Week in Review: Congressional maps, parental rights & more

Illinois Democrats pass grotesquely gerrymandered congressional map. With the Illinois General Assembly meeting for the second week of Veto Session, the Democratic supermajority stuck to their familiar playbook of partisan advantage, backroom deal making, and waiting until the last possible minute to pass legislation that will impact Illinois families for the next decade.

One of the top issues facing the General Assembly this week was passage of the new congressional redistricting map for Illinois. Much as they did with the state legislative redistricting map, House Democrats voted to pass the fourth and final version of their gerrymandered congressional map around midnight on the final day of Veto Session. The House held no committee hearing on the final map, took no testimony from advocates, and gave legislators and the general public no time to review or digest the details of the new map.
As a result of the 2020 U.S. Census, Illinois is required to divide our state into seventeen congressional districts, equal in population, for the U.S. House of Representatives map that will be used for elections over the next decade. Illinois currently sends eighteen members to the U.S. House, but due to our declining population in the 2010-20 period, Illinois lost one congressional district.

House Bill 1291 contains the Democrats’ grotesquely gerrymandered Illinois congressional map. Under the new map, Democrats are likely to go from a 13-5 majority to a 14-3 majority in Illinois’ congressional delegation. Four incumbent Illinois Republicans were drawn into two new congressional districts across central and southern Illinois. A new Democrat-leaning open district was drawn swinging from the Metro East near St. Louis, through Springfield and Decatur, and over to Champaign-Urbana.

After the Senate Democrats amended and passed HB 1291 on Thursday evening, House Democrats voted after midnight to concur in passage of the new Illinois congressional map by a vote of 71-43-0.

Speaking in opposition to Illinois Democrats’ heavily gerrymandered congressional redistricting map proposal, Rep. Tim Butler called out the double-talk and the grip of “Potomac fever” as Illinois’ Congressional Democrats wholly reneged on their promises to support fair and non-partisan maps.

Rep. Ryan Spain also spoke against the gerrymandered Illinois congressional maps: “Illinois Democrat legislators passed partisan gerrymandered US Congressional Maps around midnight last night while most Illinoisans slept. This video shows my comments on the House Floor in opposing these maps drawn behind closed doors with no public comment on the final proposal. Shameful.”

During the House debate, Rep. Jeff Keicher stated that Illinois Democrats were making a farce of democracy with their gerrymandering, quoting what editorial boards and good government leaders across Illinois have said in criticizing the maps and the grotesquely partisan nature of the process that produced them.

House Republicans stand up for conscience rights in health care decisions. The Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA) protects individuals’ ability to cite a “sincerely held set of moral convictions arising from belief in and relation to God, or which, though not so derived, arises from a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by God among adherents to religious faiths.”

The HCRCA prohibits “all forms of discrimination, disqualification, coercion, disability or imposition of liability upon such persons or entities by reason of their refusing to act contrary to their conscience or conscientious convictions in providing, paying for, or refusing to obtain, receive, accept, deliver, pay for, or arrange for the payment of health care services and medical care.”

This week, House Republicans spoke out against legislation that would remove the right of objection to vaccine mandates because of a religious or conscience point of view.

Senate Bill 1169, backed by Governor JB Pritzker, infringes on an individual’s right to make his or her own health care decisions. In an unprecedented action, more than 50,000 individuals filed witness slips in opposition to this legislation. After a lengthy debate, SB 1169 narrowly passed the Illinois House of Representatives by a vote of 64-52-2.

Governor Pritzker has completely ignored the legislature while managing the State’s COVID-19 response. Willing Democrat supermajorities in the legislature have left all the decision-making up to the governor. The ongoing capitulation by the legislature to Governor Pritzker during the COVID-19 pandemic has yielded harmful results for citizens, businesses, first responders, and other essential workers.

Any proposal to reduce the freedom of religion of the people of the State of Illinois is a direct attack on the history, heritage, and firmly held beliefs of people of every race, color, creed, and religious background. Calling this an overreach of government authority is an understatement.

Their participation has already been severely lacking, but with Illinois Democrats going along with the Governor’s desire to remove religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccines, they have handed over what is left of their ability to govern the State’s response to the pandemic.

The Democrats’ capitulation gave Governor Pritzker even more power over the private health care decisions of our citizens, police, and first responders. It is unbelievable, unconscionable, and ridiculous that Democrats would willingly hand over more power to an already out of control Pritzker Administration.

Nineteen months of government by Executive Order isn't enough for House Democrats. They want to give JB Pritzker even more power. This is another way for the Pritzker Administration to protect its right to mandate health care procedures and vaccines and to aid in its defense in pending lawsuits.

Governor Pritzker’s policies in the management of COVID-19 have been much more reflective of an autocracy than a democracy. The Governor has already seen the failure of his Joe Biden-like mandates. Soon, thousands of police officers, firefighters, teachers, and first responders will face the prospect of losing their jobs if they aren’t vaccinated. This is unacceptable.

