Seventeen-year-olds charged with certain low-level felonies would no longer be tried as adults under a bill that won approval Tuesday in the Illinois House, despite concerns that it could strengthen street gangs.
The bill, HB 2404, was co-sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, and Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis. It passed the House 89-26 and now goes to the Senate.
The measure was one of dozens moved Tuesday by House members, who are plowing through legislation as they approach a Friday deadline. All bills have to be passed through the House by Friday, so the remainder of the week should be busy for the chamber.
The bill regarding juvenile court would change the definition of a delinquent minor to include people who were younger than 18, rather than 17, at the time of the offense. But under-18 youths who commit serious felonies, including murder, armed robbery and sexual assault, still would be tired as adults.
"What it would do for a low-level felon is give them an opportunity to be treated in juvenile court where there are services available, and to encourage those kids to move beyond a life of crime," said the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.
Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, argued the measure would help gangs.
"As soon as this bill passes, gangs will now use 17-year-olds to do more of the dirty work they couldn't do before," Reboletti argued.
Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, said there are some 17-year-olds who shouldn't have a felony hung on them.
"The fact remains that not all of Illinois is dealing with significant gang problems," Sacia said. "There are many rural areas across the state of Illinois where many young people have an opportunity to be rehabbed."
How metro-east representatives voted:
* Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton: Yes
* Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem: Yes
* Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton: No
* Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville: Yes
* Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis: Yes
* Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon: Yes
* Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville: No