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CAPITOL RECAP: New legislative maps passed on little notice

CAPITOL RECAP: New legislative maps passed on little notice

By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers passed measures Friday, May 28, to redraw state legislative and judicial district lines, less than 24 hours after the bills implementing the maps were introduced.

The latest versions of the legislative maps were released about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The actual legislation to implement them was released in the early hours of Friday morning, according to lawmakers. Those bills were then heard in the House and Senate Redistricting committees during 9:30 a.m. hearings that were announced with about one hour’s notice.

Those revised House and Senate maps are similar to a draft set of maps that were released late last week and were the subject of joint committee hearings Tuesday and Wednesday. During the Tuesday hearing, the maps drew wide criticism from racial, ethnic and religious communities, particularly in the Chicago area, who complained that they broke up communities of interest and diluted minority voting power.

In a press release Friday night, Democrats said they took those comments into consideration, along with concerns of some Republicans.

Those changes included keeping more of the Chicago-area Orthodox Jewish community in a single district and keeping the North Lawndale neighborhood, a predominantly Black community, in one district.

The revised maps also reconfigure some Republican districts to reduce the number of districts that would have multiple GOP incumbents.

But those changes did not appear to satisfy many of the concerns that were raised about the earlier proposal, including one that called for a district made up largely of Middle Eastern and Arab American residents.

“I think our question now is, what else can we do?” Dilara Sayeed, of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, asked during Friday’s House committee hearing. “What else can we do to ensure that our voices have not just been audio heard, but our voices have been respected and listened to?”

Republicans also were harshly critical of how the latest redistricting proposal was released and the short notice members of the public had to offer public comment at the hearings.

Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the process by which the proposed maps were developed demonstrated the need for handing over the redistricting process to an independent commission.

The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 41-18. A few hours later it came up in the House where the debate became even more partisan and acrimonious before it passed 71-45 on partisan lines just before 10 p.m.

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COURT MAPS: The House passed Supreme Court remap legislation by 72-45 vote Friday, May 28, before passing the Senate 41-18 shortly after that, leading Republicans to call for a veto from Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker.

Legislative Republicans denounced Democrats for dropping the latest version of the judicial map late Thursday night and scheduling new redistricting committee hearings an hour before those committees were held at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The second map is nearly identical to the first judicial map draft released on Tuesday.

Democrats maintain that Illinois Supreme Court redistricting is needed because those districts have remained unchanged since the early 1960s.

They claim that major population changes in the five judicial districts justify a new Illinois Supreme Court map, in order to comply with the state constitution’s requirement that the four districts outside of Cook County have “substantially equal population.”

Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, said he did not draw the maps, did not know who drew the maps, and did not know how the lines were drawn.

Republicans said they believe the new map is motivated primarily by the election loss of Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride, who was not retained by voters in the November 2020 election.

Kilbride’s failure to earn the 60 percent of the vote needed to gain retention in the 3rd District is the first time in Illinois Supreme Court history that a sitting justice lost a retention election.

During floor debate on the map Friday, Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, an Elmhurst Republican, described the Democrats’ new judicial map as “the Democratic Party’s efforts to manipulate the Illinois Supreme Court, as they’ve done in every other branch of government” in response to Kilbride’s loss.

Currently, the court has a 4-3 Democratic majority. After Kilbride lost his retention election, the justices appointed Democrat Robert Carter to fill his seat.

The three Republican justices hail from the 2nd, 4th and 5th districts.

The new map redraws the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th districts, which each have one elected justice. Three justices are elected from the 1st District, which spans Cook County.

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MAPES INDICTED: The former longtime chief of staff to former House Speaker Michael Madigan was indicted Wednesday, May 26, for allegedly lying under oath and attempting to obstruct justice.

Tim Mapes, who also formerly served as the House clerk, was granted immunity in connection with the federal investigation into potentially criminal efforts by officials and lobbyists with Commonwealth Edison to curry favor with Madigan in exchange for favorable energy legislation. Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

Mapes allegedly lied to the grand jury when he testified in March about whether he had knowledge about Madigan’s sensitive communications with an unnamed consultant, who is only identified as Individual B in the indictment.

He also lied about whether he knew that the consultant carried out work and assignments on behalf of the former speaker and communicated messages on his behalf, the indictment states.

