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CAPITOL RECAP: has signed more than 200 bills received from General Assembly

CAPITOL RECAP: has signed more than 200 bills received from General Assembly

By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker signed a wide-ranging bill reforming the state’s gun laws Monday, Aug. 2, at the Aurora Police Department.

Advocates for the new law – including Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly – hailed it as a measure that would provide the statutory backing and funding necessary to retrieve guns from those with revoked Firearm Owners Identification cards, while also streamlining the application and renewal process for law-abiding gun owners.

The new law, which was supported by gun reform advocates while the Illinois State Rifle Association remained neutral, creates a number of changes to gun statutes, including:

State Police must create a “prohibited persons portal” to track people who have had their cards revoked or suspended. Law enforcement agencies, state’s attorneys and the attorney general would have access to that portal.
ISP must establish the Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force to aid in enforcement of FOID card revocation or suspension enforcement.
The $10 renewal fee for FOID cards will remain the same under the law, but beginning in 2022 half of it will go to the State Police Firearm Services Fund which oversees applications and renewals, and half to the State Police Revocation Enforcement Fund. Previously, $6 of that fee went to the state Fish and Wildlife fund while $3 went to the Firearms Services Fund and another $1 went to the State Police Services Fund.
FOID card applicants would not be required to submit fingerprints, but if they do, or they share with the Illinois State Police the fingerprints they filed to receive their Concealed Carry License, they would be eligible for automatic renewal without a renewal fee. That process is to be established by 2023.
Starting in 2024, private sellers will have to conduct background checks on the buyer through ISP or a federal firearm licensee. Buyers would have to submit a record of the transfer to a federal firearm license dealer within 10 days of receiving the gun.
State Police must develop a stolen gun database through which potential buyers may search the serial number of a gun to determine whether it is stolen.
State Police must monitor state and federal databases for residents charged with firearm-related crimes and to correlate the records with FOID and Concealed Carry Licenses.
A FOID Card Review Board is created to consider appeals on denied or revoked cards.
FOID and CCL can be combined into one license and ISP can produce an electronic ID for that license

* * *

IMMIGRANT PROTECTIONS: Gov. JB Pritzker signed four bills into law Monday aimed at protecting the state’s immigrant and refugee populations, saying they will help make Illinois “the most welcoming state in the United States” for immigrants.

Among those are a requirement for local governments to end partnerships with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a law making a person’s citizenship or immigration status a potential motivation for a hate crime, and protections from workplace discrimination based on a person’s work authorization status.

Senate Bill 667, dubbed the Illinois Way Forward Act, prohibits both the state and local governments from signing or renewing contracts with the federal government to detain immigrants. It also prohibits law enforcement from asking about or investigating the immigration or citizenship status of a person being held in custody. It was sponsored by Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero.

Senate Bill 1596 enhances penalties for certain crimes by classifying them as hate crimes if they were motivated, even in part, by the victim’s actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status. Other categories protected under the state’s hate crime law include race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability and national origin.

That bill was sponsored by Jacqueline Collins and Rep. Theresa Mah, both Chicago Democrats. It takes effect Jan. 1.

House Bill 121, by Chicago Democrats Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Ram Villivalam, is aimed at protecting people covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA. It prohibits work employment discrimination based on a person’s work authorization status, defined as “the status of a person born outside the United States, and not a U.S. citizen, who is authorized by the federal government to work in the United States.”

And finally, Pritzker signed Senate Bill 2665, by Sen. Celina Villanueva and Rep. Aaron Ortiz, both Chicago Democrats, establishing an Illinois Immigration Impact Task Force to examine issues involving immigrant communities in the state and to report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by May 31, 2022.

In addition to those bills, Pritzker also signed an executive order establishing a Welcoming Illinois Office within the governor’s office to develop and coordinate policies to make Illinois a more welcoming and equitable state for immigrants and refugees.

Asof Monday, Pritzker had signed 232 bills from the spring 2021 session into law. Another 434 bills are awaiting action.

* * *

AFFORDABLE HOUSING BILL: Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday, July 29, signed a measure aimed at increasing affordable housing investment in Illinois through tax credits.

