Senate Week in Review: November 18-22
With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, the countdown for new laws going into effect has begun.
Each January dozens of new laws passed during the previous year become effective on the first day of the year. This year, that will include measures designed to make the state’s budget process more open, reduce workplace violence and even make life a little less stressful for man’s best friend.
However, some legislation is still being signed into law, State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said. As was widely expected, Gov. Quinn signed Senate Bill 10 into law Nov. 20, legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Rezin Senior Fair a success
Sen. Rezin hosted a Senior Fair in Peru on Nov. 20 said she was pleased with how many seniors came to gather information on how to live healthier lifestyles.
“We had over 500 people come to the Senior Fair, which I was thrilled with,” Sen. Rezin said. “It was great to be able to host such an event that promotes health and services available to seniors.”
Sen. Rezin is pictured greeting and speaking with an attendee of the fair.
Sen. Rezin hosts several fairs and events throughout the year. Future events will be posted on Sen. Rezin’s website at www.senatorrezin.com.
Diamond, Coal City and Other Areas Begin Recovery After Devastating Tornado
Several areas of the 38th Senate District were affected by the massive tornadoes that ripped through Central Illinois on Nov. 17. Sen. Rezin toured many of those areas and urges community members to continue to help where it is needed.
Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) began Nov. 21 in the hardest hit counties of the state. A PDA is a co-op between the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration that helps gather information and help officially determine if Illinois needs or is eligible for federal assistance and a Presidential Declaration. One of the five assessment teams has been assigned to the Grundy County and Will County area.
Sen. Rezin extended her thoughts and prayers to all who were affected by the storms across the state and hopes for a quick recovery.
“These communities have been hit hard, but they are resilient,” she said. “This damage is hard to fathom, yet we have excellent officials and volunteers who will be working tirelessly to return people’s lives to as normal as possible.”
On Nov. 21, Sen. Rezin traveled to Washington, Illinois with the Joliet Catholic Academy football team, which her youngest son is a part of, and 14 other mothers of the team to serve their pre-game ritual of a spaghetti dinner to the Washington High School football team (pictured here). Sen. Rezin said it was their way of extending support to the high school and to wish them good luck this weekend as they face Springfield Sacred-Heart Griffin High School in a playoff game this Saturday.
For further information on the tornado recovery, including volunteer opportunities, please visit the IEMA website at http://www.illinois.gov/ready/Press/Pages/111713.aspx.
Same Sex Marriage Law Signed
The new same-sex marriage law will not take effect until July, although some supporters have proposed a follow up measure that could be considered in January that would move the effective date of the measure up.
Illinois becomes the 16th state to authorize couples of the same sex to marry. Although the measure protects churches from having to perform such marriages if it conflicts with their tenets, questions remain as to what impact it will have on vendors who serve the wedding industry, but object to gay marriage as a matter of conscience. Also uncertain is the extent to which churches and organizations affiliated with religious groups can refuse to host wedding receptions and similar events if it violates their beliefs.
While the same sex marriage law won’t go into effect with the New Year, dozens of other new laws will. Descriptions of some of those measures follow.
New Laws Promote Budget Transparency, Accountability
Illinois’ well-documented fiscal woes have citizens—and state lawmakers—asking for more details about the state budget process. In response, this spring several measures were approved by lawmakers to improve budget transparency and accountability.
Beginning next year, a bill sponsored by Republican lawmaker Pamela Althoff (McHenry) requires the state budget to be published online within 60 days of being signed into law. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget must also make public any related fund sweeps or charge-backs contained in the budget—a caveat introduced in response to the numerous sweeps of dedicated public funds that have been used in recent years to subsidize general state spending. These sweeps have left many state funds depleted, which can leave the state agencies and organizations that rely on these funds at a loss.
Another law sponsored by Althoff and her Republican colleague Senator Sam McCann (R-Carlinville) will create a Governmental Transparency Task Force charged with creating a plan to make the state budget process more transparent and publicly accessible. A 16-member board appointed by the Governor and the four legislative leaders will study proposals seeking to increase the public’s ease of access to budget materials, and the task force must submit its findings by January 1, 2015.
