The Illinois Senate took a rare step Tuesday in rejecting one of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s appointments.
The Democratic-controlled Senate’s 22-19 vote fell short of the 30 votes needed to confirm Jeffrey Mears’ nomination to the Prison Review Board. All 18 Senate Republicans voted against Mears’ confirmation along with one Democrat, Patrick Joyce of Essex. 18 Democrats were not present in the chamber for the vote on Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Senate President Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham of Chicago told the Tribune he plans to vote against the nominations of Oreal James and Eleanor Wilson to the Prison Review Board in the coming days. The two were appointed by Pritzker and voted last year to grant parole for two men who killed police officers in the state five decades ago. Cunningham says that people who kill police officers in the line of duty should serve a life sentence without possibility of parole. Republican State Senator Terri Bryant also voiced concern over Mears’ vote to grant parole for Paula Sims, convicted in 1990 for killing her two daughters in Alton. Sims had been serving a life sentence for the crime. The board voted 12-1 to allow Sims’ release.
Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abbudayyeh told Capitol News Illinois that Senate Republicans are trying to dismantle the board, which she called a constitutional obligation.
The review board is responsible for hearing parole hearings 15-20 times a month at various locations around the state. Three board members must be present at each hearing to render a decision on whether to terminate an offender’s parole, otherwise the offender would be released and deemed not in violation of parole.
According to Capitol News Illinois, the Pritzker Administration urged the Executive Appointments Committee to act quickly on the appointments to address the potential of not having enough board members for the parole hearings.