Illinois Issues: Legislative Checklist
The spring legislative session has been overshadowed by a 22-month stretch without a budget. Nevertheless, meaty legislation is being weighed. Those issues include abortion, wage theft, animal research and criminal justice.
House Bill 40 The House approved this measure that could allow abortion to be covered by Medicaid and state-employee health insurance. It would also strike down Illinois’ so-called trigger law, written in the 1970s, which said abortion would automatically become illegal in Illinois if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned. The bill was proposed by Democratic Rep. Sara Feigenholtz of Chicago. The Senate sponsor is Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat.
LGBT panic defense
Senate Bill 1761 Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston is sponsor of the bill that prohibits a defense for violent assault or murder based on a victim’s sexual orientation or a nonviolent sexual advance. The so-called “gay panic defense” and “transgender panic defense” was last used in the state in 2009, when an Illinois man was acquitted of first-degree murder. Proponents of the bill want to ensure that this defense will not be used in Illinois again to mitigate or eliminate murder charges. A vote in the Senate is pending.
SB 615 This bill would amend the Lobbyist Registration Act to require any former state employee or official to wait one year after leaving the job before lobbying in government. As a result, any current state employee could not negotiate employment or compensation from any lobbying entity. There is a May 5 deadline for the bill to be considered for a vote. Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans is the bill’s sponsor.
SB 1884 The bill, which was approved in the Senate, would require public research institutions in Illinois to have an adoption policy in place for dogs and cats used in testing rather than euthanizing them. It was sponsored by Aurora Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes. Democratic Rep. Laura Fine, of Glenview, sponsors the House bill.
HB 2824 This bill, which failed to get out of committee, would require pet shop owners to microchip any cat or dog they sell and would require the disclosure that the cat or dog was micro-chipped on sale documents. The bill further prevents any pet shop owner dog or cat dealer from obtaining a cat or dog from someone who has previous federal law or regulation violations falling under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello from Belleville.
HB 2545 This legislation, which was approved by the House, would amend the Illinois School Code by requiring all school personnel working with students in grades kindergarten through 12 to undergo annual training to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicide behavior in youth. The current code already mandates this annual training, but for specific personnel such as guidance counselors, teachers or social workers. The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville. The Senate bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Chuck Weaver of Peoria.
Police chief training
HB 3328 This measure, which passed in the House, would amend the Police Training Act by extending the required 20-hour training for police chiefs and deputy police chiefs to the City of Chicago and the Sheriff's Police Department in Cook County. The amendment would remove language that excludes the City of Chicago and the Sheriff's Police Department of Cook County. The annual mandated training is related to law enforcement, management development or ethics. Republican Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, sponsors this bill. The Senate bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Michael Connelly of Wheaton.
Women in prison
HB 3904 Sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Juliana Stratton, this bill, which passed out of the House, calls for the creation of a women’s division in the Department of Corrections that would have oversight of women’s corrections institutions. It also calls for the Corrections’ director to appoint a chief administrator with specialized training in gender-responsive and trauma-informed practices. Sen. Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, is the Senate bill sponsor.
SB 1720 This bill, which was approved in the Senate, would increase the penalties for employers who repeatedly engage in wage theft. Under this bill, unpaid wage amounts of $5,000 or less would have increased the current Class B misdemeanor (crimes such as littering and trespassing) to a Class A misdemeanor (crimes such as driving under the influence and damaging property). Under Illinois statute, a Class A misdemeanor can include a sentence of less than a year with a fee of no more than $2,500. Unpaid wage amounts of more than $5,000 would increase the penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony (crimes such as stalking and aggravated assault). Under statute, a Class 4 felony can include a sentence between one and three years. Sen. Daniel Biss, a Democrat from Evanston, sponsors this bill. The House co-sponsors are Chicago Democrat Lisa Hernandez and Urbana Democrat Carol Ammons.
State bail system
HB 3421 This legislation, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Christian Mitchell, failed to get out of committee. It would abolish the bail system in the state. The legislation proposes to release detainees who are considered low-risk without having them pay bail. Those detainees considered a danger to the community or a potential flight-risk would not be considered for bail. The bill would also require clerks to publicly disclose reports on the people arrested, released and detained in each county. Additional services to defendants, such as reminders for upcoming court dates via phone or text message, as well as transportation to court, would be required from pretrial service agencies.
HB 2820 Legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Steven Andersson of Geneva that would help address farmers’ market vendor concerns about fees and sanitation conditions passed in the House. Under this legislation, the Farmers’ Market Task Force would be created to work alongside the Illinois Department of Public Health to help establish sanitary practices that can be used across all farmers’ markets such as shared hand-washing stations and food storage. The Senate sponsor is David Koehler, a Peoria Democrat.
Inmate information requests
HB 619 This legislation, which was approved by the House, would make changes to the Freedom of Information Act to prohibit the inspection of records that have been requested by a person committed to the Department of Corrections or a county jail. Disclosure of these records would potentially result in the risk of a jail escape. These changes would also protect inmate-requested records that disclose personal information about the inmate’s victim or the victim’s family. Joliet Democratic Rep. Lawrence Walsh sponsored the House bill. In the Senate, William Haine, a Democrat from Alton, is sponsor.
Sexual crimes against children
SB 189 This legislation, which passed out of the Senate, would eliminate statutes of limitation for felony sexual crimes against children. Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Scott Bennett of Champaign, the legislation would give victims the opportunity to file charges at any time after the assault has taken place. The bill would not override cases where the statute of limitation has expired, but would apply to all other cases where the legal time limit is still valid. Currently, Illinois’ statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children is 20 years after the age of 18 — or until the victim is 38 years of age. Democratic Rep. Michelle Mussman, of Schaumburg, is sponsoring the House bill.
Publicly funded campaigns
SB 1424 Sponsored by Evanston Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss, this legislation would create a publicly funded matching donor program for the campaigns of candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, senator and representative. As a result, candidates enrolled in the program would be required to limit the amount of individual contributions. For the matching program to work, the General Assembly would need to set aside the equivalent of $1 per resident in the state. Under this legislation, the program would match a candidate’s donations by six times the donated amount. The bill is pending in the Senate.