Curran-cosponsored sexual harassment legislation signed into law
Illinois now has a robust and significant set of sexual harassment and discrimination protection laws on the books, thanks to legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) and signed into law Aug. 9 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Senate Bill 75 is largely the result of work by the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention, on which Curran served.
“This is a major step toward ensuring that people can live and work free of sexual harassment and discrimination,” said Curran. “This also makes sure that the proper mechanisms are in place to hold people accountable who commit harassment and discrimination.”
The new law includes a number of provisions recommended by the Task Force, as well as ideas proposed by lawmakers proposed during the legislative session.
Prohibits unions from assigning the same union representative to victim and alleged harasser in disciplinary proceedings. This element was initially filed by Sen. Curran and passed in the Senate before being added to the larger omnibus legislation.
Limits on the use of non-disclosure clauses which could restrict an employee’s ability to report sexual discrimination or harassment.
Updates the Human Rights Act to increase protections for employees and improve reporting.
Expands the Victims Economic Safety Act to offer protections for victims of gender violence.
Creates new protections for hotel and casino employees.
Requires state officials, employees, and lobbyists to take sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training.
Speeds up the process of Inspectors General filing complaints with appropriate ethics commissions.
Creates a Complainants Bill of Rights for investigation in the Executive and Legislative branches.
Requires other governmental units to update ordinances for sexual harassment complaints between elected officials.
“I’m extremely proud to see this legislative package become law,” said Curran. “This makes it clear that we will not allow harassment and discrimination to continue in the workplace, especially in government.”
Curran’s coal ash pollution signed into law
State government will have more control of over where and how coal ash disposal sites are located, due to legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) and signed into law this week.
“The goal of this new law is simple, to empower state government to protect people from pollution,” said Sen. Curran. “This is another step toward creating a healthier and safer environment for the families of Illinois.”
Senate Bill 9 creates new controls for where coal ash sites can be located and how they are run, to prevent issues and pollution from these sites. The new law requires permits for both the operation and closure of CCR Surface Impoundments, otherwise known as coal ash disposal sites. It also creates fees for the operation and closure of the sites. The fees range from $15,000 to $75,000, depending on the closure status of the site.
“I was thrilled to work on this legislation with Senator Scott Bennett and the Environmental Council” said Curran. “I would like to thank them for allowing me to help craft this important law.”
The legislation was signed into law by the Governor on July 30th.
State report shows Illinois deficit cut in half
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released Aug. 29 by the Illinois Comptroller’s Office shows Illinois cut its general funds deficit by $6.849 billion — from a deficit of $14.612 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to a deficit of $7.763 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. That is largely because of a refinancing of state debt from high-interest to low-interest repayment.
The state’s total assets were approximately $53.9 billion on June 30, 2018, a decrease of $400 million from June 30, 2017. The state’s total liabilities were approximately $248.1 billion on June 30, 2018, an increase of $33.3 billion from June 30, 2017. The state’s largest liability balances are the net pension liability of $133.6 billion and the other post-employment benefits liability of $55.2 billion.
Health and social services expenditures of $29.2 billion comprised the largest expenditure function for fiscal year 2018, decreasing by $1 billion from fiscal year 2017. The second-largest expenditures, education expenditures, including spending for elementary and secondary education as well as higher education, totaled $25.4 billion, an increase of $3 billion, or 14 percent, from fiscal year 2017.
New home construction in IL ranks near bottom
The rate of new home construction in Illinois continues to lag behind the rest of the country, according to a recent survey.
Data from a national building permit survey indicates the state was 48th in new homes built per 10,000 residents. Illinois had 17 new homes per 10,000 residents, ahead of Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The report notes that Idaho, Utah and Colorado have the highest new home construction rates.
Legislation Aimed at Reducing Property Taxes becomes law
A newly signed law that provides a reasonable way for drainage districts to be absorbed by municipalities could help property owners see lower tax bills.
Senate Bill 90 outlines the petition process for a drainage district to be dissolved, and allows the drainage district to be taken over by a municipality if that municipality accounts for at least 75 percent of a drainage district’s territory. The new law also requires both the municipality and the county in which the drainage district lies to pass an ordinance with specific criteria for carrying out the dissolution.
Current law allows drainage districts to dissolve but there is no process in place for another unit of government to take over legal responsibility for drainage.
New Task Force Seeks to Help Veterans
A newly-created task force aimed at getting Illinois veterans the help they need for service-related ailments, and ensuring that they are properly compensated is set to begin work.
The 14-member Veterans' Service-Related Ailments Task Force, which will receive assistance from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, has been tasked with examining the disparity between the average level of disability compensation at the national level and the amount of compensation Illinois veterans are receiving.
The Task Force is charged with presenting a report on its findings and a list of recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Dec. 31, 2020.
Illinois Task Force to Examine State Response to Elder Abuse Cases
The new Elder Abuse Task Force created this spring will soon begin looking at how Illinois handles cases of elder abuse. In 2017 alone, more than 16,000 cases of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation were reported to the Illinois Adult Protective Services Department within the Illinois Department on Aging.
The 22-member Task Force is charged with analyzing the effectiveness of Illinois’ current system of reporting and addressing elder abuse, researching what works in other states, and developing a long-term plan for improving outcomes for older Illinoisans.
The group must report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Jan. 1, 2021.
State Police warn motorists to be aware as school begins
As students across Illinois head back to school, the Illinois State Police are reminding the public to be aware of school buses, crosswalks, and children walking or riding their bikes to school.
Back to school is a good time for motorists to brush up on school zone traffic laws, and to avoid distracted driving. In school zones, the speed limit is 20 miles per hour from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days when children are present.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way in a crosswalk, and when a school bus is stopped with its lights activated and stop sign extended, drivers must stop their vehicle before reaching the bus or they could face a $150 fine and a three-month driver’s license suspension.
Drivers are also reminded that under a new law that took effect on July 1, Illinois now has stiffer penalties regarding the use of hand-held devices behind the wheel. First-time incidences of driving while operating a handheld mobile device now count as a moving violation and a driver using a hand-held device while a car is in drive could face a $75 fine.
So please, as kids go back to school make sure they have a safe, happy and healthy year by keeping an eye out and carefully following traffic laws in school zones!