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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Legislator tries but fails to win justice reforms

Politics have blocked a regional lawmaker’s efforts to toughen penalties when DCFS workers are attacked. State Rep. Tony McCombie says she won’t stop fighting for justice.

State Rep. Tony McCombie talks to the Sauk Valley Media editorial board in April 2017 during a visit to Sterling.
State Rep. Tony McCombie talks to the Sauk Valley Media editorial board in April 2017 during a visit to Sterling.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, tried to do right by the people she represents this week.

Unfortunately, she has little to show for it except disappointment.

The Democratic majority on the Judicial-Criminal Committee down in Springfield saw to that.

Eight Democratic members of the committee voted down a McCombie-sponsored bill that would have cracked down on people who attack employees of the Department of Children and Family Services, and Adult Protection Services, while they are carrying out their duties. Five Republicans supported the measure, but it went down to defeat.

McCombie thought she had a winning piece of legislation.

It was derived from the needs of her constituents, after a state DCFS worker from Dixon, Pam Knight, 59, who worked out of the Sterling office, was brutally beaten in Milledgeville last September while she was performing her duties.

Knight was so severely injured that she was hospitalized for months and died in a Chicago hospital on Feb. 8. Her attacker now faces 20 to 60 years in prison.

McCombie’s bill had more than 40 co-sponsors, both Republicans and Democrats, so it was clear that the legislation had bipartisan support.

The bill would have elevated protections for those state employees to the same level as apply to police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders. Thugs who choose to attack those categories of governmental employees will face charges of felony aggravated battery, not simple battery.

We believe McCombie’s bill is a common-sense response to the horrible attack on Pam Knight.

That’s not how the Democratic majority on the Judicial-Criminal Committee saw it.

Politics most certainly played a hand in the bill’s defeat. Had the victim lived in a Democratic district close to or in the city of Chicago, the drumbeat for lawmakers to act would have been resounding.

But because the brutal beating occurred in far-off Northwestern Illinois, the Democratic majority found it easier to look the other way.

How heartless.

How callous.

“The state again failed the people of Illinois, but I will not be complacent, and I will not stop fighting for what is fair and just,” McCombie said.

We hope McCombie takes her fight to the home districts of those who voted against her bill, explains to their constituents exactly what went on in that legislative committee, and tells them Pam Knight’s tragic story.

Big city or downstate, Democrat or Republican, justice is supposed to be blind to one’s region or political preference.

How utterly sad that some legislators don’t give that principle of law a passing thought.

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