SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly voted to oppose the government creating a database to track people by their religion, sending a message to the White House and Washington that the Land of Lincoln won’t be part of such narrow-minded politics.

“With this, Illinois sends a message. The government forcing people to register their religion is fundamentally un-American. It conjures up ugly imagery of the past that should never be repeated,” said Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton, the lead sponsor of the legislation opposing religious registries.

Cullerton’s proposal – Senate bill 3488 – comes in response to anti-Muslim rhetoric from then-candidate and now-President Donald Trump. The legislation simply states that Illinois would not participate in any such database or registry of faith followers.

The proposal passed the Senate 39-0. It now advances to the Illinois House.

SPRINGFIELD - Immigrants who are crime victims and who help police would be guaranteed that their immigration paperwork would be processed under a proposed law the Illinois Senate supported Thursday.

The goal of this proposal is to encourage crime victims to come forward and work with police without fear of their immigration status. In return, police would be required to process immigration visa paperwork for these crime victims who assist with investigations.

Senate President John Cullerton sponsored the proposal. He noted that criminals don’t discriminate by immigration status.

“If undocumented immigrants report crimes and help police catch criminals, it will make our communities safer for everyone,” Cullerton said. “We all need to work together. This proposal is an effort to recognize and encourage that.”

Currently in these situations, there is no requirement that police assist with immigration paperwork, nor is there any deadline for completing the paperwork.

As such, undocumented immigrants tend to not report crime for fear of being detained or deported.

Cullerton’s proposal attempts to change that by requiring police to help immigrants who help police, and it puts in place a 90-business day deadline.

The proposal, Senate Bill 34, is known as the Voices Of Immigrant Communities Empowering Survivors (VOICES) Act. It passed the Senate 37-9 on Thursday and next moves to the Illinois House for consideration.

The proposal follows last year’s TRUST Act that spelled out that Illinois police should not be doing the work of federal immigration agents.

Emerging from a meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said Thursday that early state budget talks had taken positive steps forward.

Speaking to reporters, Cullerton said the governor acknowledged the revenue coming in from the state’s existing tax rates. Lawmakers were asked to agree to how much money they state has to spend, something that has traditionally signalled the beginning of state budget negotiations.

The Senate President also renewed his request that the governor release millions of dollars for mental health programs to help protect community safety. These programs were funded in the budget lawmakers enacted, but the governor refuses to release the money.

The push for mental health funding comes as the Senate President also asked the governor to sign a law extending the waiting period for buying assault weapons to 72 hours. That proposed law was approved by lawmakers with veto-proof majorities and has been on Rauner’s desk for nearly a month.

These requests to the governor for action follow a recent op-ed penned by the Senate President (made in a recent op-ed.)

During the meeting Thursday, the governor also asked lawmakers for more spending authority for the Department of Corrections, which apparently is in the midst of financial desperation. That was the subject of a Senate budget hearing on Wednesday.

Here are the president's remarks to reporters:

As governor, Bruce Rauner slashed funding for mental health programs, leaving thousands of people without needed services and costing people their jobs.

Now, the governor wants to create a new working group to explore the connection between mental health and public safety and come up with recommendations for him to consider.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton points out the governor’s inconsistencies and in a recently published opinion piece calls on the governor to join efforts to do something right now about mental health and gun violence rather than create another government group and schedule more meetings.

“Last weekend, millions of people across this country joined March For Our Lives rallies. They didn’t demand more government meetings. They demand action, and I think they deserve it,” Cullerton says.

“Before assembling another batch of bureaucrats to ponder possibilities, the governor should take action on what’s right in front of him.”

You can read Senate President Cullerton’s opinion piece here:
Quad-City Times - Guest view: Rauner can prove he's serious about mental health, guns
State Journal-Register - John Cullerton: Gov. Rauner, don’t silence gun safety movement
Daily Herald - Cullerton: We need action on existing gun bills, not more work groups