Tuesday, June 03, 2014

End-of-session roundup

By Jamey Dunn

The fast pace of the end of the regular legislative session can make things kind of a blur, and much of the focus tends to fall on the budget. But lawmakers considered several other issues in the final days of May.

What passed 
Voters could be asked several questions on the November ballot. In addition to two constitutional amendments approved by lawmakers—and potentially two amendments proposed through citizen initiatives—three advisory referendum questions might also be presented to voters. The questions are not legally binding and only gauge voters’ opinions on policy. (For more on the proposed constitutional amendments, see this month's Illinois Issues.)

House Bill 3816 calls for an advisory question on whether personal income over $1 million should be taxed an additional 3 percent to raise money for schools.

HB 5755 calls for a question asking voters whether insurance plans that cover prescriptions should be required to cover prescription birth control. The requirement has been state law since 2004, but supporters say they want voters to weigh in because the contraception coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act are currently being challenged in court.

HB 3814 would seek input from voters on the state’s minimum wage. The measure contains a ballot question that asks if the minimum wage should be increased from the current $8.25 per hour to $10 per hour by 2015.

HB 0008 would create protections for expectant mothers in the workplace. The legislation would require employers to make “reasonable accommodations” so women can stay on the job while pregnant without threatening their safety or the safety of their unborn children. Gov. Pat Quinn supports the bill and is expected to sign it into law.

SB 2187 would allow psychologists to prescribe medication when working collaboratively with a doctor. The legislation would require that psychologists apply for a special license to be allowed to prescribe medication.

HB 0105 would make sweeping changes to election rules in Illinois. It would extend in-person early voting hours and remove the requirement that early voters present identification. Voters would also be allowed to register on election day. The legislation would also allow in-person absentee voting on college campuses on election day. Quinn has said he plans to sign the bill.

SB 0352 would allow the state to collect sales taxes from online businesses, such as Groupon, that sell promotional deals and coupons. The move comes after the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s attempt to tax online retailers, such as Amazon, through their connections with Internet marketers based in Illinois.

SB2352 would create an independent ombudsman to oversee the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. The department has entered into a legal consent decree that requires it to improve education, mental health treatment and safety for detainees. Experts who created recommendations for the department found that juvenile detention centers were not offering the education required by law and lacked adequate mental health staffing. Fifteen percent of youth in the state’s system reported, as part of a Justice Department survey, that they had been sexually assaulted by other inmates or staff.

What failed
SB 0649 would have cut the Department of Natural Resources out of setting the rules for fracking in the state, but the bill lacked the votes needed to pass. Supporters said that IDNR is taking too long to set the rules for the controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas. Opponents argued that the department needs time to ensure that the rules protect the water supply and Illinois residents.

SB 2694 The Senate voted to reject changes made in the House to a bill that was geared toward protecting adults from online revenge. The proposal would have made it a felony to post online sexual images without the permission of the subject of the photo or video. The lead sponsors from each chamber could not agree on the final language so the legislation fizzled out on the last day of session. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states have so-called revenge porn laws. Anti-stalking laws in some other states also cover such scenarios.

HB 3836 would have broken the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum away from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Under the plan, the Springfield-based museum and library would have become its own state agency. The House approved the bill, but the Senate did not vote on it.

SB 0016 would have changed the way the state gives money to schools. The legislation calls for more of state funding to be distributed based on local need. The Senate approved the plan, but the House did not take it up for a vote.

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