Senate Week in Review: August 27-31

Springfield – Illinois’ credit rating—already the second lowest in the country according to Standard & Poor’s—took another hit this week when S & P further lowered the state’s credit rating, said State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris).

In other state news, the Quinn Administration delayed plans to shutter the Dwight and Tamms correctional facilities, and the Governor vetoed legislation to substantially expand gaming in Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn set a new record for credit downgrades, when the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s lowered Illinois’ credit rating Aug. 29. Since becoming Governor in 2009, Quinn has presided over 10 credit downgrades, which now represent more downgrades than the previous four governors combined.

The low rating means a higher cost for residents of the state.  It is estimated that the downgrade will cost Illinois taxpayers approximately $15 million per year.  

“Our state has seen unprecedented government spending and borrowing over the last several years that has driven us to this point,” Sen. Rezin said.  “The current state leadership failed to reform areas in our state budget that desperately needed it and now unfortunately our taxpayers are given the burden of paying for it.”  

While Quinn has lately been sounding alarms about the risk of a credit downgrade for Illinois, longtime fiscal conservatives point out that this is the same Governor who did little to avert nine previous credit downgrades during his first three years in office. As was expected from the S&P downgrade, the rating agency cited “the state’s weak pension funding levels and lack of action on reform measures intended to improve funding levels…”

Sen. Rezin noted that the pension system has been mishandled for years, compounded by the partisan passing of Senate Bill 27 in 2005, which allowed the state to skip its pension payments of almost $4 billion.  She says the state needs to rectify the actions of the past and pass reform so that the taxpayers in Illinois do not have to continually pay for the poor decisions the leaders in Illinois have made.

“We cannot continue to see our state suffer downgrade after downgrade,” Sen. Rezin said.  “This is taking money away from paying the state’s bills and the essential services that the state provides, such as education, public safety, the disabled and more.  We need to start thinking about how this is affecting taxpayers in Illinois, and what will happen if we continue with the same budget policies as we have in years past.  This will invariably affect us all in many ways.  Taxpayers should not suffer the consequences of inaction any longer.  Sensible reform needs to happen now.”

The rating agency also echoed longtime concerns raised by Senate Republicans that the state is not taking the steps necessary to plan for the expiration of the bulk of the 67 percent income tax increase enacted in 2011.

Sen. Rezin put the Quinn downgrades in perspective, explaining in the 24 years prior to 2003, Governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan saw a grand total of six credit downgrades from the three major credit rating agencies. In the six years he was in office, Rod Blagojevich presided over three credit downgrades. But, since taking office in 2009, Pat Quinn has managed to rack up a record-breaking 10 credit downgrades. In fact, during his first 36 months in office, Quinn earned three times as many credit downgrades as Blagojevich earned in six years.

Earlier this week, Quinn vetoed legislation that would have greatly expanded gaming in Illinois. Approved by the General Assembly in May, Senate Bill 1849 would have created new casinos in Chicago, its southern suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville and allowed for slot machines at horse racing tracks.  

Quinn, a longtime opponent of expanded gaming, criticized the bill in his veto message for an “absence of strict ethical standards and comprehensive regulatory oversight” over the new casinos and said it failed to keep corruption “out of an industry that is susceptible to nefarious activity.”

Supporters of the measure claimed the new gaming would create up to $1 billion in new revenue and 100,000 jobs for the Illinois economy, while opponents said those numbers were inflated and warned the additional casinos would result in higher crime rates and social ills.  

It’s unclear whether the bill’s sponsors will attempt an override during this fall’s legislative Veto Session. Supporters would have a tough hill to climb to muster the three-fifths vote necessary to overturn the veto, especially in the Illinois Senate which passed the measure by a narrow 30 to 26 vote.

Also during the week, Illinois Department of Corrections officials decided to temporarily delay the impending closures of Dwight and Tamms correctional centers, which were slated for August 31. The prison closure plan began in February, when Quinn gave his budget address, announcing an overall plan to shutter scores of state facilities.

Spokespersons for Quinn continued to remain on the offensive, saying that the closures were only being delayed and that in order to balance the state’s budget, the state must move forward with closing “outdated, half-full expensive facilities in order to save Illinois taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.”

However, area leaders and facility employees from the host communities of Dwight and Tamms say closing the prisons will be devastating to the region. In Dwight alone, the correctional center generates an estimated $23 million dollars and creates 470 jobs in the area.

