By Jamey Dunn
With three weeks left in the regular session lawmakers have plenty of issues to consider. The House is expected to start taking budget votes this week, but Democratic leaders in the chamber have yet to secure the support needed to approve an extension of the current tax rates. Meanwhile, lots of legislation will begin to fly out of each chamber as deadlines for passage approach. Here are some measures to watch for:
Minimum wage increase
A proposal to incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.15 an hour to $10.65 an hour by 2016 has the support of Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton. Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said earlier this year that she had been working with business groups on Senate Bill 68 to try and make it more palatable. But she will likely never be able to get business leaders to remain neutral on the bill, let alone support it. Cullerton says that the bill has the support to pass in the Senate. House Speaker Michael Madigan said recently that he did not have to votes to pass the bill in his chamber, but that could change as end of session deals are worked out. The proposal currently does not have a house sponsor.
Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis, who is from Sugar Grove, has proposed increasing the minimum wage to $10 over three years. But the increase in his proposal, SB 2004, would only apply to workers who are 26 or older. Oberweis is challenging Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Oberweis has only filed a handful of other bills, which are mostly related to increasing speed limits and allowing car sales on Sundays. It seems that politics might be a factor in his decision to weigh in on this national issue.
There are two bills, one originating from the Senate and once from the House, that would make the it a crime to post explicit photographs or video of someone online without their permission. Sponsors Highwood Democratic Rep. Scott Drury and Democratic Sen. Michael Hastings, who is from Orland Hills, are reportedly working to iron out the differences between both bills. If they can come to an agreement, it seems likely that the measure would be approved by the General Assembly. Both House Bill 4320 and SB 2694 passed in their respective chambers with overwhelming majorities.
Rape statute of limitations
A proposal that would start the time for the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases at the point when a rape kit is processes could get a hearing in a House committee tomorrow. Currently, the countdown on the statute of limitations begins at the time of the assault. The legislation comes in response to a recent backlog in rape kits. At one time the Illinois State Police had more than 4,000 untested kits. The backlog has since been cleared. The bill is SB 2609.
Smoking ban on campus
SB 2202, which would ban smoking on public college campuses is positioned for a floor vote in the Senate. The measure would apply to all university property and would let universities decide what the penalty would be for those who violate the ban. Opponents to the proposal argued that smoking policy decisions should be left to university trustees. The House approved the bill in April.
Regulation of ride-share startups
A hotly contested proposal to regulate ride-sharing startups, such as Uber and Lyft, could come up for a vote in a Senate hearing tomorrow. HB 4075 passed in the House in April. Ride-sharing companies link passengers up via their smartphones with drivers, who use their own vehicles. But the well-regulated taxi industry claims that ride-sharing companies and drivers are getting around the cost of doing business and skirting safety measures and inspections. Opponents to strict regulations argue that they would stifle a new and innovative business model.
Medical marijuana for epilepsy
SB 2636, would allow children with epilepsy access to marijuana as a treatment under the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. Some families have found that a liquid form of the drug helps control the disease in children with frequent seizures. Parents say marijuana oil has helped their children, who may have hundreds or thousands of seizures a day, to cut the number down to just a few. The legislation would also allow the use of the drug for adults with the disease. SB 2636 passed in the Senate in April and is currently on second reading in the House.