Pritzker, other state officeholders sworn in

Gun Rights

Gov. JB Pritzker and his fellow state officeholders were sworn in Monday in Springfield.

Monday’s inauguration, held at the Bank of Springfield Center, saw Illinois Democrats continue their hold over all executive offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer — in the state.

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Pritzker was sworn in about noon to his second term. As noted by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the governor was sworn in using two Bibles — one from former Gov. Henry Horner and the other belonging to President Abraham Lincoln.

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He then spoke on his prior term’s accomplishments during an address before a crowd of approximately 2,000 spectators.

Looking forward, Pritzker touched on legislation being considered by the Illinois General Assembly that would ban the sale, manufacture and purchase of assault-style weapons in the state. The Protect Illinois Communities Act was passed under Senate Bill 2226 by the Illinois House last week. It now needs Senate passage before heading to Pritzker’s desk.

The governor indicated support for the ban throughout the gubernatorial campaign and wants the state to become the ninth state to pass such a measure. He is most in favor of SB 2226 and not the Senate’s amended version filed under House Bill 5471. Pritzker does not believe HB 5471 does enough to address gun violence in the state.

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Pritzker recounted several instances of mass shootings over the past four years, saying he was “tired of living in a world where a mass shooting needs a title so you know which one we’re referring to.”

“I’m done with the NRA having its way when it comes to mass shootings,” Pritzker said, urging the federal government to follow suit if Illinois passes the act in the Senate.

The governor also touched on the 35,814 lives lost in Illinois during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge of overcoming the pandemic, among others, he said, revealed the spirit of Illinoisans to rise to the occasion.

“Illinois, we have power and we have hope – and a genuine goodness that is rooted in being the place in this country to which all people can come and live free,” he said.

Raoul and the Pretrial Fairness Act

Attorney General Kwame Raoul coasted to victory over Republican challenger Thomas DeVore in November. However, further challenges have come primarily from GOP state’s attorneys in his role in the passage of the Pretrial Fairness Act provision of the SAFE-T Act.

In his Raoul’s new term, he is a defendant in a lawsuit regarding the PFA to be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court this March. Raoul appealed last month’s decision from a Kankakee County judge that found portions of the PFA unconstitutional. The act would have ended cash bail in Illinois on Jan. 1 until the Supreme Court issued a stay on the effective date until the case is heard.

Raoul quipped during his address that he was the “favorite defendant” of the 65 state’s attorneys suing him over the PFA. Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon and Speaker of the House Emanuel “Chris” Welch are also named defendants in the case.

He again defended the merits of the legislation on Monday.

“The SAFE-T’s language enhances our ability to maintain our constitutional and professional policing throughout the state of Illinois,” he said.

Giannoulias taking the reins

Only one statewide official — Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias — will be new from the 2018 election.

Giannoulias had little difficulty in defeating his Republican opponent and state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, in November. Now, he moves forward with replacing Jesse White who had served as secretary of state since 1999.

White, 88, announced he would not seek another term and endorsed Giannoulias for the position following the June primary election. White, who was in attendance Monday at the BOS Center, received a standing ovation from the crowd.

The new secretary of state recognized the man “passing him the baton” during his address and welcomed his own return to office 12 years after serving as Illinois treasurer.

“We celebrate today a new chapter in Illinois,” he said.

In a sign of bipartisanship, Giannoulias announced in November that he had selected Brady to serve as a member of his transition team. Specifically, Brady served on the Driver Facilities and Road Safety and the Organ and Tissue Donations committees on the transition team.

Frerichs remembers late Sen. Bennett

Treasurer Mike Frerichs remembered his late friend and state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, during his address. Bennett replaced Frerichs in the Senate in 2015 when Frerichs was first elected to serve as state treasurer.

The treasurer said the sudden passing of Bennett, who died from a brain tumor in December, has been a challenge to his usual optimistic nature.

It did, however, remind him that time is of the essence.

“It reiterated to me that we should work to do the most good for the people of this state while we are here and while we have this opportunity,” he said.

For the lame duck session, Bennett was replaced by his wife, Dr. Stacy Bennett, to serve the remainder of the term. In the 103rd Illinois General Assembly beginning on Wednesday, there are 10 candidates vying for the seat.

An advisory committee is expected to gather on Thursday to make a recommendation to Vermilion County Democratic Party Chair Sandra Lawlyes and Champaign County Democrats Vice-Chair Cari West-Henkelman. Those two will ultimately decide who serves the 52nd Senate District.

The inauguration festivities were set to continue Monday evening with the first dance of the Pritzkers at the Exposition Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

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