Opponents of closing the prisons say they are concerned that having two prisons shuttered at the same time Illinois correctional facilities are operating at 143 percent of rated capacity could be damaging to the state’s public safety network. Those same opponents also contend that Tamms Correctional Center serves as a deterrent against increased prison violence, noting the potential closure of Tamms could put correctional officers and other frontline workers in harm’s way.

Earlier this summer, Quinn vetoed funds that were put in the budget to keep the prisons open. Lawmakers who oppose the prison closures are expected to ask for an override vote during the General Assembly’s fall Veto Session. However, absent an agreement from the Governor to keep the prisons open, the override vote could be largely symbolic because the General Assembly cannot force the Governor to spend the money, even if it is returned to the budget.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rezin and State Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris) that will help alleviate pressure on park staffs and give the public an opportunity to be more involved with parks in their communities.  

Senate Bill 2882/PA 97-1082 requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to establish and maintain Adopt-A-Park programs that will allow private citizens to take care of a park, or a section of one, for the purpose of litter collection. The measure allows the Department to approve or deny an individual or group volunteer’s request.  If the request is denied, the Department must state the reason for the request denial.

Sen. Rezin compared the intent of this legislation similar to that of the groups who clean up highways and noted that this measure could be a much-needed help to state parks.

“The state parks around our area are severely understaffed,” Sen. Rezin said.  “This will allow groups to volunteer in our parks and make them look better, while allowing the staff of the parks to concentrate on other areas that need to be addressed.”  

“Our parks are a treasure that we want to be available for our children and generations to come,” said Rep. Roth. “In our current economic times we have had to shift funds to crucial operations and this legislation provides the opportunity for volunteers to keep the parks pristine until the state’s financial situation improves and we can reinstate extra funding for the care of public areas and recreation facilities.”

The act is effective immediately.  

In other news, September 2012 is Texting and Driving Awareness Month in Illinois in conjunction with AT&T’s “It Can Wait” national campaign that aims to bring attention to the dangers of texting and driving.  In further support of the initiative, Governor Quinn proclaimed Sept. 19 as “No Text on Board – Pledge Day,” encouraging drivers to take a lifetime pledge to never text and drive.  The campaign centers on the simple message that no text is worth dying for.  

Texting at any time while driving on the road has been illegal in Illinois since January 1, 2010.  Passed during the spring session of the 96th General Assembly, House Bill 71/PA 96-0130 prohibits a person from operating a vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send or read an electronic message.  Furthermore, House Bill 72/PA 96-0131 prohibits a driver from using a cell phone at any time while on a roadway in a school speed zone or in a highway construction or maintenance speed zone.  

Raising awareness about the dangers and lasting effects texting and driving can have is not a new initiative in Illinois.  In January 2011, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois Tollway, and AAA Chicago launched their own campaign, “Drive Now. Text Later,” to educate the public about the dangers of texting and driving.  

You can take the pledge by visiting the website and then promote your pledge via Facebook and Twitter using #itcanwait.  

With the upcoming holiday weekend, IDOT and the Illinois State Police are reminding drivers to stay safe, stay sober, and buckle up.  According to IDOT, the State Police and nearly 350 local law enforcement agencies plan to increase patrol activities over the Labor Day weekend in order to make Illinois roadways safer.  

Sen. Rezin said that the Streator community will honor a Republican labor leader and former state representative on Sept. 2.  Reuben G. Soderstrom served nine terms in the statehouse and will be honored with a statue unveiling located in a new plaza dedicated to workers in City Park.  In addition to being a state representative, he was president of the Illinois State Federation of Labor and AFL-CIO.  Soderstrom was instrumental in getting benefits for workers and eliminating abuses in the workplace.    

Earlier this month, Sen. Rezin received the Defender of Liberty award for 2012 from the American Conservative Union Foundation.  The award is in recognition of her perfect score of 100% on ACU’s first-ever rating of the Illinois General Assembly.  It reflects her outstanding support of conservative principles on a wide range of issues during the 2012 legislative session.  

On Sept. 11, Sen. Rezin will host a free Senior Health Fair in Peru from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  The fair will allow attendees to learn how to live a happier and healthier life.  Various agencies and businesses throughout the community are planning to participate.  For more information, visit or call 815-220-8720.  

