Friday, April 19, 2013

Legislative roundup

By Jamey Dunn 

The Illinois General Assembly had a busy week, as the House worked toward its Friday deadline for final votes on bills that originated from the chamber.

Sex Education 
The House approved House Bill 2675, which calls for curriculum standards for sexual education that would emphasize abstinence but also teach students about contraceptives and using condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The curricula would be for middle schools and high schools, but local districts would not be obligated to use it. Parents could also opt not to allow their kids to attend sex education classes.

Abuse and neglect reporting 
Lawmakers voted in favor of HB 948, which is an effort to address problems in the system for reporting abuse and neglect of disabled adults. The Belleville News-Democrat uncovered problems with the system and found that the Office of the Inspector General Department of Human Services did not follow up on reports connected to the deaths of more than 50 people. The office claimed that “the dead are ineligible for services.” (George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer, the reporters who uncovered the department’s practices penned an overview of their findings for the October 2012 Illinois Issues.) Under HB 948, the Department of Aging will create a system and standards for responding to allegations of abuse and neglect. The legislation creates a multi-disciplinary advisory panel that would assist with response.

Workplace violence 
The House voted in favor of HB 2590, which allows employers to obtain orders of protection against employees who commit an act of violence at work or threaten individuals in the workplace. The order would bar the person from returning to the workplace.

Child Support 
Under HB2843, which the House approved, parents who get lucky at Illinois casinos or racetracks and owe child support could see their debt deducted from their winnings. The racetrack or casino would be required to hold out the child support owed and send the money to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. In exchange, the casino or racetrack would be paid a fee of the lesser of either 4 percent of the winnings or $150.

Guns and pensions 
The House voted down HB 1296, which would have barred the state’s pension systems from investing in firearm manufactures.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 1587, which would regulate the use of unmanned aerial drones in the state. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants to use drones over private property and would ban them from using drones equipped with weapons. The legislation contains exemptions for emergency situations. Drones could also be used to photograph traffic accidents and crime scenes.

Concealed carry 
The House rejected two bills this week to regulate concealed carrying of firearms. Supporters of concealed carry in Illinois are pushing for a “shall issue” licensing system that would require the state to give permits to applicants who meet the requirements set out in the law. But earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to hear a challenge to New York’s “may issue” law. That statute allows law enforcement officials to deny applicants who may be qualified on paper for a license if they think the applicants present a danger. A “may issue” amendment came before the House on Wednesday, and members voted 31 to 76 against adopting it to a bill. On Thursday, HB 997, a more permissive “shall issue” bill, fell seven votes short of passage. Those who are working on concealed carry in the Senate expect to present legislation in the coming weeks. A federal court overturned the state’s ban on carrying firearms in public and gave lawmakers until June to pass legislation regulating carry.

The House is not scheduled for session next week. The Senate is scheduled for session from Tuesday through Thursday, which is the deadline for passing bills that originate from that chamber. Senate President John Cullerton warned there will probably be long hours next week. While lawmakers are trying to get their legislation out of each chamber before the voting deadlines, there are always ways around those deadlines for more controversial bills, such as employee pension changes, concealed carry and same sex marriage. As the adage goes, no legislation under the dome is every truly “dead.”

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