When did our first responders go from essential to the enemy? When did they go from heroes to zeros? These are the people that put themselves between a deadly virus and the citizens of our communities. Now you’re going to fire them?

At a time when Illinois can least afford to lose more nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders, Governor Pritzker and his fellow Democrats are doubling down on policies that will ultimately make every Illinois citizen less safe while reducing access to basic health care.

Politics should not dictate the private health care decisions of our citizens, police officers, firefighters, first responders, or educators. Changing the Health Care Right of Conscience Act to remove religious exemptions will erode any remaining trust the people of Illinois have in this legislature and this governor.

Republicans stand firmly in support of parental rights, while Democrats push to repeal Parental Notification of Abortion Act. This week, the Democratic supermajority took the final step to firmly entrench Illinois as the abortion capital of the Midwest.

After years of passing extreme abortion laws, including taxpayer-funded abortions and establishing abortion as a fundamental right, Illinois Democrats passed legislation to repeal Illinois’ decades-old Parental Notification of Abortion Act. House Bill 370 was passed on largely partisan lines by a vote of 62-51-3.

The Parental Notification of Abortion Act required a parent or legal guardian to be notified before a minor child underwent an abortion procedure. The law did not require parental consent, only notification. Safeguards were built into the law to protect victims of sexual or physical abuse via a judicial bypass proceeding.

Joined by her Republican colleagues, State Representative Avery Bourne stood firmly opposed to legislation to repeal the Parental Notification Act as it was debated in the Illinois House of Representatives.

State Representative Chris Bos issued the following statement in response to the Illinois House voting to repeal Illinois’ parental notification of abortion law.

“As a father of two daughters, I am deeply concerned about the repeal of Illinois’ parental notification law,” said Bos. “Worse though, as someone who has spent years in the fight against sex trafficking I am heartbroken for what this repeal means for victims. This is not hyperbole; I have looked into the eyes a minor girl who was coerced into the sex trade and seen a pain I cannot know. She was saved from her torment because her parents were notified when her abuser took her for an abortion to cover up the crime. And sadly, there are many more like her, but thankfully, many of them have begun the process of healing because parental notification was in place.

“It is the responsibility the legislature to pass laws that protect our most vulnerable children, not put them at greater risk. Unfortunately, the repeal of parental notification means those who victimize and abuse children will now have another tool to continue the cycle of violence, exploitation and abuse of children for their own personal and selfish gains.”

Bos spoke on the House floor in opposition to House Bill 370, which would repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act. Video of his remarks are available by clicking here.

Prior to joining the General Assembly, Bos served as the Director of Development for Reclaim13, a non-profit that works to free children from sexual exploitation by focusing on prevention programs for adolescents and adults, and healing programs for children and young adult victims of human trafficking. The organization also runs the only safe house for minors who have been rescued from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

House Republicans strongly believe that a parent should have the right to know if their child is having a serious, medical, surgical procedure. Make no mistake; an abortion is a serious medical procedure.

A young girl who is scared and frightened, and feels she has no other option, may not be forthright about her medical history that could put her at more serious risk of complications, or even death, during a surgical procedure like this.

Without parental consent, children under the age of 18 cannot:
  • Get a tattoo
  • Go on a school field trip
  • Participate in school sports
  • Take Tylenol at the school nurse’s office for a headache
  • Get a driver’s license
Why would we take away a parent’s right to be informed that their minor child is having an abortion, a serious medical procedure? If your child were having an appendectomy or their wisdom teeth removed, would you want them to be alone for it, or would you want to make sure they were cared for after the procedure?

The danger of this legislation is not just that it strips parents of the right to be informed about serious medical decisions their children are making – it’s also the danger it poses to children who are being sexually abused, exploited, or trafficked.

Ultimately, this issue comes down to one central and critical issue – protecting children. It is our responsibility as legislators to pass laws that protect our most vulnerable children, not put them at greater risk.

Parental notification ensures a parent knows when their child is receiving an invasive medical procedure and allows them to understand the scope of trauma if their child has been abused.

Illinois’ parental notification law is strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of Illinoisans, including those who consider themselves to be pro-choice.

A March 2021 poll by The Tarrance Group found that 72% of Illinois voters support the current law requiring a parent or guardian to be notified before a minor has an abortion.

General Assembly passes electric vehicle and battery manufacturing incentive package. The Illinois House on Thursday evening took a big step to attract new jobs to our communities, and to help strengthen the supply chain our manufacturers depend upon to make their products.

House Bill 1769, co-sponsored by State Representative Dan Brady, creates the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois (REV Illinois) Program. This program will provide incentives to attract new businesses to Illinois that will supply our existing manufacturers with components they need for production. Brady stressed that the plan is a win-win scenario for Illinois.

“This incentive plan targets companies who will supply our existing manufacturers. They will bring jobs and investment to our communities, and they will help repair our broken supply chain. Our manufacturers won’t have to wait for parts that are stuck on a ship off-shore because the parts they need will be made here in Illinois.”

