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Flurry of spring activity keeps Legislature busy

Crackdown on assault of hotel, casino workers
    Legislation to improve the safety of hotel and casino employees has passed the Senate Labor Committee.
    Senate Bill 75 calls for Illinois hotels and casinos to ensure that a sexual harassment policy is in place to protect their employees. In addition, it requires that employees who work in closed spaces have access to a safety button or notification device that would alert security to the presence of assailants.
    Similar measures have been adopted in Chicago, Seattle, New York City, and Miami Beach. In the wake of this movement, a number of prominent hotel operators have voluntarily pledged to roll out safety buttons by 2020, including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, and InterContinental Hotels Group.
    At month’s end the measure was scheduled for consideration before the full Senate.
Nursing home violations addressed in bill
    State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, introduced legislation designed to enhance nursing home residents’ quality of care.
    Senate Bill 1510 calls for stricter enforcement of the state’s minimum staffing requirements, heightened public transparency of nursing home violations, and enhanced safeguards regarding a psychotropic medication and a resident’s right to informed consent.
    In 2015, 39 percent of nursing homes in Illinois received a low quality rating from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Eighty-four percent of voters in Illinois say that action should be taken in 2019 to increase the quality of care in Illinois nursing homes, according to an AARP Illinois survey.
    Collins was joined by state Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, chief co-sponsor of House Bill 2974, which would provide a non-refundable tax credit up to $1,500 for eligible family caregivers who pay for adult day services, transportation, equipment, home modifications and other expenses when caring for family. The survey found that 62 percent of Illinois family caregivers pay expenses out-of-pocket to care for an elder. House Bill 2974 is sponsored by state Rep. Anna Moeller.
Bill exempts health products from sales tax
    A bill by state Sen.  Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, exempting certain health products from the state sales tax has passed the Illinois Senate.
    Senate Bill 1858 exempts male and female condoms, incontinence products, diapers and baby wipes from the state’s sales tax. Under the current law, these items are taxed at the same rate as luxury goods — 6.25 percent. The bill would lower the tax to 1 percent.
    Senate Bill 1858 is before a House committee for consideration.
Tobacco 21 bill goes to the governor
    The Illinois State Senate voted 36-19 to advance House Bill 345, nicknamed Tobacco 21, which would raise the legal sales age of tobacco products to 21 in Illinois. The bill has been sent to the governor.
    Last year, Illinois legislators passed a Tobacco 21 bill, but unfortunately it was vetoed by former Governor Bruce Rauner.
    The American Lung Association has called on the governor to sign Tobacco 21 because of the potential impact on community health.
    “Tobacco 21 has received tremendous support in both the Illinois House and Senate, so we hope that Gov. Pritzker will follow the lead of his legislators and sign this bill into law,” said Kathy Drea from the Lung Association. “After four years of advocating for Tobacco 21, we hope that this is the year that Illinois will take this huge step in improving community health. This law is proven to protect children, reduce smoking rates, save on healthcare costs and save lives. In fact, Chicago saw a 36 percent decline in the use of tobacco products among teens after passing Tobacco 21 in 2016.”
Bill targets fraud involving Illinois consumer rebates
    Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, passed her measure in committee, which would allow Illinois consumers to have an added protection.
    Under Castro’s legislation, consumers would be protected from misleading practices, especially seniors and working families. The measure would make it an unlawful practice to offer consumers a rebate card that charges dormancy fees or other post-issuance fee.
    This measure was an initiative from the Illinois State Treasurer to prevent banks from taking unclaimed property on rebate cards. The State Treasurer and the Attorney General have worked together to protect Illinois consumers who have money owed to them from rebates.  
    Senate Bill 222 passed the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and will now move to the Senate for consideration.
Plan tackles criminal history errors
    A new plan to hold businesses that publish criminal history records accountable is headed to the Senate floor for debate.
    State Sen. Elgie R. Sims Jr., D-Chicago, is sponsoring the bill, which requires companies that make errors on criminal history reports to correct them within five business days.
    “These inaccuracies have a real impact on people’s lives,” Sims said. “Errors on a criminal history report can cost someone a job or affect their ability to find proper housing. We must ensure companies that publish this information swiftly fix any mistakes or face consequences for their actions.”
    Senate Bill 1599 expands the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act so that a person or entity that publishes a person’s criminal record information on a criminal history report that charges a fee for removal or correction of the information must correct any errors within five business days after notification of the error.
    A person who faces harm as a result of a failure to correct published criminal record information within that time frame is entitled to damages of $100 per day, plus attorney’s fees.
    The plan passed through the Senate Criminal Law Committee and was in the Senate for consideration.
Bill establishes stipends for apprenticeships
    Under a new bill sponsored by state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, eligible youth will be provided a stipend to cover the costs associated with entering an apprenticeship.
    “Many apprenticeships have a high cost of entry, which can create burdens for youth who can’t afford these costs, or even outright prevent youths from entering the programs,” Peters said. “If we can help ease the burden for the youth of our state, we can help them set themselves up on a path towards more successful and fulfilling lives.”
    Senate Bill 1525 would require the Department of Children and Family Services to provide the stipend to youth who are currently a responsibility of DCFS, who aged out of care upon reaching the age of 18, or who were formerly in DCFS and were adopted or placed in guardianship. The stipend would cover the up-front costs of entering an apprenticeship, including fees, tuition, work clothes, rain gear, boot and tools that are specific to the occupation.
    The measure was before the full Senate for consideration.

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