Andrew Porter and Katie Hill, lawyers who represent Mapes, said in an emailed statement that Mapes testified truthfully to the grand jury. They are attorneys with Chicago-based Salvatore Prescott Porter & Porter, PLLC.

“His honest recollections – in response to vague and imprecise questions about events that allegedly took place many years ago – simply do not constitute perjury. This case, of course, is not about him—but about the government’s continued pursuit of his former boss. Tim Mapes has in no way engaged in obstruction of justice, and looks forward to prevailing at trial when all of the facts are aired,” Porter said in the email.

In July 2019, ComEd officials admitted to participating in a yearslong bribery scheme aimed at influencing Madigan. Through a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, the company agreed to pay a $200 million fine in exchange for cooperating with the investigation.

Mapes is also former clerk for the House of Representatives and former executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party. His indictment is the latest fallout from the federal investigation into ComEd’s lobbying efforts.

Mapes pleaded not guilty Friday, according to Chicago media outlets.

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SEX EDUCATION BILL: The Illinois House passed legislation on Friday, May 28, updating the state’s sex education curriculum in a partisan split.

The bill, which creates a new “personal health and safety” curriculum for grades K-5, and a “sexual health education” for grades 6-12, received resistance from Republican lawmakers and religious groups for its “culturally appropriate” guidelines, including education on gender identities, different types of families, sexual orientation, consent and a woman’s options during pregnancy.

The legislation, an amendment to Senate Bill 818, passed the Senate last week on a 37-18 vote along partisan lines. Floor debate was punctuated with contentious speeches, with Xenia Republican Sen. Darren Bailey referring to the bill as “perversion” multiple times while urging a “no” vote.

Under current law, parents and guardians may opt their student out of sex education classes with no penalty. That provision would remain in the new legislation.

While a previous version of the legislation set a mandatory deadline by which all schools would be required to teach sex ed, the most recent amendment allows each individual school district to determine whether it will teach the subject.

However, if a district decides to offer sexual health education, the curriculum must use all or part of the curriculum established by the bill.

The actual statewide curriculum based on the guidelines for sexual health education and personal health and safety would be developed by the Illinois State Board of Education by Aug. 1, 2022.

But many of the guidelines contained in the statute require that sex ed curricula be aligned with National Sex Education Standards, an initiative by non-government organizations to provide “guidance on essential minimum core content and skills needed for sex education that is age-appropriate.”

Republicans balked at aligning state education standards to out-of-state guidelines designed by individuals unaffiliated with government entities, some of whom are listed in the standards as representing Planned Parenthood.

The National Sex Education Standards are in their second edition, and ISBE would adjust the state’s curriculum under the law to be in alignment with new editions as they are released.

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LEAD SERVICE LINES: The Illinois Senate passed a bill Friday, May 28, which would require water utilities to replace lead service lines.

House Bill 3739, known as the Lead Service Line Notification and Replacement Act, would require all water utilities to compile an inventory of all known lead water service lines and submit a plan for removal and replacement of the lines to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the installation of new lead service lines has been banned since the 1980s, Illinois has more than 636,000 lead service lines still in operation, according to data from the Metropolitan Planning Council.

That number accounts for more than one-eighth of all lead service lines still in use in the United States, according to the Illinois Environmental Council.

Under the bill, water utilities would be required to submit an initial plan for lead service line replacement by April 15, 2024, with a final plan due to IEPA by April 15, 2027.

The bill allows water utilities to apply for extensions to the deadlines, if needed. The bill would also establish a state-run grant program to assist in minimizing the costs of lead line replacement.

Bush said the long deadlines allow for communities to plan funding for the removal and replacement projects, which Republicans raised as a major concern to the legislation.

Bush responded the state is prepared to receive federal funding to assist in minimizing the cost of lead service line removal, which she said is estimated to cost near $5 billion.

She added a total of more than $45 billion in proposed funding for lead service line replacement is moving through Congress, and that the state would also explore using funding made available through the federal coronavirus relief packages.

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MARIJUANA LICENSES: Legislation revamping the state’s system for awarding marijuana dispensary licenses passed the House on Tuesday, May 25. After the bill passed the Senate Friday, May 28, by a 50-3 vote, it will head to Gov. JB Pritzker for a signature,who said in a statement he looks forward to signing the bill “so that we can begin the next phase creating a cannabis industry that reflects the diversity of all of our people.”