While there is clearly still much more to do to increase accessibility of state budget information, House Bill 2947/PA 98-0460 takes a good step toward increasing accountability within the fiscal process. The new law requires the state’s annual budget submission to include detailed tables and narratives about any projected budget surplus or any projected deficit for the fiscal year. The submitted budget must also include an estimate of individual and corporate income tax overpayments that won’t be paid back by the end of the fiscal year.
Lawmakers Take Aim at Workplace Violence
Republican State Senators Darin LaHood (R-Peoria), Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) and Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) sponsored a bipartisan measure this spring to help prevent tragic acts of violence in Illinois workplaces. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly.
House Bill 2590/PA 98-0430, which will take effect on January 1, creates the Illinois Workplace Violence Protection Act. It will enable employers to seek an order of protection when they can show that there is there has been violence, or there is a credible threat of violence, occurring in the workplace that has or will very likely cause great or irreparable harm. The law not only targets violence between coworkers, but aggressive acts from outsiders—including harassment or violence from customers and clients, and domestic violence incidents that carry over into the workplace.
HB 2590 applies to workplaces of five or more employees and is applicable to acts of violence, harassment and stalking.
New Law Regulates Dog Tethering
Starting Jan. 1, a new law will take effect that aims to ensure that dogs in Illinois are treated humanely when tethered outside.
While the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the law creates standards that will improve the lives and safety of dogs that are continually tethered, some opponents fear that regulating such things as how long a dog’s leash must be and what materials it can be made of smacks of excessive regulation.
Supported by animal activist groups, HB 83/PA 98-0101 was signed into law last July and stipulates that in order to lawfully tether a dog at a residence or business, an owner must protect their dog by making sure it is not tethered in a manner that will allow it to reach within the property of another person, a public walkway or a road.
The animal must also be tethered in a way that will prevent it from becoming entangled with other tethered dogs, and the dog cannot be tethered for more than 15 minutes between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law also requires the lead be at least 10 feet in length and the dog’s color cannot be a pinch, prong or choke collar.
New Wildlife Regulations Effective January 1
Many sportsmen may be eager for the first day of firearm deer hunting season, which begins on Friday, November 22. However, they should also be aware that beginning January 1st hunters will have to follow new laws regarding wildlife possession and disposal.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1170 making it illegal to possess any wildlife or wildlife parts taken unlawfully in Illinois, any other state or country, whether or not the animal is native to Illinois. “Wildlife contraband” includes wild birds or mammals that are taken, bought, or sold without being properly tagged with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Illinois’ Conservation Police are helping other states and countries target cases were wildlife or wildlife parts were taken illegal; while other states and countries are able to prosecute, Illinois currently cannot.
Additionally, Senate Bill 1620 ensures the proper disposal of wildlife game. This legislation makes it unlawful for any person to waste or destroy useable meat of harvested game mammals and birds. By the first of the year, hunters will no longer be able to leave or dump harvested game remains on a highway—this specifically targets sportsmen who remove the head or antlers of a deer as a trophy and then dump the carcass.
Violators of these new laws can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. The DNR says these legislative measures will reduce the amount of game waste and agency costs.
Child Deaths Hit Record High
In other news, the Quinn administration has once again set a new and undesirable record. The latest though is genuinely tragic – child deaths caused by abuse or neglect have hit a 30 year high under the Quinn administration’s watch.
That startling statistic was revealed in separate investigations recently published by the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune.
Both papers reviewed cases from the past several years where the state’s main child protection agency, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had prior contact with the children or their parents, but still failed to prevent the death of children and infants.
In the last fiscal year (which ended July 1), 111 children died in Illinois from abuse or neglect, the most since annual records began in 1981. And, as disturbing as that number may be, the most shocking statistic may be the 68 children in Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 that died despite the fact that DCFS had been involved in their cases.
The newspapers recounted heart-rending stories of small children and infants whose short lives had become nightmares of abuse or neglect, often despite repeated calls to DCFS by concerned relatives.
A Rare Thanksgiving
Two major holidays will be celebrated in a once in a lifetime event this year as Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah coincide.
Although most people are used to thinking of Hanukkah as a holiday that falls roughly about the same time as the Christian celebration of Christmas, it actually floats in relation to the Gregorian calendar because the days of Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays are determined by the traditional Hebrew Calendar (which follows a 19-year, 235 lunar month cycle).
Expert opinions vary on when this last occurred and when it will next occur, but most agree that the last time the two coincided was in the 19th century and it won’t happen again until at least 2070.