Senator Rezin’s Week in Review 8-8-14

Governor Signs Expansion of Heroin Task Force

Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rezin to expand the scope of the Heroin Task Force. Sen. Rezin also serves on the task force itself. The panel was originally tasked with studying heroin usage of students in grades 9-12, this legislation expands the scope to grades 6-12.

“Heroin usage has become an epidemic among our young citizens of Illinois,” said Sen. Rezin. “The task force was previously tasked with studying high school student’s heroin usage, but many children are starting at younger ages, so we need to find what causes them to take up this deadly drug in the first place. This is the only way we can hope to rid our communities and schools of this terrible scourge that has taken too many young lives already.”

Illinois Has a New Senator

Illinois’s newest state senator was sworn in Aug. 6. Sen. Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) took the oath of office to represent the 24th Senate District.

Nybo was appointed to replace outgoing Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) who resigned to become chairman of the Chicago area Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

 “It’s a great honor to have been selected to be the new 24th District Senator, and I look forward to representing the constituents in the fine tradition of my predecessor, Senator Kirk Dillard,” Nybo said. “Our state is in need of serious leadership and reform. I pledge to be that voice in Springfield.”

Dozens of bills signed

In the meantime, dozens of new laws were signed by the Governor, including a series of measures impacting children and child protection, as well as bills on topics as varied as off-road vehicles, search warrants, unmanned drones and animal welfare.

The flurry of bill signings was a run-up to the Illinois State Fair, when governors have traditionally signed numerous pieces of legislation, often themed to particular days at the fair, such as signing bills affecting veterans on the fair’s Veterans Day or older persons on Senior Day.

The Governor also issued his first amendatory veto of the year, expanding the scope of SB 1630. As passed by the legislature, the bill spells out billing practices of “anatomic pathology services.” The Governor expanded the measure to impose greater restrictions and disciplinary action on doctors who improperly mark up a medical bill.

More Quinn Hiring Woes

The Quinn administration continues to draw heat for its hiring practices. An Associated Press story released Aug. 6 revealed that while the Governor claims his office corrected problems with political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, the administration is refusing to release information on what the fix actually was.

The Associated Press requested information on what actions the agency took to curb political hiring, but was denied access to records. The Quinn Administration argued that the actions they took are preliminary and therefore not subject to a Freedom of Information Request.

According to the Associated Press, the Freedom of Information denial “contradicts the administration’s assertion that it fixed the problems in the spring. The administration is also refusing to disclose the guidelines the government has used for two decades to decide which jobs must be open to any applicant and which can be given to someone because of his or her political connections.”

Legislation affecting children and families

Among the measures affecting child safety and protection signed into law were:

Intervention Services (HB 4407/PA 98-0802): Provides that a child will continue to receive the appropriate early intervention services while any state complaint procedure, due process hearing, or mediation involving a complaint is pending.

DCFS Guardianship Age (HB 4495/PA 98-0803): Temporarily raises the age of a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) guardianship from 14 to 15, which would allow a judge to place the juveniles in question into the guardianship of DCFS. 

Child Care and Adoption Definitions (HB 4636/PA 98-0804): Makes the definition of “related child” consistent in state law by including relationships by civil union and to add a step-grandparent and second cousin to the definition.

DCFS Scholarships (HB 4652/PA 98-0805): Expands the Department of Children and Family Services’ scholarship program from a maximum of 48 to a minimum of 53. Scholarships are awarded to current and former foster-care youth.

Parental Custody (HB 5598/PA 98-0808): Requires state agencies to enter into an interagency agreement to prevent parents from relinquishing parental custody of a child because of the child’s mental health issues. This is in response to parents giving up custody of their children solely in order to secure mental health treatment for them.

DCFS Case Tracking (SB 2909/PA 98-0830): Clarifies state regulations and notification requirements for Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) safety plans involving at-risk or abused and neglected children.

Child Placement (SB 3283/PA 98-0846): Adds “fictive kin” to the definition of “relative.” This is designed to help place children with persons who have played a major role in caring for the child, even if the person is not a blood relative.

Cyber-bullying controversial

A well-intentioned but potentially troublesome measure aimed at addressing “cyber-bullying” was also signed. House Bill 4207 drew criticism because it requires schools to intervene in cases of electronic bullying, even if it occurs off-campus and uses private computers, cell phones, tablets or other electronic devices.

