Illinois Issues: Legislative Checklist

Mar 16, 2017

The spring legislative session is in full swing under the shadow of a failed Grand Bargain, which aimed to end a 20-month stretch without a budget. Bills proposed are diverse, including lobbyist ethics, an Obama holiday, wage theft and animal welfare.

Revolving door
Senate Bill 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. Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans is the bill’s sponsor.

Abortion
HB 40 This bill would make changes to the way State Employee Health Insurance and Medicaid cover abortions. Currently, Illinois law prohibits women from using Medicaid or State Employee Health Insurance to cover reproductive health care, including medically necessary abortions. In the case of Medicaid, the use of federal funds is restricted for abortion coverage in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. The bill would allow the Illinois Department of Human Services to make grants to nonprofit agencies that offer abortion services  — such as Planned Parenthood. Proposed by Democratic Rep. Sara Feigenholtz of Chicago, the bill would reinforce the state’s ability to make abortion-related decisions regardless of U.S. Supreme Court verdicts.

LGBT panic defense
SB 1761 Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston is sponsor of the bill that prohibits a defense for violent assault or murder based on victim’s sexual orientation or a nonviolent sexual advance. The so-called “gay panic defense” and “transgender panic defense” was last used in 2009, where an Illinois man was acquitted of first-degree. Proponents of the bill want to ensure that this defense will not be used in Illinois again to mitigate or eliminate murder charges.

Credit Matt Turner / Flickr

Sexual crimes against children
SB 189 This legislation 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 without a time limit after the assault has taken place.  The bill would not override cases where the statute of limitation has already expired but would apply to other cases. 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.

Wage theft
SB 1720 This bill would increase the penalties for employers who repeatedly engage in wage theft. Under this bill, unpaid wage amounts of $5,000 or less would increase 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.

New state seal
House Bill 479 This bill, which was approved in the House, proposes that the state seal be updated with the date when Illinois became a state: December 3, 1818. Currently, the state seal bears August 26, 1818 — the date of the state’s first Constitution. Springfield Republican Rep. Tim Butler and Republican Sen. Pamela Althoff of McHenry are sponsors of the bill

Under legislation being considered, former President Barack Obama's birthday would be made a state holiday.
Credit Pete Prodoehl / Flickr

Commemorating Obama’s birthdate
HB 231, HB 503 These bills would make August 4 of every year a state holiday, commemorating Barack Obama’s date of birth. Both HB 231 and HB 503 would require Obama Day to be an official state holiday in which state government offices do not operate. HB 231 is sponsored by Democratic Rep. André Thapedi from Chicago and HB 503 is sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Sonya Harper.

A similar Senate bill, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Sen. Emil Jones, III, SB 55, would designate Obama Day as a commemorative day, not requiring government office closures.

State bail system
HB 3421 This legislation, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Christian Mitchell, 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.

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, 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.

Barack Obama Tollway
House Joint Resolution 17 This resolution would establish Interstate 294 as “Barack Obama Tollway” to commemorate former President Obama’s ties to Chicago and the state of Illinois. The resolution would require the Illinois Department of Transportation to provide the adequate signage along designated locations. The bill is sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr.

Credit Gemma Billings / Flickr

Farmers’ markets
HB 2820 Legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Steven Andersson of Geneva, would help address farmers’ market vendor concerns about fees and sanitation conditions. 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.

Zombie Preparedness Month
HR 30 This House resolution establishes October 2017 as Zombie Preparedness Month. The resolution, which was adopted by the House, urges residents to learn about the necessary steps needed to survive 72 hours after a natural disaster. During this month of preparedness, Illinois residents are encouraged to create their own stockpile of food, water and other emergency supplies. Emergency plans should also be discussed in households with the necessary weather alert notifications in place.  Democratic Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch from Westchester sponsored the resolution, which was adopted.

Credit Flickr

Animal welfare
HB 2824 This bill 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 or 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.

Columbus Day counter-celebration
HR 127 This resolution would urge the state to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to take into consideration those in North America before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Democratic Rep. Rita Mayfield from Waukegan is sponsor of this resolution.

Inmates information requests
HB 619
This bill 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 is sponsor of this bill.

Gay, transgender panic defense
SB 1761 Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston is sponsor of this bill, which would prevent use of the victim’s sexual orientation or nonviolent sexual advance as a murder or assault defense. The so-called gay panic defense and transgender panic defense was last used in 2009, where an Illinois man was acquitted of first-degree murder after killing his male neighbor who had allegedly made unwanted sexual advances. Proponents of the bill want to ensure that this defense will not be used in Illinois again to mitigate or eliminate murder charges.

Sexual crimes against children
SB 189 This legislation 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.

Wage theft
SB 1720 This bill would increase the penalties for employers who repeatedly engage in wage theft. Under this bill, unpaid wage amounts of $5,000 or less, would increase 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 of no less than one year but no more than 3 years. Sen. Daniel Biss, a Democrat from Evanston, sponsors this bill.

Credit Flickr

Condom tax break
SB 2026 This legislation would cut the tax on female and male condoms to 1 percent from 6.26 percent. Currently, condoms are taxed at the same rate as luxury items. Under the bill, condoms would be taxed at the same rates as prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Chicago Heights Democratic Sen. Toi W. Hutchinson is sponsor of this bill. 

Illinois Issues is in-depth reporting and analysis that takes you beyond the headlines to provide a deeper understanding of our state. Illinois Issues is produced by NPR Illinois in Springfield.