Other legislation recently signed into law includes:

Abuse of a Corpse (HB 5122/PA 97-1072): Addresses cases in which bodies are removed from a potential crime scene and dumped elsewhere in order to divert attention from the real location, such as when someone has died from an overdose.  Also makes it a felony to engage in sexual conduct with a corpse or involving a corpse.

Adoptions (HB 4028/PA 97-1063): Eliminates unnecessary delays in adoptions where the child is currently residing with the specified person and all involved parties have consented to the adoption. It also updates the DCFS forms to recognize civil unions.

Adopt-A-Park Volunteers (SB 2882/PA 97-1082): Requires DNR to establish and maintain Adopt-A-Park programs to allow private citizens to Adopt-A-Park or a section of a park for the purpose of litter collection. The Department retains the ability to approve or deny an individual or group volunteer’s request; however, the department must state the reason for the request denial.

Alderman Redistricting (SB 3576/PA 97-1091): Attempts to address conflicts in current law with regards to municipal redistricting. The legislation addresses situations regarding whether and/or how a city would decrease the number of alderman if the city loses population.

Angel Investments (SB 3619/PA 97-1097): Provides that in order for an investment in a qualified new business venture to be eligible for tax credits, the business must have applied for and received certification for the taxable year in which the investment was made, prior to the date on which the investment was made.

Beer Distributors and Brewers (SB 3399/PA 97-1119): Lowers the forced binding arbitration qualification in contract disagreements between brewers and wholesale beer distributors from 15% to 10% of the total annual volume of all beer products supplied by a brewer to a wholesaler.

Bulk Plastic Containers (SB 3201/PA 97-1085): Outlines records that must be kept for the purchase of five or more plastic bulk merchandise containers, when proof of ownership is required, as well as penalties for severe violations. This bill is targeting the increasing theft of bulk plastic containers.

Carol Stream Indebtedness (SB 3184/PA 97-1103): Exempts the Carol Stream Park District from limitation of aggregate principal indebtedness of 2.875% only for $15,000,000 in bonds issued by the district that were approved by referendum in February 2010.

Caylee’s Law (SB 2537/PA 97-1079): Increases penalties for failure to report the disappearance of a child 13 years or younger within 24 hours (1 hour if younger than 2). Increases penalties for failure to report within 12 hours the death of a child 17 years of age or younger. Expands the obstruction of justice definition to parents, guardians or caretakers of a child younger than 13 who provide false information to law enforcement or other authorities investigating the child’s disappearance or death.  This legislation was also amended to include DHFS/DHS/DCFS social workers, case workers and investigators into the offense of threatening a public official, if the threat was specific to the individual.
The bill is a response to the nationally-covered case surrounding the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony, whose mother Casey failed to report her daughter missing and then lied about circumstances surrounding the child’s disappearance and death.

Certificate of Good Conduct (HB 5771/PA 97-1113): Reduces from 3 years to 2 years, the time frame a convicted felon must wait after the completion of his/her sentence before applying for a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities. Also allows a person who was convicted of a felony more than twice to receive these certificates. Allows a person convicted of a crime in a jurisdiction other than Illinois to receive these certificates. The purpose of a Certificate of Good Conduct is to provide evidence that the ex-convict has been rehabilitated for purposes of employment.

Chicago Tourism (SB 3631/PA 97-1122): Expands the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau from 25 members to 35 members.

Child Care Licensing (SB 3601/PA 97-1096): Requires DCFS to provide the General Assembly with a progress report on meeting performance measures and goals for child day care licensing. The Department is to work with the Governor’s appointed Early Learning Council on issues concerning child care.             

Child Deaths (HB 4966/PA-1068): Requires DCFS to supply more complete information in reports on the death or serious life-threatening injury of a child whose care and custody or guardianship has been transferred to DCFS.  This is an effort to make it more difficult for the agency to cover up the failure of its case workers to adequately investigate reports or protect the child.

CLEAR Commission Re-write (HB 2582/PA 97-1108): Changes the “Criminal Code of 1961” to the “Criminal Code of 2012” among other technical changes, including adding cross-references, reorganizing definition sections, and restructuring sentences. This is one of the final measures of the CLEAR Commission, which has been working for several years to update the state’s criminal code and eliminate duplicative or obsolete language.  The goal has been to develop a criminal code that is easier to understand and apply consistently.

CLEAR Commission Re-write (HB 3366/PA 97-1109):  Moves several current provisions of the Criminal Code and Chapter 720 Criminal Acts dealing with harm to children offenses into a new Article 12C Harms to Children.  

