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Senate Week in Review: State credit outlook lowered, Illinois Supreme Court weighs in on prision closures, plus more

A compiled review of Senate activities from the week.

SPRINGFIELD- A Federal Court in Chicago added a new issue to the General Assembly's ever-growing agenda for 2013, when it ruled Dec. 11 that the state's current ban on carrying concealed weapons is unconstitutional, State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said.

Also during the week, the state received another warning from a major credit rating agency, the state Supreme Court cleared the path for prison closures and the Governor released another in a series of pension reform videos, Sen. Sandack added.

State credit outlook lowered by Moody’s
Moody's Investors Service revised the State of Illinois' credit outlook to "negative" from stable, but left the state's general obligation bond rating unchanged. A negative outlook from any of the three major credit ratings is generally considered a warning that further downgrades are coming if the state does not get its fiscal house in order. Among all states, Illinois already ranks alongside California at the bottom of credit ratings.

State’s concealed carry ban ruled unconstitutional
In a decision cheered by gun rights advocates, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that Illinois’ current ban on carrying concealed weapons is unconstitutional.  

In doing so, the court gave the General Assembly 180 days to construct a new right-to-carry law. The court-mandated change in the law guarantees that the issue will be a major topic during the 2013 session, Sen. Sandack said.

However, the day after the ruling, Governor Quinn, while answering questions during an unrelated press conference, seemed to link right-to-carry legislation with his long-sought ban on semi-automatic weapons. Earlier this year, Quinn attempted to rewrite an innocuous measure on ammunition purchases into a firearms ban. That effort was soundly rejected by the General Assembly this month.

Quinn's ploy, however, could backfire if the legislature fails to enact a right-to-carry bill or he refuses to sign such legislation, because it could leave the state with no limits or restrictions on concealed carry.

Supreme Court weighs-in on prison closures
Also during the week, the Illinois Supreme Court weighed in on Governor Quinn's efforts to close several prisons in the state, giving him a green light to proceed.

The state Supreme Court ordered an Alexander County judge to dissolve a preliminary injunction that had blocked the Quinn administration from completing the closures, which were initially scheduled to go into effect by Oct. 31.

Quinn releases pension video
And, in the ongoing debate over public pension reform, the Governor released another video, this time featuring a group of children who get bored with a technical explanation of pension funding. Described by the Governor's office as a "hilarious two-minute video" the children decide to hire a lobbyist to represent their interests, with the lobbyist interviews apparently to be featured in a second video.

As in the case with previous videos, the Governor's latest effort offers no solution or plan.

A closer look at the right-to-carry decision
On the issue of right-to-carry, last year Illinois became the last state to prohibit concealed carry when Wisconsin lifted its ban.  Under current law, it is illegal for a person to carry or possess a firearm in a vehicle or conceal one on his or her body except on the person’s own land or in their place of business.

In the majority opinion Judge Richard Posner wrote, “The theoretical and empirical evidence (which is overall inconclusive) is consistent with concluding that a right to carry firearms in public may promote self-defense.”  Posner also pointed out that if Illinois’ law was, “demonstrably superior,” that at least one other state would have adopted it.

“Guns in public expose all nearby to risk, and the risk of accidental discharge or bad aim has lethal consequences,” wrote Judge Ann Williams in her dissenting opinion.

The ruling recognizes that while the current ban is not constitutional, “reasonable limitations” promoting public safety would be.  Such restrictions could limit where concealed carry would be allowed making exceptions for places like government buildings, churches, schools, and universities.  Mandatory training and licensing and preventing those who had been convicted of domestic violence, felonies, and other crimes from carrying would also be reasonable limitations.  

Despite the ruling, the debate over concealed carry may be far from over.  Should Tuesday’s decision be appealed by the Attorney General, the 7th Circuit would issue a stay until the case is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Additionally, if the General Assembly is unable to come up with a law that meets the approval of the 7th Circuit Court, or if the law is challenged, the ultimate fate of concealed carry could end up in the hands of the Supreme Court. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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