Amendments to House Bill 1443, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford, would create two new marijuana dispensary lotteries offering 55 licenses each while addressing lingering concerns regarding the original 75 licenses established in the 2019 law.

It passed the House in a 70-33 vote with bipartisan support, but also bipartisan opposition.

The 75 licenses initially set by the 2019 law were supposed to be granted by May 2020, but were sidelined by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and legal challenges.

Originally, the process as intended would award licenses in order of applicant scores with tiebreaker lotteries for applicants who received the same score. However, after just 21 of more than 900 applicants received a perfect score to become eligible for the lottery, a hold was placed on the lottery system.

Under Ford’s legislation, the first new batch of 55 licenses would be offered through a “Qualifying Applicant Lottery” which would only be open to applicants who scored 85 percent or higher on submissions for the first 75 licenses.

This would provide a chance at dispensary licenses to firms who did not receive a perfect score and were excluded from the initial 75-license lottery, and firms who did qualify for the initial tiebreaker lottery but have not hit the 10-license cap for applicants.

The second new batch of 55 licenses would be offered through a “Social Equity Justice Involved Lottery.” Those eligible must have scored 85 percent or higher on their submission, and must also qualify as a social equity applicant. That means 51 percent of the firm’s ownership must be someone who has lived in an area impacted by the war on drugs for 10 years, have been arrested or convicted of a marijuana crime eligible for expungement, or be a member of a family impacted by the war on drugs.

Another lottery of five licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries would also be open to applicants who were eligible for the social equity or qualifying lotteries.

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ENERGY UPDATE: Nearly 50 legislators identifying as the Illinois Legislative Green Caucus signed a letter Wednesday, May 26, asking leadership to make equity and utility accountability the foundation of an energy overhaul bill expected before the General Assembly adjourns May 31.

“For too long, utilities have dictated energy policy in Illinois. It is imperative that this time around, any energy package is driven by climate, communities and consumers,” the letter read.

The letter was sent to Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch on Wednesday, the same day federal prosecutors issued another indictment in an ongoing criminal investigation that heavily involves one of the state’s largest public utilities.

Tim Mapes, former chief of staff for ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan, was indicted for allegedly lying under oath and attempting to obstruct justice. It was the latest twist in an investigation which has already seen utility giant Commonwealth Edison enter into a deferred prosecution agreement in which it admitted to attempting to bribe a high-ranking public official, identified as Madigan, with no-work jobs for his associates.

Former ComEd executives Anne Pramaggiore and John Hooker, as well as former ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain, who is a close Madigan confidant, and consultant Jay Doherty, have also been indicted. Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

A major omnibus energy bill could be released at any time with just five days remaining in the legislative session, but it is unclear when.

Rep. Ann Williams, who is the sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act and a signatory on the letter, told Capitol News Illinois on Thursday that an energy working group is continuing its effort to find a compromise, but she is “not sure” when a final package will be released.

The letter soundly rejected any energy bill which would let public utilities call the shots as to what level of subsidy they would receive.

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IMMIGRANT PROTECTIONS: The Illinois Senate passed a bill Friday, May 28, which would strengthen legal protections for immigrants and require the closure of immigrant detention centers in the state.

Senate Bill 667, known as the Illinois Way Forward Act, would amend the Illinois Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools, or TRUST, Act, which took effect in 2017.

The bill would prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or from otherwise inquiring about an individual’s immigration status unless presented with a federal warrant.

The bill was introduced by Chicago Democrat Omar Aquino, who said it would also “finish the job” of ending ICE detention in Illinois, which was barred through the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act passed in 2019.

Under SB 667, all existing immigrant detention centers in the state would be required to close by Jan. 1, 2022. The bill would also allow the state attorney general’s office to investigate violations of the TRUST Act and enforce compliance through local courts.

The bill would not prevent law enforcement agencies from investigating or detaining individuals in violation of criminal law.

The bill passed the Senate Friday, 36-19, and will now be sent to the House for consideration.

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PRETRIAL INTEREST BILL SIGNED: Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation Friday, May 28, allowing for plaintiffs to collect pretrial interest on money awarded in some civil suits, after vetoing a previous version of the provision in March.

