bill, which lawmakers passed in 2009, included $17 million for zoo improvements.

Officials said the Brookfield Zoo attracts about 2 million visitors a year, making it the busiest ticketed visitor attraction in the state. About 80 percent of those visitors come from within a 50-mile radius of the zoo.

HOMELESS PROGRAM GRANTS: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded more than $100 million in grants to support more than 400 community-based homeless assistance programs across Illinois.

The grants are funded through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program. The money is distributed to community-based organizations that provide a broad array of services for homeless individuals and families, particularly those who are living in places not meant for habitation, people living in homeless shelters, and those at immediate risk of becoming homeless.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats, announced the grants Wednesday.

“The recent record-breaking cold temperatures felt across Illinois serve as a potent reminder of the importance of ensuring that all people have access to safe and reliable housing,” Durbin said in a joint news release announcing the funding. “This critical federal funding will help thousands of individuals and families across Illinois get back on their feet.”

“Individuals across Illinois rely on investments like these to gain access to affordable and reliable housing, Duckworth said. “Having a safe place to stay is an important first step for families to move forward with their lives.”

LINCOLN REMEMBERED: Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other state officials joined American Legion officers from across the country Tuesday, Feb. 12, to lay wreaths at the tomb of Abraham Lincoln and pay homage to the 16th president of the United States on the 210th anniversary of his birth.

It was the American Legion’s 85th annual pilgrimage the iconic monument in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. But it was the first time Pritzker took part in the ceremony as governor, and he used the occasion to invoke Lincoln’s legacy to talk about how he wants to address the challenges facing Illinois today.

“President Lincoln led with an unyielding pursuit of justice that guided our nation through one of the darkest times ever. And that spirit, his spirit, continues to run through this state,” Pritzker said. “I pledge to pay close attention to Lincoln’s legacy of action, and his legacy of compassion, to lead a state guided by the pursuit of justice.”

The ceremony took place in the normally somber and silent burial room where a seven-ton red marble stone marks the spot where Lincoln is buried. Dignitaries and observers crowded into the small room, standing in front of a wall where the bodies of Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four children are entombed.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday, Feb. 11, named Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton to lead a new office that will coordinate the administration’s criminal justice reform initiatives, especially prison reform.

In an executive order, Pritzker established what he’s calling the “Justice, Equity and Opportunity Initiative,” or JEO, which will centralize and coordinate criminal justice reforms across a number of different state agencies, with particular emphasis on the state’s prison system and sentencing guidelines.

“This is needed because our justice system is not working,” Stratton said in a statement released by the governor’s office. “The JEO Initiative will move us from a strictly punitive system to one that examines the root causes of the issues we face while creating solutions that put community at the center.”

Pritzker noted the state spends roughly $1.3 billion a year for the Illinois Department of Corrections, which houses about 43,000 inmates in a prison system designed to hold only about 32,000.

The order spells out a number of general initiatives the administration wants to pursue to reduce the prison population such as developing “bias-free assessment tools” for judges to use to determine sentences.

It also suggests the need for improved training within the Department of Corrections, which has faced numerous lawsuits over alleged discrimination and lack of access to health care.

The order calls on the new JEO office to report to the governor within 90 days with details about what it plans to accomplish in its first year, and then to file annual reports each Jan. 1 detailing what reform efforts have been put in place as well as the group’s plans for the upcoming year.

TAXING RETIREMENT INCOME?: Rep. David McSweeney wants the state to keeps its hands off retirement income.

The Barrington Hills Republican on Monday, Feb. 11, announced a House opposing any moves to put a state tax on retirement income.

McSweeney’s resolution is a response to the economic plan recently laid out by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, one of the state’s leading business groups.

The Commercial Club’s plan calls for increasing the state income and corporate tax rate by one percentage point, as well as beginning to tax retirement income and putting sales taxes on more consumer services.

“One of the few tax benefits we have in Illinois is protection for retirement income,” McSweeney said in a news release. “We do not need to hold retirees accountable for the [state’s] out-of-control spending.”

But with massive pension debt and a backlog of unpaid bills nearing $7.8 billion, the state might be able to use an extra $6 billion in new revenue per year, which is how much the Commercial Club claims its plan could bring in.

Non-binding House Resolution 32 has not yet been assigned to a committee.

OFFICER SENTENCE: At a morning news conference Monday, Feb. 11, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced plans to challenge the sentencing of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

“Cases don’t necessarily come to an end at the end of the trial,” Raoul said. “[There’s a] question of whether the law was followed and whether the sentence was rendered on appropriate charges.”

Raoul and special prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed a petition to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that Van Dyke should have been sentenced for his aggravated battery convictions as well as his murder conviction.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm after the on-duty shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald four years ago.

Sentenced to 6 years and 9 months in prison for the murder, Van Dyke was not sentenced for the counts of battery. Judge Vincent Gaughan argued the sentences for the battery counts were “merged” into the murder sentence.

But Raoul and McMahon called the sentencing “improper” and “statutorily unauthorized,” and are now asking the Supreme Court to order that Judge Gaughan re-sentence Van Dyke on the counts of battery.

“This step is our effort to make sure that ... the laws apply to this defendant as they do to all defendants,” McMahon said.

Under state law, aggravated battery carries a heavier sentencing requirement than second-degree murder. Van Dyke could face a mandatory minimum sentence of as many as 96 years, according to Cook County Assistant Public Defender David Holland in a column written for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

Van Dyke and his lawyers have seven days to file an objection to the petition. There is no timeline for the Supreme Court’s response.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.

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