Code Violations (SB 3406/PA 97-1088): Requires sanitation and building inspectors to include a citation to the specific code provision or provisions of the alleged code being violated and a description of the circumstances of the alleged violation.

Common Interest Community Association (SB 3572/PA 97-1090): Changes the operating guidelines for Common Interest Community Associations, which include most homeowner’s associations (but not condo associations), to increase the ease with which these associations can comply with the law.

Community College Board Members (SB 3428/PA 97-1106): States that one of the 11 members appointed by the Governor must either be the president of a public community college, the Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago (Community College District No. 508), or the Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Valley Community College (Community College District No. 513).

Community College Purchasing (SB 2929/PA 97-1105):  Applies the provisions of the Procurement of Domestic Products Act to the Public Community College Act to the extent practical, to ensure that when purchasing products they give preference to those manufactured by United States companies.

Corrections Department (SB 2944/PA 97-1083): Cleans up obsolete references to more accurately reflect the current organization and structure of the Department of Corrections as a separate entity from the Department of Juvenile Justice.        

Currency Exchanges (HB 5033/PA 97-1111): Requires the IDFPR to approve or deny within 45 days a currency exchange’s application to provide additional services to the public. Currently it takes a long time for IDFPR to respond to these applications.

Customer Notices (SB 3591/PA 97-1092): Permits information about the source of electricity and Environmental Protection Agency information on pollution to be excluded from an electric bill payment envelope, and to instead be sent by email or located on the company Web site.  

DCFS Report Retention (SB 3544/PA 97-1089): Requires DCFS to maintain all prior unfounded reports on an individual who is the subject of a pending child abuse investigation. The Department must keep the reports for 12 months, or until the investigation is over—whichever is longer. Currently all unfounded cases are expunged after 12 months.   

Debt Buyer Regulation (HB 5016/PA 97-1070): Clarifies the definition of debt buyers to assure that they are subject to appropriate provisions of the Collection Agency Act. Requires debt buyers to comply with any applicable statute of limitations time period. Also allows the Attorney General to enforce violations as an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Dental Direct Payment (SB 3240/PA 97-1086): Allows non-network dental providers to receive direct payment for their services under the State Employee Insurance program, while protecting patients from being billed beyond their responsibilities.

Disabled Employee Opportunity (HB 4682/PA 97-1066):  States the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force will operate with administrative support from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (currently the Governor’s Office).

Dry-cleaning Facilities (HB 4526/PA 97-1057): Imposes rules on dry-cleaning facilities that use perchloroethylene dry-cleaning machines. An amendment to the bill makes four changes—first, upon the yearly license renewal with the Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Commission, the drycleaner must certify that the storing and transporting of hazardous waste is in accordance with federal law and regulations.  Second, the Illinois EPA is to report to the General Assembly in 2016 on the impact of all perc releases on ground water.  Third, drycleaners that do not use perc are not required to undergo the training required in the bill. Finally, training that is used to satisfy the Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund can also be used to satisfy training requirements under this bill when the training is the same.    

Electric Utility Brokers (HB 4761/PA 97-1067): Requires electric brokers or consultants that receive payments from alternative retail energy suppliers to disclose that to the municipalities they work for.           

Electric Vehicle Charging (HB 5071/PA 97-1128): Clarifies that electric vehicle charging stations must not be treated as public utilities or as an alternative retail electric supplier, which would make them subject to the same ICC regulation as utility companies.

Electronic Games (HB 4320/PA 97-1126): Clarifies that electronic, mechanical or computer-generate games of skill are not considered gambling so long as the value of the potential prize does not exceed $25 per single play of the device.  Prizes must be in merchandise form only.   

Emergency Care (HB 5142/PA 97-97-1112): Extends the sunset date for state licensing of Freestanding Emergency Centers. This is intended to give Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee County more time to receive a license for a facility the medical center owns in Frankfort.

Emergency Responder Day (SB 3746/PA 97-1124):  Establishes the third Thursday in May of each year as Volunteer Emergency Responder Appreciation Day throughout the State.

Employment Restrictions (SB 1338/PA 97-1132): Extends the date for the Task Force on Inventorying Employment Restrictions to report to the Governor and General Assembly on its findings and recommendations from September 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013. The bipartisan Task Force was set up to review the statutes, administrative rules, policies, and practices that restrict employment of persons with criminal history.

