Senate Week in Review: June 25-29

Springfield, IL – Several measures aimed at sexual predators, including one prompted by the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, have been signed into law. State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said the expanded reporting requirements contained in House Bill 3887 (PA 97-711) will require university athletic department staff and other higher education employees who witness or suspect child abuse to report their concerns to state officials.

The legislation was signed just days after former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 child sex abuse counts. Three other measures targeting sex offenders also were signed into law.

Senate Bill 3579 (PA 97-699) prohibits sex offenders from participating in holiday celebrations, such as handing out candy at Halloween, or dressing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny at events where children are present.

Park districts would be able to run criminal background checks on job applicants to determine if they have been declared a delinquent minor for committing certain offenses, including sexual assault, under Senate Bill 3809 (PA 97-700). Senate Bill 3258 (PA 97-698) clarifies information about violations that are to be included in the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

Also approved during the week was a measure to streamline the professional licensing requirements for spouses and other military family members. Sen. Rezin said Senate Bill 275 (PA 97-710), the Military Family Licensing Act, allows for family members of military personnel to receive a temporary professional license, such as a teaching certificate, license to practice medicine, and licenses for nurses, social workers, paramedics or plumbers, etc. when moving into Illinois from another state where the individual already held a comparable license.

The legislation would ease the transition for military families who have been transferred to Illinois and help them to more quickly qualify for jobs. Proponents also pointed out that the legislation will help Illinois benefit from the skills, training and experience of these professionals.

As the Governor proceeded with plans to shutter state prisons in Tamms and Dwight, he approved a measure that offers a limited expansion of a Meritorious Good Time (MGT) program that he suspended during his 2010 campaign for Governor. Under Senate Bill 2621 (PA 97-697), inmates in prison can earn additional “sentence credit” (formerly MGT) for time served while in a county jail while awaiting trial or sentencing. To earn the time, they must participate in programs offered at the jail or complete their GED. This legislation would restrict the award of other types of sentence credit (up to 180 days) based upon a risk assessment analysis or history of violent crimes by the inmate, although the director of the state’s Corrections Department is given discretion in awarding the credit.

Another measure approved during the week would reduce the number of Regional Superintendents of Education in Illinois from 45 to 35. Senate Bill 2706 (PA 97-703) increases the minimal population for educational service area to 61,000 (instead of 43,000).

The “Penn State Scandal” measure adds college coaches, athletic personnel, university employees and early intervention providers to the state’s existing list of persons who must report suspected cases of child sex abuse or other abuse to state child welfare officials. Although most persons may not think of university coaches and others as having close contact with children, Sen. Rezin pointed out that many colleges and universities offer training camps for youth in a wide range of activities from volleyball, soccer and basketball to cheerleading, sciences, drama and music.

Several other measures signed into law during the week included:

Alternative Teacher Certification (SB 638/PA 97-702): Corrects timing problems with a recently revised alternative teaching certification program.  Extends the sunset of the existing alternative certification programs by one year in order to permit students to enroll in current programs though Sept. 1, 2013, and to give students in existing programs up to two years to complete the program. Also allows an alternative teaching certificate holder to gain credit for teaching in charter schools.

Breastfeeding (HB 4968/PA 97-713): Requires all hospitals that provide birthing services to adopt an infant-feeding policy that promotes breastfeeding.

Child CPR Training (HB 5114/PA 97-714): Permits schools to provide safety education for students in 6th-8th grade on cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and by watching a training video, show them how to use an automated external defibrillator.

Collateral Repossession (SB 3249/PA 97-708): Provides clarity in the law about repossession of vehicles when a consumer attempts to return the vehicle due to an inability to pay.

Group Healthcare Purchasing (SB 2885/PA 97-0715): Designed to make it easier for small businesses to join together to offer health insurance to employees. Makes changes to the law under which Health Insurance Co-ops may be formed, including defining an employer as an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, firm, corporation, association, or any other legal entity that has one or more employees and is legally doing business in Illinois. Increases the maximum number of employees that a participating employer can have from 500 to 2,500 and adds language that states health purchasing groups “shall utilize a licensed insurance producer” to obtain insurance for the group.

High School Math Requirement (SB 3244/PA 97-704): Requires state education organizations and other stakeholders to study issues relating to the middle and high school math curriculum and develop an educational curriculum model for school districts and teachers to help promote math skills and increase education standards with relation to math and curriculum.

Inmate Records (HB 4590/PA 97-696): Adds information that the Department of Corrections must maintain in an individual inmate’s “master record file.” The new information includes inmate grievances; criminal history, including known gang affiliations; and administrative tickets.

Medical Bill Sharing (HB 3443/PA 97-705): Adds new regulations to “medical bill sharing ministries,” which are religiously affiliated organizations that offer their members a medical bill-sharing plan as an alternative to health insurance. Under such bill-sharing arrangements, members contribute into a fund that is used to cover medical expenses when needed.  Off-Shore Trusts (SB 2876/PA 97-707): A companion or “trailer” bill to HB 3443. Prohibits medical bill sharing ministries from having off-shore trusts or bank accounts to pay medical expenses. Also requires the organization to provide a monthly statement of its financial status to its members.

Minority Business Program Extension (HB 4707/PA 97-712): Extends the life of the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Females, and Persons with Disabilities Act from June 30, 2012 to June 30, 2016.

Professional Counselor Sunset (HB 4520/PA 97-706): Amends the Regulatory Sunset Act and the Professional Counselor and Clinical Counselor Licensing Act.  Changes the Act’s sunset date from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2023.

Property Forfeiture Rights (HB 1927/PA 97-0680): Addresses concerns about property owners’ rights during forfeiture proceedings by establishing additional due process protection for innocent property owners by providing exemptions for hardships.

School Administrators (HB 4993/PA 97-701): With respect to school administrative certificates, provides that a candidate (1) who has enrolled and began coursework prior to Aug. 1, 2011, in an Illinois program approved by the State Board of Education for the preparation of administrators, and (2) who successfully completes that program prior to Jan. 1, 2013, may apply for the general administrative endorsement until Jan. 1, 2013, without his/her two years of full-time teaching or school service personnel experience having been accrued while the individual held a valid early childhood, elementary, secondary, special K through 12, special pre-school through age 21, or school service personnel certificate.

Unemployment Double Taxation (SB 3507/PA 97-709): Addresses a double taxation issue for Illinois residents receiving unemployment benefits from another state by stating that unemployment benefits paid by the Illinois Department of Employment Security are taxable by the state. This issue arises because Illinois income taxes are based on residency in Illinois and another state may tax based on the source of income.

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