House Bill 163

CD Menard, Lenses Writer

House Bill 163 of the Illinois State Congressional House of Representatives was originally proposed to ensure that prescription drugs dispensed to consumers must be reported to a state database by the end of the business day. However, a 612 page amendment was tacked on to this bill on January 5, 2021, 10 months after the original bill was passed by the State House of Representatives. This behemoth of an amendment, proposed by Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D) of Chicago, dwarfs the original five page pharmaceutical bill which was aimed at enhancing the Controlled Substances Act. After the original pharmaceutical HB163 was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, Senator Sims tacked on 612 pages of radical changes to the Illinois criminal justice code. Senator Sims then ushered HB163 into the Senate vote. In spite of the radical changes, HB163 continues to retain the title of the original 5 page bill’s intent, “PRESCRIPTION MONITORING REPORT.”

This seemingly perfidious action by State Senator Sims has not gone unnoticed. Senator Sims’ amendment drew swift condemnation by many, including the Illinois State Police Union, the Chicago Police Union, The Illinois Sherriff’s Association, The Illinois Law Enforcement Association, the Illinois State Attorneys Association and many others. Interestingly, even the chief of the committee set up by the Illinois Supreme Court to examine bail policy, who has been actively seeking to institute bail reforms, repeatedly testified that HB163 is riddled with significant problematic concerns.

HB163 eliminates bail for all offences, including forcible felonies such as arson. If passed into law, HB163 only allows judges to hold criminals for certain specific forcible felonies, and in some cases, only if the criminal’s next potential victim can be identified by name. HB163’s legislation effectively removes significant powers to protect people in Illinois from criminal harm. It strips police officers of basic necessary legal protections and sets the framework to hold police criminally liable as a felony for attempting to defend themselves. For example, according to HB163, if a police officer is being attacked, the police officer would be required to warn the attacker(s) before the officer could defend themself utilizing potential lethal force. Likewise, if a subject grabs a police officer’s firearm and a struggle ensues, the police officer would be arrested and charged with a felony if the officer tries to restrain the assailant at or above the shoulders.  

Additionally, HB163’s legislation enables anyone to file anonymous claims against an officer. It removes the requirement of filing a claim under oath and of the complainant being identifiable. Furthermore, HB163 allows police officers to be fired, disciplined, and criminally charged with offenses, based on these unverifiable and anonymous claims. Many police unions have voiced strong opposition to HB163 and have stated that if passed, the legislation of HB163 would cause mass exodus of police officers, as well as a large decrease of new recruits willing to begin a career in law enforcement. 

Sims’ proposed legislation also eliminates most instances of felony murder. It stipulates that unless the State is able to prove that the offender, in committing murder, knew that the victim would die, the offender cannot be held liable for murder.

Senator Stuart, the creator of the original HB 163 five page legislation, has said that she had no part in the altering of the legislation.  “I want to be very clear that the police reform language in Senate Amendment 2 to House Bill 163 is not something I had any input on. My original version of House Bill 163 was about changes to Illinois’ prescription monitoring program… My bill simply required that controlled substance prescriptions be reported to an electronic database on the same day they are dispensed. The goal was to address the opioid crisis by helping catch people who ‘doctor shop to obtain fraudulent prescriptions for opioids. Legislative rules currently prevent changes of sponsorship as the measure is still under control of the Senate sponsors.  When the bill is returned to the House, we will all be able to make sponsorship changes as we see fit.”

Sen. Sims, after his original senate amendment on HB 163 faced fierce opposition, tried to attach the same exact amendment to two other related bills, HB3653 and SB1188.

On January 12th 2021, Democrats submitted another version of the bill (under the new name HB 5653), adding more reforms. The bill passed at 4:49 a.m., with 32 voting for the bill, and 23 against the bill. Many state senators expressed outrage over the rushed nature of the bill’s passage.

The bill will now go to the governor for enactment into law, partial veto, or total veto.  A petition to stop the legislation has garnered more than 117,000 signatures on the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police website.