EPA Clean-up (SB 2867/PA 97-1081): Advances legislative “clean-up” language to make major and minor changes to the EPA Act that will make technical corrections within the law. Reinserts the current statutory language within the Public Utilities Act requiring annual IEPA inspections, seal orders, and enforcement actions of CO2 storage sites. Clarifies the current prohibition on installing new surface discharging sewage disposal systems in Illinois.

FOID Cards (SB 1034/PA 97-1131): Makes a number of changes to state FOID laws. Clarifies the law to ensure people who have been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” are not issued FOID cards. Restricts issuance of FOID cards to non-Illinois residents. Outlines protocol for new, eligible residents who possess firearms to obtain a FOID card. Enhances mental health reporting by courts to ISP. Addresses Amish religious concern regarding photographs. Provides more accountability for seized/confiscated/revoked cards being returned to ISP. Amends provisions regarding judicial review of ISP Director’s decision to deny a request for relief from a person who has been denied a FOID Card.

Funeral Directors (SB 38/PA 97-1130): Extends the sunset date for the Funeral Directors and Embalmers Licensing Code for 10 years or until January 1, 2023. Also rewrites the disciplinary section to standardize the Act with other recently revised professional acts, including language that allows a license to be disciplined if the licensee has defaulted on student loans or child support payments.  

Guardian Appointment (SB 3592/PA 97-1093): Creates a new $100 fee for the administration of an estate, which will go to the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Requires that when a court appoints a State Guardian for a disabled adult the court must indicate the reasons for that appointment, rather than the appointment of another interested party.                   

Guardianship (SB 3594/PA 97-1095): Clarifies that public guardians of an adult cannot be assessed legal fees when that public guardian petitions a court. Also makes changes to assure that a guardianship remains in effect while post-judgment motions are pending.  

Judicial Circuits (HB 4991/PA 97-1069): Clarifies that in the new 23rd judicial circuit, there will be no at-large circuit judgeships and only resident circuit judges will be elected.

Health Facilities Planning (SB 2934/PA 97-1115): Makes several changes to the Health Facilities Planning Act related to permit submission, hearings, written decisions, board members and other areas. The amendment states that these changes apply only to applications and modifications to permits filed on or after the effective date of this Act.

Homestead Exemptions (HB 4239/PA 97-1125): Allows county assessors to require that leases show either a leaseholder or property owner is paying the real estate taxes when claiming the general homestead or leaseholder exemption. Also delays a requirement for counties to create a database of tax sales as well as an automated bidding process until January 1, 2013.

IDOT Land Conveyance (SB 2822/PA 97-1100): Authorizes IDOT to sell parcels in Bond, Kendall, Sangamon, Tazewell, Vermilion, and Woodford Counties.

Internet Dating Safety (SB 2545/PA 97-1056): Requires Internet dating services that perform criminal background checks or private database searches, to provide a “safety awareness notification” to all its Illinois members. Likewise, an Internet dating service that does not conduct criminal background checks must disclose that information to its members.

Internet Horse Betting (HB 3779/PA 97-1060): Grants a five-month extension (until January 1, 2013) for “Advanced Deposit Wagering.” Under Advanced Deposit Wagering, bettors place a predetermined amount of money in an account and then can place bets over the internet drawing on that deposit. Also provides that about $475,000 in fees and penalties will be earmarked for the Horse Racing Fund, rather than going into General Funds.

Internet Lottery (SB 3497/PA 97-1121): Extends the state’s internet lottery pilot program to include Powerball games.

Jujitsu (SB 3685/PA 97-1123): Includes Jujitsu and Kyuki-Do in the definition of “martial arts,” but specifies that Jujitsu is not defined as a full-contact martial art.

Law Enforcement FOIA (HB 4596/PA 97-1065): Protects information from ongoing investigations from being disclosed by exempting from FOIA certain law enforcement records created for law enforcement use and contained in a shared electronic record-keeping system (ICLEAR). Records exempt from FOIA include those in which the recipient of the request: didn’t create the record, did not participate in or have a role in any of events the record pertains to, and only has access to the record through the shared electronic record system.

Law Enforcement Records (HB 5602/PA 97-1104): Permits the sharing of written law enforcement records with the appropriate school officials under a reciprocal reporting agreement only if the agency or officer believes that there is an imminent threat of physical harm to students, school personnel, or others who are present in the school or on school grounds. Expands offenses to include misdemeanor crimes of violence. Allows for oral sharing of information when a minor is the subject of a current police investigation that is directly related to school safety. Provides for counseling and referral services to be made by the school for the minor.

