CFO Patronis goes after Gov. Pritzker over abolishing cash bail in IL, says it’s ‘pure insanity’

With Illinois set to become the first state in the nation to fully abolish cash bail next month, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis made an appeal to Illinois business owners on Wednesday, saying they should consider moving their businesses and family members to the Sunshine State.

“[T]he recent decision by officials in Illinois to eliminate cash bail in the name of ‘social justice reform’ is pure insanity,” Patronis wrote in a letter addressed to Illinois business owners.

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. Credit: FL Department of Financial Services.

Patronis is a partner in a family-owned seafood restaurant in the Panhandle, and he referenced his small business experience in making the pitch to Illinois businesses.

“I can only imagine how difficult it is to keep your doors open as crime runs rampant through the streets while so-called ‘leaders’ in blue states like yours work to fulfill their dreams to ‘defund the police.’ It must be both frustrating and infuriating,” Patronis writes, adding that “while failing states like California, New York, and Illinois are obsessed with pushing a far-Left agenda that makes doing business nearly impossible, Florida is open for business!”

Patronis, who is considered to be a potential 2026 gubernatorial candidate, added: “The elimination of cash bail is further proof that your leaders could care less for the safety of your communities and law enforcement. Illinois does not deserve your business. Instead, consider moving your business and your family to Florida. Please feel free to contact my office at 850-413-3100 or you can email me at [email protected]. We look forward to the prospect of working together and helping your company thrive here in the Sunshine State!”

In 2021, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a sweeping measure that would eliminate judges from being able to set any kind of cash bail on a defendant charged with a crime, a measure that criminal justice reform advocates for years have been pushing for. Those advocates have said that cash bail is a penalty on poverty, as the system allows those with financial means to be able to pay their way out of jail while those with less economic resources have to await trial behind bars.

The Illinois law was poised to go into effect on Jan.1, 2023, but was struck down by a judge last December. The case was then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled 5-2 last month to uphold the constitutionality of the law. It is now scheduled to take effect on Sept. 18.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, urges Florida Democrats to defend human rights and oppose white extremism. Credit: Florida Democratic Party, July 2022.

Pritzker, a Democrat, is no fan of Florida’s GOP led-leadership.

Speaking at the Florida Democratic Party’s annual leadership conference in Tampa last summer, he blasted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and national Republicans for being obsessed with “MAGA politics” over issues like gun violence. And in January, Pritzker sent a letter to David Coleman, CEO of the nonprofit College Board, referencing DeSantis’ controversy over Advanced Placement African American studies in Florida.

“Governor DeSantis is pressuring the College Board to chance the AP African American Studies course in order to fit Florida’s racist and homophobic laws,” Pritzker wrote in the letter.  “Illinois expects any AP course offered on African American Studies to include a factual accounting of history.”

A spokesman for Gov. Pritzker sent a statement to the Phoenix in response to Patronis’ letter.

“Jimmy’s drivel is as much in touch with reality as Ron DeSantis’ claim that Florida is a land for freedom,” said Alex Gough, in an email to the Phoenix.

“What Florida’s version of freedom actually looks like is women stripped of their rights to make their own healthcare decisions, legal immigrants persecuted and cut off from the American Dream, children taught lies and teachers threatened for trying to give them an education, residents priced out of basic flood insurance for their homes, and dangerous criminals free to buy their way out of prison. While Florida taxpayers are likely relieved to see the DeSantis administration take a break from his losing battle with one of his state’s largest employers for the high crime of disagreeing with him, Jimmy would do well to first take a gander at what’s happening in his own backyard. It isn’t pretty. I’m sure Chicago’s famed restaurateurs are not going to want to take advice from a state that can’t handle the spice of Shakespeare.”

It’s not a novel concept for Florida GOP leaders to reach out to businesses in blue states and attempt to recruit them to relocate to Florida. Former Gov. Rick Scott did that multiple times during his tenure in office, usually promoting the state’s business climate by boasting about lower taxes and fewer regulations.

Under the DeSantis administration, however, the issues are focused on culture wars and crime.

As Patronis notes in his letter, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police has denounced the elimination of cash bail, calling it a “slap in the face to those who enforce our laws and the people those laws are supposed to protect.” Local prosecutors in Illinois have also been critical of the law.

Patronis notes that having a cash bail system is “one of the reasons Florida’s crime rate is at a 50-year low.”

But as numerous studies have revealed, that statement is based on incomplete crime data.

As the Marshall Project reported last month, nearly half of the agencies that police more than 40% of the state’s population are missing from figures that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement use for a statewide estimation, and less than 8% of Florida police departments – including the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Miami Police Department and the St. Petersburg Police Department – are not included in an FBI federal database.

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