House Bill 2621 aims to create incentives for building and maintaining affordable housing projects through investment of federal funds and tax credits. Pritzker signed the bill at the Hope Manor II affordable apartment complex in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

HB 2621, sponsored by Chicago Democrats Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Mattie Hunter, aims to incentivize further development of housing complexes similar to Hope Manor II. It is expected to fund the development and preservation of up to 3,500 affordable rental homes and apartments by the end of 2024, according to the governor’s office.

The new law directs the Illinois Housing Development Authority to launch a COVID-19 Affordable Housing Program and directs $75 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to support the construction and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing in areas most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds will be directed to projects in “disproportionately impacted areas” based on metrics such as unemployment rate, students on free lunch programs and poverty rates.

The measure also extends through 2026 an affordable housing tax credit that would have expired by the end of the year. That credit is for 50 percent of the value of a qualified donation to affordable housing developments. Donations for the program that began in 2001 have included land, buildings and funding.

Another provision in the bill directs chief county assessment officers to create special assessment programs to reduce the assessable property value for newly built and rehabilitated affordable housing developments that serve seven or more families. While the program is required in counties with more than 3 million inhabitants, which includes only Cook County, all other counties can opt out by passage of an ordinance.

* * *

LIHEAP EXPANSION: Gov. JB Pritzker also signed Senate Bill 265 Thursday, July 29, a measure expanding access to the state’s Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program to undocumented individuals and prioritizing families with children under the age of 6 years old when it comes to distributing funds. LIHEAP helps low-income families pay heating, gas, propane and electricity bills.

The General Assembly dedicated more than $252 million to LIHEAP from the American Rescue Plan Act in its current-year operating budget.

The law is also changed to expand eligibility to households earning up to 60 percent of the median income level.

The formula for the fee on utility bills funding the LIHEAP program will change beginning in January 2022. It will be a 48-cent base fee for residences, and will increase by 16 cents each year in which at least 80 percent of LIHEAP funds are spent, capping at 96 cents for residences.

The bill will be 10 times the base amount for non-residential customers using fewer than 10 megawatts of electricity and 4 million therms of gas, and 375 times the base rate for those using above that amount.

Previously, those fees were 48 cents for residences, $4.80 for non-residential and $360 for higher-use non-residential bills.

The changes in the fee structure are aimed at doubling participation in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan program by 2024. That program allows utility customers to pay a certain amount of their income to a utility bill. The law is also expanded to include customers of smaller utilities.

* * *

SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS: Students with special needs will be able to finish their last year of high school regardless of when their birthday falls on the calendar, while those who lost a year or more of in-person schooling due to the pandemic and have since aged out of special education eligibility will be given another year to complete their schooling.

Those changes are the result of two bills Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law Wednesday, Aug. 4, while also announcing a $200 million investment of federal funds to expand the state’s early childhood education workforce.

Under federal law, students with special needs who have an individualized educational program, or IEP, are entitled to receive special education services through age 21. For many, that means their access to education services ends on the day before their 22nd birthday, regardless of where that date falls on the school calendar.

House Bill 40, by Chicago Democrats Rep. Fran Hurley and Sen. Bill Cunningham, changes that law in Illinois so that when those students turn 22, they can complete the school year and graduate at the same time as their other classmates. The new law takes effect immediately.

Pritzker signed House Bill 2748, which allows special education students who turned 22 while in-person instruction was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic to remain eligible for services through the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

Later in the day, Pritzker signed another education-related bill while also announcing that the state would invest $200 million of federal funds to provide additional training, mentorships and scholarships to bolster the state’s early childhood education workforce over the next two years.

Of that money, about $120 million will go toward financial support, including scholarships, to encourage child care workers to pursue advanced credentials, according to the governor’s office. Part of the money will also provide coaches, mentors and navigators with resources to help child care workers pursue their degrees.

House Bill 2878, by Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, also seeks to bolster the state’s early childhood education workforce by establishing a consortium among higher education institutions to develop ways that make it easier for child care workers to complete degree programs.

Under the bill, people who earn credentials as an early childhood educator as part of an associate’s degree program from a community college will automatically become eligible to transfer as a junior to a bachelor’s degree program at a public university.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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