Rep. Brady said the plan requires that in return for credits, the new businesses must make a significant level of investment and create a specified number of new jobs in Illinois. He said partnering new businesses with existing suppliers that use their product is also important to making Illinois more competitive, especially in emerging fields.

“With this package, we could attract a manufacturer of electric cells to locate in central Illinois near Rivian, which uses the cells in the production of their electric vehicles. This is truly a win-win scenario,” Rep. Brady said.

Electric vehicles are a fast-growing presence on America’s roads and highways. Led by Normal, Illinois-based Rivian, Illinois workers are starting to assemble electric-powered vehicles and to manufacture the parts and electric drives that will go into them. Central Illinois’ Rivian, which now employs an estimated 3,300 Illinois workers, is specializing in the manufacturing of electric vehicles such as pickup trucks and vans. A separate firm, Canada-based Lion Electric, has announced plans to build a factory in Joliet, Illinois to assembly electric-powered school buses.

Officer Tyler Timmins reaches “End of Watch.” While investigating a suspected stolen vehicle, the Pontoon Beach, Ill. police officer was shot by the suspect. Age 36, Officer Timmins died while undergoing emergency trauma treatment. A suspect was taken into custody, and the vehicle was identified as having been stolen.

Officer Timmins was a police officer in Madison County for 14 years and previously served as a police officer in Roxana, Wordon and Hartford.

The General Assembly pays tribute to all fallen police officers at the Illinois Police Officers Memorial, located adjacent to the State Capitol in Springfield. An annual ceremony at the Memorial honors the officers who have ended their watches while on duty, and Officer Timmins’ name will be added to those engraved on the Monument. Officer Timmins was shot in the line of duty on Tuesday, October 26.

Growth in Illinois sports wagering activity. Starting in May 2019, Illinois law has moved towards allowing Illinois residents to place bets on sporting events. Several well-known national sportsbooks have developed affiliated-branding relationships with Illinois casinos and other licensed entities that helped them get into the Illinois market. The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) collects streams of data on Illinois sportsbooks, and has tracked tax revenues and the overall growth of the industry.

Illinois in-casino sports wagering activities started up early in 2020. After relatively low levels of betting were charted, the casino gaming floors closed on March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 18, 2020, Illinoisans were authorized to place sports bets online. Even after the physical casino spaces reopened to the public, online sports betting platforms continued to outperform the in-person sports betting parlors that casinos continue to offer. The Illinois sports betting “handle,” the total amount of monetary activity directly associated with wagers on sports, rose from $3.6 million in July 2020 – the first full month of sports gaming activity – to $365 million in July 2021. Sports betting had multiplied by a factor of 100 over a 12-month period. More than 95% of these bets were placed online.

Sports betting could grow further with a push to legalize betting on Illinois college teams. House Bill 3136, a measure passed by the General Assembly on Thursday, October 28, opens a window for limited betting on the teams fielded by the University of Illinois “Fighting Illini” and other Illinois colleges and universities. Wagerers would have to place bets on the entire team, and will not be allowed to place “Tier 2” bets on the performances of individual players – even though “Tier 2” bets are a staple of online sports bets on pro sports players. The Illinois House vote to approve HB 3136 was 100-11-1. The vote occurred on Thursday, October 28, advancing the measure to the Governor’s desk.

Sports betting industry watchers say that with its concentration on online wagering activity – a response to the legalization of the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic – the Illinois online gaming industry has grown to make Illinois one of the top three states in online sports betting. In the fall of 2021, Illinois sports betting was posting sports betting “handles” paralleling the sports betting numbers posted by the two leading traditional in-person casino betting states, Nevada and New Jersey.

Licensure of midwives in Illinois; creation of alternative birth pathway. A licensed midwife is a person who has undergone specialized training to assist in the birth process. Midwives are often chosen, in the states where midwifery is licensed, by healthy mothers as part of a birthing process that looks for alternatives to intensive-care hospitals. The midwife birthing process can take place in a mother’s home, but often takes place as a specialized birthing center. Statistical evidence shows that expectant mothers who have been screened for the health of their approaching birth have good birth-process outcomes when they choose a midwife as their birthplace health assistant. Based on this evidence, Illinois midwives pushed in late 2021 to win full licensure as recognized health professionals.

The fall 2021 midwifery licensure bill is HB 3401. The House approved this bill by a concurrence vote of 114-1-0, sending the measure to the Governor for final action. Final House action was taken on Thursday, October 28.

Illinois House celebrates winning WNBA basketball team. The WNBA champion Chicago Sky came to Springfield for official Illinois House recognition on Tuesday, October 26. Although seeded No. 6, the Chicago Sky fought back from their challenging seeding through playoff victories over WNBA teams from Dallas, Minnesota, and Connecticut. In a best-of-five final, the Chicago Sky then defeated the Phoenix Mercury, three games to one.

This was the first WNBA title won by the Chicago Sky. The team plays in Chicago’s Wintrust Arena. The Chicago Sky was congratulated in HR 520, which was adopted unanimously by the House in the presence of most of the State’s elected statewide officials. The team’s coach, and several key players, visited Springfield to accept the honor.