An amendment to Senate Bill 72, introduced by Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, grants 6 percent pretrial interest on money awarded to plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in civil court.

Hospitals and health care providers are typical defendants in these cases.

Before the passage of the legislation, plaintiffs received only 9 percent interest post-judgment in Illinois. That would be interest accrued on the plaintiff’s monetary award from when the judgment is made to the time the monetary judgment is received.

Now, additional interest on monetary awards is retroactively applied from the time the lawsuit is filed to the time a judgment is made in favor of the plaintiff.

Both apply only to cases settled in court, encouraging defendants to settle with plaintiffs out of court.

There are 47 states, including Illinois, that now have some form of pretrial interest for court winnings. In his March veto message, Pritzker said he did not support the previous version of the bill because its rate of 9 percent interest was significantly higher than other states with similar laws.

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HAIR DISCRIMINATION: The Illinois House passed a bill Thursday, May 27, to prevent “hair discrimination” in schools, sending it back to the Illinois Senate.

Senate Bill 817, originally introduced by Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, prevents Illinois schools from enforcing dress codes that prohibit hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity or texture, including braids, locks and twists.

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who served as the bill’s lead sponsor in the House, said the bill aims to address “historical wrongs.”

Harris cited instances of Black students who were required to change their natural hairstyles as a result of school policies, or who were prevented from participating in school activities outright until they changed their hair.

“I think it’s time to redress those issues, to correct them, and make sure that all our young people when they go to school, anxious to learn…that they’re welcome there, they’re respected there, and they’re all treated equally there,” Harris said on the House floor Thursday.

The bill has been dubbed the “Jett Hawkins Law,” named for the young boy who brought the issue to Simmons’ attention with his mother earlier this session. Hawkins was sent home from school after his hair was deemed in violation of school dress code.

Hawkins’ mother, Ida Nelson, said during a committee hearing on Tuesday that the bill addresses historic inequities in school discrimination, adding that restrictive hair policies disproportionately target Black children and negatively affect self-image and mental health for children of color.

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LATINO CAUCUS: The Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus laid out a policy agenda Thursday, May 27, that includes bills to strengthen protections for immigrants among several other measures.

One of the proposals, Senate Bill 225, would prohibit the Illinois Secretary of State from sharing facial recognition data with local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, if they’re trying to enforce federal immigration law.

SB 225, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, passed out of the House, 65-47, on Thursday after a brief debate. It will head to the Senate for concurrence after being amended in the House.

Gonzalez said he filed an amendment that would exclude the law from applying to requests from law enforcement agencies or other governmental entities when the purpose of the request relates to criminal activity other than immigration law violations.

The House also passed Senate Bill 2665, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Aaron Ortiz, which would reinstate the Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Force, which expired in January 2021. It passed 79-35.

The 27-member task force would examine how Illinois is proactively helping immigrant communities, what the state can do going forward to improve relations between the state and immigrant communities, the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities, and the practices and procedures of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the state, among other issues.

Another proposal on the Latino Caucus’ agenda, Senate Bill 667, would strengthen the TRUST Act, or “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools,” which took effect in 2017.

The TRUST Act prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from detaining “any individual solely on the basis of any immigration detainer or nonjudicial immigration warrant.”

SB 667 would empower the state attorney general’s office to investigate violations of the TRUST Act and enforce compliance through local courts.

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SEXTING EDUCATION: The Illinois Senate on Thursday, May 27, passed a measure requiring public schools to include the dangers of “sexting” in sex education coursework and another lifting a ban on people convicted of drug crimes from receiving certain family benefits.

House Bill 24 requires public schools that teach sex education for grades 6-12 to include “age-appropriate” education on the impacts of “sexting,” or sending or receiving sexually explicit images electronically.

That education would include the discussion of “the possible long-term legal, social, academic, and other consequences that may result from possessing sexual content.” The measure applies to school districts that already teach sex education.

Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, sponsored the bill in the Senate, while Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, carried it in the House.

The measure passed 42-12 in the Senate. It passed the House on April 15 with 115-0, meaning it needs only a signature from the governor to become law.

TANF benefits: The Senate also passed House Bill 88, which would provide that a conviction for a drug crime would not make an Illinoisan ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program provides temporary financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, said during floor debate the bill aims to end “punishment of people who have served their time.”