License Restrictions/Nursing Plates (HB 4692/PA 97-1127): Allows the Secretary of State to place information about driving restrictions (such as medical conditions) on driver’s licenses. Also creates Illinois Nurses license plates, with a portion of the fees going to the Illinois Nurses Foundation.

Liquor Commissioners (HB 735/PA 97-1059): Allows for the appointment of a special local liquor control commissioner if the person who would traditionally be the local liquor commissioner (Mayor, President, County Board Chair, etc.) has a direct interest in the manufacture, sale or distribution of alcoholic liquor. This stems from a request of a businessman with a liquor license in Niles who wants to run for Mayor.

Mental Health Screening (HB 3893/PA 97-1061): Adopts uniform statewide screening procedures for mental health and substance abuse patients.

Moving Violation Info (HB 3982/PA 97-1062): Requires circuit clerks to furnish a list of all moving violations involving taxi cabs.  The list must provide the name of the defendant, taxi registration plate number, type of violation or alleged violation, and the status of the case.

Non-Violent Offenders (SB 3349/PA 97-1118): Creates a voluntary 12-month diversion program to allow persons charged with certain felony offenses such as burglary, felony theft, felony retail theft, forgery, or possession of a stolen vehicle, cannabis, controlled substances or methamphetamine to complete a program, instead of going to prison.

Northwest Metra Commuter Rail District (SB 2937/PA 97-1116): Creates the Northwest Metra Commuter Rail District which is composed of municipalities located within McHenry County or any territory annexed to such district and requires any property tax created by the district be submitted for a referendum.

Physical Education (SB 3374/PA 97-1102): Establishes the Enhance Physical Education Task Force to promote and recommend enhanced physical education programs that can be integrated with a broader wellness strategy and health curriculum in elementary and secondary schools in this State. The task force shall focus on updating the standards based on research in neuroscience that impacts the relationship between physical activity and learning. Includes provisions regarding education and promotion of physical education to school officials, teachers, and community stakeholders.

Physician Assistants (HB 5104/PA 97-1071): Allows a physician to supervise up to five full-time equivalent physician assistants.  Allows physician assistants without a written supervision agreement to provide services in a hospital, hospital affiliate or ambulatory surgical treatment center. Also removes obsolete language in the Physician Assistant Practice Act relating to billing and employment.

Prisoner Review Board Sealing (SB 3458/PA 97-1120):  Allows the Prisoner Review Board to issue a certificate of eligibility recommending the court order the sealing of all official records of a person who has been convicted of certain Class 3 or 4 felonies and who has met eligibility requirements. The Board may only authorize the sealing of felony conviction from one information or indictment, and that a petitioner may only receive one certificate of eligibility for sealing in his or her life. Upon request, the State Police must furnish information to a financial institution regarding whether an employee, applicant, or other person who participates in the institution’s affairs has been convicted of a felony or any criminal offense related to dishonesty, breach of trust, or money laundering.

Property Tax Calculation (SB 3314/PA 97-1087):  Requires the estimated dollar amount of a property tax increase to be calculated on the equalized assessed value, including the State multiplier.  

Property Tax Notification (SB 3101/PA 97-1084):  Allows the county treasurer to mail a property tax bill to the property owner at a new address if the property owner has submitted a change address form to the US Postal Service. The bill also allows the county treasurer to send a tax bill via e-mail at the request of the taxpayer.

Public Guardian Insurance (SB 3593/PA 97-1094): Provides that a public guardian does not have to maintain insurance on a ward’s real and personal property if the court issues an order finding that the real or personal property lacks sufficient equity, the estate lacks sufficient funds to pay for insurance or the property is otherwise uninsurable.     

Religious ID Objections (HB 4531/PA 97-1064): Deletes a provision that allows individuals with a bona fide religious objection from being photographed for their I.D.  Also changes “disabled person” to “person with a disability” in compiled statuettes.

Renewable Energy (HB 4753/PA 97-1110): Updates the Renewable Energy Production District Act, changing the petition process for creating and dissolving districts; allowing for new types of waste-to-energy production; changes board member requirements; clarifies what actions apply to private businesses; requires districts to comply with EPA and other permitting and regulatory requirements if the district owns, operates, or constructs a generator powered by waste; and prohibits the use of quick take or eminent domain.