While acknowledging that bullying through social media platforms is a serious concern, opponents argued that expecting schools to regulate speech that occurs outside of the school day and off school property breaks new grounds, places an unrealistic burden on schools, sets a dangerous precedent and is very likely to be found unconstitutional.

Other measures that became law, included:

Search Warrants (SB 2852/PA 98-0829):  Allows a search warrant to be issued by email.

Hunting and Fishing License Fees (HB 4329/PA 98-0800): Provides a $1 fee for residents older than 75 for sport fishing licenses, salmon stamps, inland trout stamps, hunting licenses, State Migratory Waterfowl Stamps, State Habitat Stamps, State Pheasant Stamps, and State Furbearer Stamps. The current fee for a sport fishing license is $7.25 for all individuals 65 and older, while the current fee for a hunting license is $6 for all individuals 65 and older.

Off Highway Vehicle Stamp (SB 2633/PA 98-0820): The legislation sets a new price of $10 for All Terrain Vehicle Usage Stamps for vehicles with engine capacities of 75 cubic centimeters and below. Current law is $15 for all Usage Stamps, and this price would be kept in place for vehicles with an engine capacity exceeding 75cc’s. Exemptions for the stamp includes vehicles for business use, golf carts, vehicles used by disabled, vehicles used only at commercial riding parks, and vehicles used at sanctioned competitions.

Drones (SB 2937/PA 98-0831): Prohibits a law enforcement agency from using a drone owned by a private third party to acquire information (with certain exceptions). Allows the use of a drone without a search warrant, if law enforcement is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency (flood, tornado or earthquake).

Facility Closures (SB 822/PA 98-0815): Provides that when a mental health facility closes and is sold, the Department of Human Services may use to 25% of the proceeds, if necessary, for infrastructure.  From the remainder of the net proceeds, 40% must remain in the facility’s geographical area.

Diabetes and Insulin (SB 3149/PA 98-0844): Allows diabetics to self-administer insulin in any location when necessary. Parents and legal guardians may also publicly administer insulin to their diabetic children. 

Property Tax Corrections (SB 333/PA 98-0811): This is a “trailer bill” addressing erroneous homestead exemptions in Cook County.

Fraternal Society Insurance (SB 646/PA 98-0814): Provides new protections for consumers who purchase insurance products through fraternal benefit societies. The legislation gives the Department of Insurance authority over fraternal benefit societies in order to ensure that these organizations stay solvent and benefits are guaranteed to their members.

Financial Exploitation (SB 2955/PA 98-0833): Designed to prevent someone who has financially exploited an elderly or disabled person from inheriting any property or proceeds from the abused individual’s estate. It accomplishes this by creating a legal presumption for purposes of inheritance, that the abuser died before the elderly or disabled person.

Beer Definition Change (SB 3103/PA 98-0843): Adds to the definition of “beer” by adding beverages that are brewed or fermented wholly or in part from malt products. 

Chicagoland Speedway (SB 3290/PA 98-0847): Allows the Chicagoland Motor Speedway to bring in concerts and additional auto racing schools and functions. Currently, off-road riding facilities such as the Speedway are immune from liability for noise under “normal” facility usage. This would expand the exemption to cover other events.

Amish Photo Exemption (SB 3302/PA 98-0848): Allows for a religious exemption for identification cards for state licensed professions. It is primarily intended to allow Amish persons to be able to be issued licenses without having to use their photograph.  The language for these religious exemptions is identical to the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Any applicant 21 or older seeking religious exemption to the photograph requirement must furnish an approved copy of IRS Form 4029.

Animal Welfare Violations (HB 4410/PA 98-0855): Increases penalties for individuals who violate any provision of the Animal Welfare Act or rule under the Act. Fees are set to increase from $200 to $500 for the first violation; an increase from $500 to $1,000 shall be imposed for a second violation (if it occurs within three years after the first violation); and a mandatory probationary status and fine increase from $1,000 to $2,500 shall be imposed for a third violation within three years after the first violation.

Payroll Card Regulations (HB 5622/PA 98-0862): Establishes new regulations for the use of payroll cards by employers.  Imposes new requirements on employers that choose to pay employees via a payroll card, including requirements to ban some fees, disclose permissible fees, obtain written consent, offer other payment alternatives, and ensure that employees can access their entire wages for free once per pay period and obtain free account balances and transaction histories. Requires payroll cards to allow two declined transactions per month, but allows commercially reasonable fees for each declined transaction thereafter. Also requires the employee to have unlimited telephone access to obtain account balances at any time without incurring a fee.

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