House Bill 4350, also known as the Child Abuse Notice Act, sponsored by State Representative Jed Davis (R-Yorkville), passed on the House floor last week. The bill will now move to the Senate for a vote.

“The passage of the Child Abuse Notice Act is a huge step forward to save children in Illinois facing abuse and trafficking,” said Rep. Davis. “Many children in these situations are kept away from places where adults may recognize the signs of abuse. This bill will target victims in locations identified by the Illinois State Police, such as truck stops, train stations, and tattoo parlors.”

On April 15, protesters cut–off vehicle access to O’Hare Airport causing major traffic delays, forcing people to exit their vehicles and walk along the expressway, luggage in tow, trying to make their flights on time. Other travelers missed their flights altogether.

The safety issues that resulted from the protesters’ decision to shut down a ramp to O’Hare caused Rep. Dan Ugaste to consider the public safety implications of their actions. Not only did the protesters prevent people from getting to the airport and create a major traffic nightmare, but, their actions could have also delayed first responders and other medical services, like the transport of vital organs, with terrible consequences.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Rep. Patrick Sheehan wastes no time getting to work in Springfield. With just over a month left in the legislative schedule, newly minted State Representative Patrick Sheehan wasted no time getting to work on behalf of his constituents.

In a statement to the press after being sworn into office, Sheehan said he couldn’t wait to hit the ground running for suburban families. And, hit the ground running is exactly what he did.

Legislation carried by State Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) to help child victims of human trafficking heal and move on with their lives following their trauma passed unanimously through the Illinois House of Representatives last week.

When the legislation, House Bill 5465, passed through committee recently, Keicher said, “Victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, especially children, represent our most vulnerable, and we need to do everything we can to help them through their recovery process. That’s why I’m proud to be carrying House Bill 5465. The legislation builds on a law we passed last year by creating an easier process for child victims of trafficking to have their juvenile records expunged or sealed as a result of any criminal acts they were forced to take part in while being abused.”

Earlier this Spring, State Representative Amy Grant (R-Wheaton) introduced HB 1879 in response to an incident involving a stolen prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance at a Chicagoland pharmacy.

The proposed bill aims to close a loophole reported on by CBS Chicago where a Chicago area woman’s opioid prescription was stolen. The incident involved Doris Jones, whose oxycodone prescription was wrongfully dispensed to an unidentified individual that somehow knew her personal details.

Since 1938, the United States Department of Labor has provided opportunities through Section 14(c) certificates to provide every American with a chance to work. These certificates allow employers to hire intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals at wages below the federal minimum and set up “workshops” to provide support for these workers. Despite the incredible strides our nation has made to promote inclusivity and dignity in the workplace for Americans with disabilities, new legislation in Illinois threatens to eliminate these programs entirely. As a result, many concerned legislators are speaking out.

Illinois House Democrats have introduced new legislation that would eliminate single-family zoning areas in Illinois’ largest cities.

House Bill 4795, introduced to the General Assembly by Representative Kam Buckner (D -Chicago), would establish the Single-Family Zoning Ban Act. The proposed legislation would require all townships, municipalities, and counties with populations greater than 100,000 residents to make several amendments to their zoning ordinances and zoning maps. Such amendments would require all zoning areas currently zoned for single-family homes to allow the use of “middle housing”, meaning duplexes, triplexes, and other types of multi-family homes.

With only six weeks left in the legislative schedule, newly minted State Representative Patrick Sheehan wasted no time getting to work on behalf of his constituents.

In his statement to the press last week, Sheehan said he couldn't wait to hit the ground running for suburban families. And, hit the ground running is exactly what he did.

Sheehan was sworn into office on Friday to fill the vacancy left by the retiring Representative Tim Ozinga and by Monday he was in the State Capitol voting his District's interests on the raucous floor of the Illinois House of Representatives. The whirlwind day included meeting his staff for the first time, moving into his office, hearing testimony in committee, attending a Caucus meeting, listening to floor debate and preparing to do even more on day two.

Today, most of the 120 acres that make up Northerly Island, just south of Chicago’s Loop, are underutilized and under-appreciated. However, despite its lack of use today, Northerly Island used to be home to one of the world’s most unique and beloved airports: Merrill C. Meigs Field.

In 1925, Northly Island was constructed, as first suggested by architect Daniel Burnham in his “Plan Of Chicago”. The plan outlined several proposals to bring more beauty to the city, including a man-made island connected by a land bridge that would be used as a space for a large park. However, as the aviation industry grew, some within the city, including the head of the Chicago Aero Commission, Merrill Church Meigs, suggested that the space be converted into an airport that would allow for quicker access to downtown.

The House Personnel and Pensions committee has unanimously approved State Representative Brandun Schweizer's first bill, which seeks to provide members of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) with more peace of mind when it comes to their healthcare benefits. His legislation will protect TRS enrollees from lapses in healthcare services when the state makes changes to their insurance benefits, like it did in 2022.

In 2022, Medicare-eligible state retirees were summarily informed that Aetna insurance would be the only Medicare option available to them. Moreover the change was effective immediately. This forced many people to switch healthcare providers at a moment's notice when they learned their provider did not accept Aetna. In the rural parts of the state where there is a shortage of healthcare providers, this led to gaps in services for many enrollees while they looked for new providers that would take the insurance. It was of particular of concern to those who learned that Carle Hospital of Urbana did not accept Aetna at the time. Carle has since negotiated a contract with the insurance provider. 

The Illinois House Judiciary Committee has unanimously approved State Representative Nicole La Ha's first bill which seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations for human trafficking offenses that involve children under the age of 18 years old.  Children account for 27% of all the human trafficking victims worldwide and the trauma they endure will last a lifetime. This legislation will provide child survivors of trafficking unlimited time to come to terms with their abuse and the opportunity to pursue justice in their own time. 

CRIMINAL LAW

Cashless Bail Fails: Six months of diminished public safety. Six months after the full implementation of the cashless bail, and other provisions, of the Illinois SAFE-T Act, Illinois residents are finding themselves anything but safe.

“House Republicans warned against the passage of the SAFE-T Act because of problematic provisions in the law that make the work of law enforcement officials harder to do, and because the law will make our communities less safe.

Women have had an impact in agriculture in the U.S. for some time, whether it be on the farm, in the classroom, or in the boardroom. Many of those roles have been understated, but the important role women play in the industry cannot be ignored, especially as it continues to evolve and modernize. Moving forward, the next generation of women must be educated and ready to adapt as they face the challenges of the world’s ever-changing fuel and food needs.

The 2023-2024 FAFSA application is due June 30, 2024. FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form utilized by universities across the country to determine whether a student is eligible for financial aid and loans. This year’s FAFSA has seen several changes in an effort to simplify the process for applicants. One of those changes is known as the ‘Grandparent Loophole’, which now makes college payments made by grandparents exempt from the form.

The cost of providing services to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers is costing Illinois taxpayers an estimated $2.84 billion since July 1, 2022. This does not include education costs or other various state and local services.

Estimated Illinois taxpayer spending on non-citizens from Fiscal Year 2023 to Fiscal Year 2025 include $820 million in support services, which is broken down to $478 million for asylum seeker assistance, $160 million for new additional state investments, and $182 million for emergency funding requests.

Six months after the full implementation of the cashless bail, and other provisions, of the Illinois SAFE-T Act, Illinois residents are finding themselves anything but safe.
“House Republicans warned against the passage of the SAFE-T Act because of problematic provisions in the law that make the work of law enforcement officials harder to do, and because the law will make our communities less safe.

After a legislative session day was abruptly canceled in the House of Representatives during a deadline week for legislation to pass out of committees, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement:

“Republicans showed up with good bills for consideration. Bans on kangaroos and exotic cats made the cut while Republican bills to reduce taxes, hold criminals accountable, and strengthen families were blocked by Democrats. The priorities of this chamber are upside down and it’s immoral to leave early while so much work remains.”
A new law making its way through the Illinois General Assembly aimed at tipped workers would not only have a damaging effect on Illinois restaurants still rebounding from the Pandemic but it would also negatively impact restaurant employees as well. 

Rep. Mike Coffey joined the Illinois Retail Merchants Association at a press conference to express their concerns and opposition to the legislation. 

“As I’ve traveled the district, employees who have excelled at providing service to residents have asked me to stand up and fight against this bill," explained Coffey. "They are concerned their take-home pay will decrease and businesses will close their doors."