Sales Tax Evasion (HB 5289/PA 97-1074): Creates the crime of sales tax evasion in response to an investigation of gas stations that found many retailers were collecting sales taxes but not turning the money over to the state. The Illinois Taxpayers’ Federation raised concerns that the measure is drafted too broadly and could allow criminal charges in cases where there is a legitimate dispute over the taxes owed.

School Bus Insurance (SB 2524/PA 97-1078): Lowers liability on school bus insurance that was increased in 2011 to give interested parties more time to resolve financial and implementation issues relating to the legislation. This bill decreases until January 1, 2013 the required amount of insurance for certain vehicles to $25,000 (instead of $1,000,000) for any one person in any one accident and $100,000 (instead of $5,000,000) for two or more persons in any one accident.

Sex Offender Evaluations (SB 3638/PA 97-1098): Establishes three new professional licenses for sex offender evaluators.  Also requires that juveniles who seek to be taken off the sex offender registry receive a risk assessment.

Sex Offender Psychiatric Exam (HB 5330/PA 97-1075): Responds to an Illinois Supreme Court decision regarding independent psychiatric exams in sexual assault cases. Makes other changes to the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act – including changes involving periodic reexaminations and parole orders.

Sexual Predators (HB 5280/PA 97-1073): Provides that any person who is convicted of luring a minor is considered a sexual predator. Currently, persons must be convicted twice before being declared a sexual predator.

Sibling Placement (HB 5592/PA 97-1076): Requires the state’s child welfare agency to develop rules and procedures to place siblings in the same household when it is in the best interests of the child. Allows former DCFS wards who have been adopted to have access to the Illinois Adoption Registry services to locate siblings when they reach the age of 18.

Social Services (SB 278/PA 97-1077): Creates a permanent Illinois Human Services Commission, which would essentially be a government-sponsored entity to advocate for state funding for social services. Governor Quinn created the Commission in 2009. This would make it a permanent body and allow the Governor to appoint virtually any number of persons to the Commission from more than 20 different categories of social service providers.

State Rail Escrow Account (SB 2861/PA 97-1080): Establishes a state escrow account where Illinois will deposit federal money for maintenance of rail lines along the routes that are used for federal high speed rails. Rail carriers have asked that the federal funds be placed in escrow to assure that the promised money for rail maintenance will be available.

Tax Check-off Funds (SB 3320/PA 97-1117): Creates three new check-off funds on income tax returns for: Childhood Cancer Research, Children’s Wellness Charities, and Housing for Families. Exempts the Diabetes Research Check-off Fund from the $100,000 minimum on income tax returns. Requires Revenue to include the Hunger Relief fund on the return even when it does not generate $100,000 (though it doesn’t allow people to contribute if the fund hasn’t reached $100,000). Creates the Human Services Ambassador Check-off fund to finance the program at DHS.

Tax Tribunal (HB 5192/PA 97-1129): Creates an Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal to resolve tax disputes between the Department of Revenue and taxpayers prior to taxpayers being required to pay taxes in dispute. A taxpayer may request a hearing by filing a petition with the tribunal. The Tribunal will have to hear all protests of taxes, penalties or denials of refunds exceeding $15,000.  

TIF East Peoria and Carlyle (SB 548/PA 97-1114): Extends TIFs in East Peoria and Carlyle for another 12 years.

Toxin Free Toddlers (SB 2950/PA 97-1101): Establishes provisions that will prohibit the use of Bisphenol A in a child’s food or beverage containers. Beginning January 1, 2013, a manufacturer, wholesaler, or store may not knowingly sell children food or beverage containers that contain Bisphenol A.  This does not include used children food and beverage containers.

Wine Tasting (SB 758/PA 97-1058): Allows underage students at culinary schools to taste and spit out wine or spirits as part of their coursework.

Witness Testimony (SB 3726/PA 97-1099): Repeals a provision requiring the Supreme Court to evaluate the effectiveness of mandatory court-annexed arbitration and report the results to the General Assembly.  Further, removes the prohibition on compelled witness testimony conducted by a commission or an administration that is to be broadcast.  Protects a witness not wishing to testify on camera during a judicial proceeding. This is a response to a recent announcement that cameras will be allowed in courtrooms for high profile cases for the first time since 1983.

Zinc Air Button Cell Battery Ban (HB 1261/PA 97-1107):  Adds zinc air button cell batteries to the list of products that can’t be sold or distributed in Illinois, if mercury is intentionally added during the manufacture of the product.

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: