Senate Week in Review: December 30-January 3

Springfield, IL – Governor Quinn finished out the final days of 2013 by signing a dozen bills into law before the New Year began.

State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said the measures covered a wide range of topics, including a “clean-up” of the state’s new medical marijuana law, an important extension of deadlines affecting those who treat sex offenders and controversial measures authorizing an increase in court fees and allowing the state Comptroller to intervene in some labor disputes.
Rezin to Participate in Third Annual Penguin Plunge

Sen. Rezin will take the plunge into icy waters on January 4 with more than 200 other participants to raise money for the Make-A-Wish program.  The event, taking place at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa, is in its third year and has participants raise money through pledges that go to fund the wishes.  The event begins at 2:00 p.m.

Sen. Rezin has been involved with the Make-A-Wish program for over 25 years.  

Rezin Filmed for Documentary

Sen. Rezin said she was filmed this week by a young director from Hollywood who is doing a documentary on animal treatment.  Sen. Rezin has pending legislation that proposes to create an animal abuse registry that will chronicle the offenses of animal abusers for the public to view.  Look for more information on this matter in the near future.  

She is pictured here being interviewed for the documentary film.  
Concealed Carry Applications Begin

In the meantime, Sen. Rezin said the Illinois State Police (ISP) are promising they are ready to begin accepting applications under the state’s new Concealed Carry law starting Jan. 5. Applicants can apply through the ISP Concealed Carry Website. Although applications start this month, the new law gives the state police 90 days to actually issue a license.

The State Police and other concealed carry advocates are urging applicants to make sure they have all the necessary documentation in hand in order to speed up the application process.

Medical Marijuana

While much of the national media has focused on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Illinois’ new medical marijuana law also went into effect. It is much more restrictive, limiting access only to those with specific medical conditions.

Shortly before the New Year began Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 1955 (PA 98-0616) which served as a “trailer” or follow up measure to the state’s medical marijuana law. It makes several technical changes including:
•    Removes “complex regional pain syndrome type 1” and “complex regional pain syndrome type II” from the list of debilitating medical conditions.
•    Moves the statutory language regarding driving under the influence of medical cannabis to a new section, and adds in notification language to patients regarding the penalties for driving under the influence.

Sex Offender Treatment

Another important bill signed into law seeks to assure that the state’s mental health treatment system for sex offenders continues to function. Senate Bill 1600 (PA 98-0612) extends the effective date for implementing new licensing and disciplinary processes for sex offender evaluators and treatment. Existing qualifications for licensure are extended until Jan. 1, 2015.

If this date had not been extended Illinois could have been without approved sex offender evaluators and sex offender treatment providers. It also makes changes to the standards that a treatment provider and evaluator must meet. This change will allow those with experience, including experience as a supervisor, to be grandfathered in. It also clarifies the dissemination/remittance process of the existing sex offender registration fee.
Court Fees Controversial

A controversial measure signed by the Governor, would increase two fees that circuit court clerks may charge. House Bill 2327 (PA 98-0606) increases from $15 to $25, the maximum charge for a court automation fee and a court document fee.
However, it wasn’t the fees themselves that generated the controversy, so much as the Cook County Democrat whose office stands to gain from the fees.
The fee change was sought by Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who has been the subject of several investigations by the Better Government Association (BGA).  One investigation charged that the Cook County Circuit Clerk’s Office is riddled with patronage workers among its 1,800 employees.  A November investigation by the BGA found she had failed to report that a campaign contributor had given her husband a building and an October investigation showed that the appeals process for hundreds of Illinois prisoners needlessly dragged on because Brown’s office lost or misplaced critical records.

Funeral Home Labor Disputes

Another controversial bill signed by the Governor could put the state Comptroller in the middle of labor disputes involving funeral homes.

Senate Bill 1787 (PA 98-0613) gives the state Comptroller the ability to deny, revoke or suspend a funeral home license if the license holder is engaged in a labor lockout and the Comptroller believes that the lockout will negatively affect consumers.

The measure was controversial because it effectively gives the Comptroller the ability to interfere in labor disagreements and could put a funeral home out of business. Opponents also raised concerns that the measure could violate federal labor laws.

Other New Laws

Several other bills were signed into law in the final days of 2013, including:

Home Foreclosure (SB 1045/PA 98-605): Extends the state’s Making Home Affordable program for two years (from Jan. 1, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2016). This program was designed to aid eligible homeowners facing foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments to a more manageable level. The reduction in payments may be accomplished either through refinancing or modification of the existing mortgage. The Obama Administration allocated $75 billion to this program.

Developmental Disabilities (HB 2535/PA 98-0607): Creates a Developmental Disabilities Regulatory Advisory Board to advise the Department of Human Services (DHS) on proposed rules affecting developmental disabilities, in particular, the board is to provide advice regarding rules and regulations that impact community integrated living arrangements.

Rural Ambulance Services (HB 2778/PA 98-0608): Allows a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to perform medical services that they are licensed for regardless of the level of the ambulance to which they are assigned.  This only applies to ambulance service providers that serve a rural population under 7,500. This is intended to assure that rural residents have access to the highest available level of emergency medical services, even if a local ambulance provider might not ordinarily qualify to provide those services.

Insurance Regulation (HB 2962/PA 98-0609): This is a largely technical rewrite of state insurance regulations to conform to National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) model legislation.

Teacher Licensing (SB 578/PA 98-0610): Establishes renewal procedures for the Professional Educator License for teachers.  In 2011, the General Assembly passed SB 1799, which established a new system for educator licensure within Illinois.  SB 578 is follow-up legislation and addresses professional development activities required for licensure renewal.

Meat and Poultry Inspection (SB 1470/PA 98-0611): Updates state law to match new federal standards for meat and poultry inspection.
Tax Increment Financing (SB 2071/PA 98-0614): Extends the life of tax increment financing districts in Germantown, Gibson City, Washington Park and Harvey.

Property Tax Errors (HB 1604/PA 98-615): If a property has been erroneously granted a homestead exemption, the property can be considered as omitted property for that taxable year only. Omitted property is property that should have been assessed, but was not for a variety of reasons, including error and fraud. Property assessed incorrectly by fault of the taxpayer is subject to 10% interest for each year (or portion of a year) from two years after the first correct tax bill ought to have been received. Errors by the assessor or by survey, in which the bill sent was paid, are not subject to interest penalties. The legislation does not apply to Cook County.

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