Stuart appointed to military committee
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, has been appointed the state’s Military and Economic Development Committee.
“The armed forces provide many good-paying jobs here in our state, specifically in the Metro East area,” Stuart said. “Serving on this committee gives me an opportunity to protect and encourage military-related investment in our community.”
The committee is tasked with preserving, expanding and attracting investment from the armed forces. Additionally, the committee looks at ways to encourage third-party defense related businesses to expand or relocate to the state. Working together, the committee provides recommendations to elected officials to drive investment and address challenges the industry faces in Illinois.
The committee meets regularly throughout the year, and includes veterans, local officials and experts from the defense industry. Stuart will serve without pay.
Illinois’ three military bases, including Scott Air Force Base, account for $9.1 billion in economic activity, Stuart said.
Law aims to help victims of domestic violence
State Sen. Michael E. Hastings, D-Tinley Park, helped push through a new law aimed at helping protect victims of domestic violence.
The new law will improve the processing and review of sexual assault evidence by requiring the Illinois State Police to implement a new statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking procedure. It also creates the Sexual Assault Evidence and Reporting Commission to research and develop best practices to establish a statewide plan to track and report sexual assault evidence.
“The justice system was created to give our citizens the opportunity to confront their abusers and for the innocent to be absolved of faulty accusations,” Hastings said. “This new law will ensure survivors of sexual assault are equipped with the right evidence to receive their fair day in court.”
Illinois became the first state in the nation to enact rape kit reform law in 2010. Hastings believes this new law is the next step in ensuring transparency and ending the backlog of untested evidence.
House Bill 528 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. The new law is now in effect.
Measure will eliminate credit freeze fees
Attorney General Lisa Madigan applauded the Illinois House for passing legislation to prohibit credit reporting agencies from charging consumers fees to put a credit freeze on their accounts.
Following the massive data breach at credit reporting agency Equifax, the attorney general initiated House Bill 4095 to eliminate credit freeze fees in Illinois. Seven states already ban or restrict these fees by the credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The legislation passed unanimously by a vote of 109-0 out of the House and was pending consideration by the Senate.
The Equifax breach has so far impacted over 145 million Americans and more than 5.4 million Illinois residents. Currently in Illinois, consumers are charged $10 a piece to place a credit freeze with each of the three major credit reporting agencies, unless they are over 65 years of age, an active duty service member or an identity theft victim with a police report. Madigan’s legislation would prohibit agencies from charging a fee for a credit freeze as well as for the removal or temporary lift of a credit freeze.
Access to overdose drug is expanded via order
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a standing order to increase access of a drug that reverses the effect of opioid overdoses.
Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, backed legislation in 2015 to make Naloxone, or Narcan, more accessible and affordable for law enforcement agencies and first responders. Narcan has been used by officers to save lives of Illinoisans across the state, she said.
Laws aim to assist public safety response
Two new emergency services laws have been signed in Illinois, one ensuring that directors and chiefs can respond to emergencies more safely, and another making it easier for local emergency services agencies to hire qualified individuals.
Pontiac Chief Jim Woolford was the driving force behind HB0305, a bill amending the Illinois Municipal Code for police and fire department employment college education requirements. Previously, police and fire applicants were required to have an associate’s degree or to have served 24 months of active duty or 180 days combat duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Now candidates may obtain a waiver of the associate’s degree requirement if they have completed at least 60 college credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree.
Kent McCanless, director of the Woodford County Emergency Management Agency, pushed for the measure to allow top municipal emergency response officials to equip their vehicles with loud audible devices. Passage of HB3469 means that vehicles driven by fire chiefs, chiefs of police, sheriffs or chief emergency medical services officers may be equipped with a siren, whistle or bell audible from a distance of no less than 500 feet. The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Legislation would target private school tax credits
State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, has filed legislation to ensure public schools are funded adequately before any state funding is diverted to pay for costly private school scholarship programs.
Bertino-Tarrant’s measure, Senate Bill 2236, was filed in response to Senate Bill 1947, which includes a five-year pilot program that would award a 75 percent tax credit to donors that contribute to scholarship funds for students to attend non-public schools. The credits are capped at of up to $1 million per taxpayer and $75 million statewide.
Bertino-Tarrant said this could take valuable taxpayer dollars away from Illinois’ public schools especially if the minimum funding level is not met.
The new school funding mechanism outlined in Senate Bill 1947 established an evidence-based funding formula to dispense state dollars to public schools. The formula institutes a base funding minimum for school districts that serves as a hold harmless to ensure schools do not lose state dollars the next year.