As summer nears, bills from the spring legislative session are now being signed into law – beginning with a controversial measure to expand abortion in Illinois, and a reinstatement of the five-hour school day minimum.
Controversial abortion legislation signed into law
On June 12, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the “Reproductive Health Act” into law. Senate Bill 25 replaces existing statutes and enshrines abortion as a fundamental right in Illinois. All insurance providers will be required to provide abortion coverage without restriction.
I am opposed to abortion and voted against Senate Bill 25.
The new law eliminates state law that had banned both late-term and partial-birth abortions, and potentially infringes on protections for doctors, nurses, and hospitals who refuse to perform the procedures. It also eliminates sanitary protections in current state law that require facilities performing abortions to be held to the same standards as hospitals and surgical facilities.
Five-hour school day minimum reinstated
Also during the week, legislation reinstating a minimum school day length of five hours of class time was signed into law.
The new law states that class time now also includes participation in dual credit programs, supervised career development experiences, youth apprenticeship programs, and blended learning programs. The requirement had been removed when the new evidence-based school funding formula was enacted.
Without the minimum, there was no standard in place for how long schools had to hold classes each day to receive credit for the day. The new law also expands an existing e-learning pilot program to all schools statewide.
High-profile issues addressed
The General Assembly adjourned for the summer on June 2, two days after the regularly scheduled adjournment, after addressing a number of high-profile issues.
Senate Republicans say NO to pay hike
Senate Republicans rejected a budget that included a pay hike for legislators in the final days of the spring legislative session. Late on the night of May 31, Senators were surprised to find a $1,600-per-year salary increase in the budget presented to them.
The $39.9 billion budget, which includes a 2.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to legislators’ base salary, was considered initially in the Senate on May 31 just before the clock struck midnight. Senator Dale Righter was the first to point out that the previously agreed to COLA freeze was missing from the legislation. Speaking on the Senate floor, Righter said, “Don’t try to slip it through in the last hours of session, because that’s what people resent.”
Freeze language was added to legislation that the Senate voted to send over to the House; however, the House sponsor filed a motion to reject the freeze, and the bill was never called for a vote.
Recreational marijuana legalization and medical expansion pass the General Assembly
In the final days of the spring legislative session, lawmakers approved controversial legislation legalizing adult use of recreational marijuana, and expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. I voted against both measures.
House Bill 1438 allows for the adult use of recreational marijuana. The bill makes it legal to possess up to 30 gram of cannabis; however, possession above that limit remains a class 4 felony.
Marijuana remains illegal at the Federal level, even though House Bill 1438 legalizes the adult recreational use of cannabis at the state level, which sends the wrong message to young people. Lawmakers are rushing to legalize recreational use, when more time is needed to analyze the social impacts of legalized marijuana, as seen in other states. We do not know whether tax revenues from the program will offset higher costs of resulting social problems that will place additional burdens on taxpayer dollars.
Another measure, Senate Bill 2023, expands the list of qualifying medical conditions in the medical cannabis program to include ulcerative colitis, autism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoarthritis, anorexia nervosa, Ehlers-Danios Syndrome, Neuro-Bechet’s Autoimmune Disease, neuropathy, polycystic kidney disease, and superior canal dehiscence syndrome.
‘Fix the FOID’ bill stalls
As a strong defender of Second Amendment rights, I pleased that the so-called “fix the FOID” bill was stalled during the last week of the spring legislative session.
Senate Bill 1966 would have required fingerprinting to apply for a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and increased fees.
New applications and renewal fees for a FOID card would have increased from $10 to $20 under the controversial measure. Applicants would also have been required to pay costs for fingerprinting and processing a background check – an extra expense on top of the application fee.
Additionally, FOID cards would have been valid for only five years instead of the current ten, meaning the increased fees would be twice as often.
Inmates helping out with flood protection
Water levels on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers are finally beginning to drop after cresting in the “major flooding” category along much of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers throughout Illinois.
Communities facing the floodwaters have gotten a helping hand from Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmates. According to IDOC, since March their work crews have put in more than 6,000 hours placing sandbags.
In addition, the IDOC facilities have produced one million sandbags, which were distributed by the Illinois Department of Transportation to flooded areas throughout the state.