State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) has announced plans to seek a third term in the Illinois House by running in the newly drawn 88th Legislative District.
Caulkins made his intentions known at a gathering in Bloomington at the McLean County GOP headquarters. The new district includes parts of southeastern McLean County, and portions of Dewitt and Macon counties.
Caulkins said his primary goal remains making the state less politically corrupt across all sectors of government.
“We need to improve the financial reporting, we need to make it more specific, we also need to stop the revolving door of people leaving the General Assembly and going into lobbying,” he said in a press release.
Now nearing his third-year of representing the 101st District, Caulkins stressed that if he is re-elected he plans to continue fighting for fairer district maps. The Army veteran said he looks forward to meeting and greeting more voters across the expanded district.
Caulkins is currently pushing a bill that would make it more difficult for criminals to own firearms.
“So, Governor Pritzker, you really want to work on preventing violence? Let’s get together in the General Assembly. Let’s do what the system is designed to do. I have (House bills) 4190 and 4191 sitting on the books. Let’s call those bills. Let's have that discussion,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
The McLean County Times reported Caulkins’ proposals came in the wake of the governor using his executive power to declare gun violence a public health crisis, and establishing the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention.
HB 4190 seeks to establish that if there is a plea agreement in a criminal case involving illegal use or possession of a firearm, authorities must detail why the charge was lessened and that explanation must also be made publicly available.
“For those who are found guilty of the original charge or a lesser charge, the judge shall set forth in a written sentencing order his or her reasons for imposing the sentence or accepting the plea agreement," according to the Illinois General Assembly.
Caulkins said that the goal of the legislation is to serve as a tool for law enforcement.
“We have introduced bills that enhance penalties for crimes that are committed with a gun," Caulkins said. "We have introduced bills that enhanced penalties for felons caught with a gun. Gun violence has a lot to do with the lack of respect that these criminals have for law enforcement.”
Caulkins also called on Democrats to get tougher on crime in the wake of the recent shooting death of Chicago officer Ella French.
“Another tragedy as a result of the so-called ‘Criminal Justice Reform’ movement,” Caulkins posted on Facebook. “How do the Democrats in the General Assembly and Gov. Pritzker justify the atmosphere of lawlessness they’ve created?”
By Caulkins’ count, 11 CPD officers have now been shot this year. In her third year on the force, the 29-year-old French was fatally wounded when gunmen opened fire as she and two other members of the department's Community Safety Team were in the process of conducting a routine traffic stop. Her partner was also hit and was initially listed in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Caulkins is also among the Republican lawmakers insisting that an ethics reform bill now making the rounds doesn’t go far enough in bringing about the level of change in Springfield that’s needed.
“I think the problem we have is that this bill has been exposed for what it is and the five of us who voted against it are kind of vindicated,” Caulkins told the Macon Reporter.
At least part of the bill is designed to end the so-called revolving door of legislators leaving Springfield and later returning to lobby the same body they once served as members of. The push for such change comes at a time when Springfield continues to be the subject of a far-reaching federal corruption probe in which former longtime House Speaker Mike Madigan has already been implicated and ultimately stepped down.
Caulkins and other Republicans are now calling on legislators from both sides of the aisle to work together toward what they deem to be real ethics reforms, such as giving the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) more independence, increasing the time between serving in the General Assembly and registering as a lobbyist, and including nonpartisan citizen representation on the Legislative Ethics Commission.
LIG Carol Pope recently tendered her resignation, with her letter referring to the agency as a “paper tiger.”
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