Many House Republican members’ bills were signed into law in the last week. Please see the listing below of all of the important issues that are now law in Illinois.
- Governor signs bill that strikes back against imposing sexual slavery on children and minors, sponsored by Representative Rich Morthland. Many Illinoisans learned in early 2012 of the continued existence of subterranean criminal networks, often organized under code names on the internet, that transport young persons for sex. In some cases, the young persons who are trafficked are from other countries who are brought to the United States. The young persons are often under physical or psychological duress equivalent to slavery. Prosecutors asked the General Assembly to enact bipartisan legislation that would amend existing criminal statutes to cover these heinous acts and make it easier for them to prosecute the offenders. Representative Richard Morthland co-sponsored the new law (HB 5278: Cassidy-Morthland/Collins), which was signed Monday, August 6, 2012 as P.A. 97-897.
- Representative Dennis Reboletti’s bill to outlaw flavored tobacco tubes becomes law. The new legislation (HB 3801: Reboletti/Raoul), which supplements existing State laws that outlaw and discourage various ways that sellers of tobacco reach out to children and young people, bans the sale or transfer of flavored or scented tobacco tubes that have been mixed with candy flavors or other flavorings. An exception is carved out for tobacco-flavored and menthol-flavored tubes. “Tobacco tubes” include tobacco papers, rolling papers, cigar wrapping leaf, and all other sheet substances used to wrap tobacco for smoking. The sale or distribution of these products is made a petty offense with a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. The new bill is P.A. 97-917, signed Thursday, August 9, 2012.
- Enterprise zone law extended; major Illinois bill signing of 2012 strengthens program that supports an estimated 900,000 Illinois jobs, including more than 350,000 newly created jobs. An increasing percentage of Illinois private-sector jobs are located in “enterprise zones,” site-specific regions within Illinois where employers and their workers are freed from some onerous taxes and regulations. An industrial park or warehouse district located next to a limited-access highway intersection will typically be in an enterprise zone. Critics of the benefits granted to the Illinois private sector under the Enterprise Zone Act launched a major push in 2012 to dial down and possibly even phase out the Act; House Republicans, led by Representative David Harris, fought back and succeeded in winning passage of new legislation that, while cracking down on potential misuse of the program, also perpetuated and strengthened it by extending the lives of existing Illinois enterprise zones by up to 25 years, and merging River Edge Redevelopments into the program. HB 3616 (Frerichs-Althoff/Bradley-Harris) was signed into law on Tuesday, August 7 as P.A. 97-905.
Parks and recreation
- Representative Ed Sullivan leads push to enact law to create a supplemental crossbow hunting season for Illinois deer. Bowhunters have expressed renewed interest in this venerable weapon, known for its portability and stopping power. Previous law limited use of crossbows for deer hunting to senior citizens and persons with disabilities. Sullivan’s HB 4819 follows Ohio and other states in legalizing the use of crossbows for able-bodied non-senior hunters. The supplemental crossbow hunting season, which will be overlaid on top of part of the existing archery deer hunting season, will start on the second Monday after Thanksgiving and will end on the last day of the overall archery deer hunting season. Seniors and persons with disabilities will not be bound by these season limits, which will apply only to able-bodied non-senior crossbow deer hunters. HB 4819 (Sullivan/Forby) was signed on Tuesday, August 7, 2012, as P.A. 97-907.
- Illinois enacts law requiring Chicago-area water reclamation district workers to move towards full contributions for the costs of their pensions. As with many other units of governments, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) pension system is severely underfunded. HB 4513, a bipartisan bill, takes steps to deal with this crisis by directing current employees of this agency to take bigger deductions from their paychecks; these deductions are intended to restore the system to an adequate funded ratio over a 38-year period (by 2050). The MWRD treats and releases sewage and storm waters that fall over most of Cook County, including the city of Chicago. In terms of personnel headcount, it is one of the largest independent governmental bodies in greater Chicago. P.A. 97-894 was signed Friday, August 3, 2012.
Veterans and military service personnel
- Representative Jim Watson co-sponsors new Illinois law to help men and women deal with utility bills when they are called up into active service. Current American military policies impose added burdens on Illinois reservists and persons subject to military call-up. In some cases, these persons are called up to service, including combat service, and utility services to their homes may be cut off while they are absent from Illinois. SB 3287 (Munoz/Nekritz-Watson) grants relief to people in this category. The bill was signed into law on Thursday, August 9, as P.A. 97-913.
Other important items of note from around the state:
- Crop estimates indicate widespread losses and disaster conditions in Illinois agricultural sector, as drought of 2012 continues to influence crop yields. 98 of Illinois’s 102 counties have been declared disaster areas as a result of the lack of rainfall. Current estimates , published Friday, August 10 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, indicate that the Illinois corn harvest will decline an estimated 25% in comparison with 2011, and soybean harvests are scheduled to drop 26%. Not all farmers have crop insurance for all of their production agriculture. The drought increased in intensity after the adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly on May 31, 2012, and the legislature is expected to reexamine drought relief during the fall 2012 veto session.
- Department of Corrections agrees to temporarily halt removal of prisoners from Dwight, Tamms Correctional Centers. In controversial actions by Gov. Pat Quinn, the Department has pledged to transfer all of the confined persons currently houses in Dwight Correctional Center (female prisoners) and Tamms Correctional Center (enhanced maximum-0secutiry prisoners) to other confinement facilities. In the immediate wake of a lawsuit filed by AFSCME, the labor union that represents the prison guards that would be laid off as part of the closure action, the Department agreed on Wednesday, August 8 to temporarily suspend the prisoner transfer for a brief period of time. Should the Department succeed in its legal effort to dismiss the AFSCME lawsuit, the transfers would resume and speed up. It is the intent of the Department to close both Dwight and Tamms by August 31, 2012.