Current Illinois law allows employers to pay their tipped workers 60% of the state’s minimum wage. That amounts to $8.40 hourly, compared to the minimum wage of $14 per hour. However, if employee wages plus tips do not equal minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. 

If enacted, House Bill 5345 would mandate all businesses who currently employ tipped workers to compensate them at $15 an hour, beginning in 2025. 

“This legislation would cause turmoil in the service industry, causing job creators to cut good-paying positions and putting these businesses at risk of closure,” Coffey said. “Ultimately, consumers who are already feeling the higher cost of living in this state will have to pay more to offset the higher labor costs.”

House Bill 5345 has so far failed to attract key support, as the witness slips filed on this bill show 564 opponents and just 37 proponents. Nevertheless the legislation passed out of committee on April 4. While the legislation is advancing through the process, strong bipartisan opposition prompted the sponsor to promise not to bring the bill to a vote in the full House without first negotiating amendments to address concerns.




GENERAL ASSEMBLY

DEMOCRATS PRIORITIZE BANNING KANGAROOS, HOP OUT OF TOWN. After a legislative session day was abruptly canceled in the House of Representatives during a deadline week for legislation to pass out of committees, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement: 

It is happening in our communities. Often in our own backyards. Modern day slavery, also know as human trafficking, is occurring right under our noses.

Human Trafficking is a crime of exploitation. Traffickers profit at the expense of their victims by forcing them to commit illegal acts, perform free labor, and/or engage in commercial sex. Victims can be of any age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, immigration status, cultural background, religion, socio-economic class, and education attainment level.

Illinois Democrats are pushing a taxpayer-funded proposal that would create a state-based guaranteed income program. Senate Bill 3462, introduced by Sen. Ram Villivalam, would establish the Illinois Guaranteed Income Law. 

Some local and state governments have implemented guaranteed income programs on an experimental basis. Guaranteed income programs provide regular monthly payments to targeted individuals, usually for a defined length of time. These programs can promote government dependency and a reliance on handouts while decreasing incentives to work, all while costing taxpayers millions of dollars. 

For some, the beginning of spring signifies the arrival of new foliage, the start of baseball season, or even just warmer weather. However, for many adventurous Illinoisans, the final days of winter mean that morel hunting season is just around the corner.

Morel mushrooms are a type of fungus best known for their nutty flavor and meaty texture. These mushrooms, which can be found growing on the floors of Illinois’ many wooded forests, are regarded as a delicacy thanks not only to their taste but also their elusive nature. Unlike many other species of fungi in Illinois, morels are a sensitive variety of mushrooms that grow only during the spring months and only under the right conditions, meaning they are as scarce as they are delicious.

On April 8th, Illinoisans will get to experience one of astronomy's greatest marvels: a total solar eclipse. While typically only visible from the same place every three or four centuries, April’s total solar eclipse will be the second time in just seven years that the celestial phenomenon can be seen in the state. Local and out-of-town stargazers who want to experience this rare event can expect to see a total eclipse across southern Illinois at some point between 1:57 PM and 2:08 PM.

Time is running out to file your state and federal income tax returns. The filing deadline for Illinois taxpayers is Monday, April 15. Taxpayers can ask for a six-month extension, but if you believe you will owe money, that figure must be estimated and paid along with the extension form by the April 15 deadline to avoid penalties. 

While millions of taxpayers use a fee-based service to assist with filing their state and federal tax returns, there are an estimated 100 million people who are eligible to utilize several services to file their returns for free. These services can have income and age restrictions; and include VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Preparation), which is provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

Though it may be April Fools Day, Illinois’ comedy history is no joke. The state’s prominence in the world of comedy began in December of 1959 with the opening of Chicago’s most well-known comedy club, The Second City. Located in the young and vibrant Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Windy City’s first prominent comedy club helped usher in a new form of entertainment that combined elements of other art forms such as vaudeville and commedia dell’arte. Improvisational comedy, both short-form and Chicago’s long-form, gained widespread popularity across the country during the 1960s. As The Second City and improv continued to grow, so did the careers of some of the club’s alumni, including Joan Rivers, Roger Bowen, and Jack Burns. Whereas many comedy clubs at the time were nothing more than small theaters, The Second City focused on the development of those who entertained its patrons. The club found itself to be so adept at bringing the humor out of comedy hopefuls that they began to offer comic workshops in the 1980s.