“We know that individuals re-entering the community have a difficult time finding housing, employment and educational opportunities,” Van Pelt said. “This drug felony ban is yet another barrier to reunite families.”

Van Pelt called the ban an “antiquated, racist policy” that is “directly linked to the failed war on drugs.”

But Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said it was a “frustration” for Republicans that the lifting of the ban would also apply to drug dealers, not just to those convicted of using or possessing drugs or other such offenses.

Van Pelt responded that “murderers, arsonists, rapists, they can all come back and get public aid, food stamps and everything,” under current law, but drug users cannot.

The measure passed 37-15. It already passed the House 67-41, so it needs only a signature from the governor to become law as well.

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UNIONIZATION BILL: The Illinois House passed a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday, May 26, that would guarantee workers in the state the right to unionize.

The proposed amendment, which passed the Senate last week, would provide that employees have a “fundamental right” to organize and engage in collective bargaining over wages, hours and working conditions. It would also prohibit the state or any local government from enacting so-called “right-to-work” laws, which prohibit contracts that make union membership a condition of employment.

Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, the lead sponsor of the measure in the House, framed the vote as a choice between standing up for the rights of workers or the interests of business.

Currently, 28 states, mainly in the Deep South and Great Plains, have some form of right-to-work laws or constitutional amendments on the books, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, including the neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, noted that very few states have right-to-unionize amendments, and she warned of potential unforeseen consequences if Illinois adopts one.

“When the state of Hawaii tried to actually make adjustments to a pay period, they actually got hauled into court by employees who said that that represented a diminishment in (and) interference with their collective bargaining rights,” she said.

The amendment passed the House with bipartisan support, 80-30, which was more than the three-fifths majority needed for passage. It will next be placed on the November 2022 general election ballot where it will need approval from three-fifths of all those voting on the question, or a simple majority of all ballots cast in the election, to be ratified.

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HOUSING RECOVERY PROGRAM: The Illinois Senate passed a bill Wednesday, May 26, which would create a new housing program for individuals living with mental illness or substance use disorders.

House Bill 449 creates the “Housing is Recovery Pilot Program Act,” a new program which would offer bridge rental subsidies to individuals at high risk for “unnecessary institutionalization” due to mental illness, or those at high risk of overdose or death due to substance abuse.

The bill, which is subject to appropriations, has already passed the House and needs only a signature from the governor to become law.

Chief Senate sponsor Cristina Castro, an Elgin Democrat, said in a Wednesday statement the bill will “help break the cycle of institutionalization for those struggling with mental health issues and addiction.”

In order to qualify for the program, individuals must be currently enrolled or eligible to enroll in Medicaid for the purposes of receiving treatment for mental health or substance abuse disorders.

If approved to receive a bridge rental subsidy, individuals would be responsible for contributing 30 percent of their own income toward the cost of rent. The program would be administered by the state’s Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health.

The bill would also establish a plan and materials to educate landlords on the program to reduce stigma or hesitation to participating in the program.

The bill also states the tenant participating in the program must “agree to engagement services initiated by the supported housing provider, the Community Mental Health Center or contracted mental health or substance use treatment provider at least two times a month.” One of those must be a home visit, but a clinic visit is not required.

During debate on the bill, Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican, questioned whether the language was strong enough in requiring treatment, arguing that it could open the door to individuals abusing the program.

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PRISONER MEDICAL RELEASE: The Illinois Senate advanced a bill Wednesday, May 26, that would give the Prisoner Review Board additional authority to consider early release for prisoners who have petitioned for such action due to medical incapacity or terminal illness.

House Bill 3665, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Connor, D-Lockport, was heavily debated on the Senate floor as Republicans questioned giving more authority to a board that has four members still unconfirmed by the Senate for their appointments made by the governor nearly two years ago.

The PRB, an independent 15-person body appointed by the governor, imposes release conditions for incarcerated individuals being released from prison.

The board has the authority to grant, deny or determine conditions of parole and notify victims and families when an inmate is going to be released from custody. The board also makes recommendations for clemency petitions to the governor.

HB 3665 passed out of the Senate on a 34-17 vote with one voting present, and will need only a signature from the governor to become law.

Dubbed the “Joe Coleman Medical Release Act,” the measure is an initiative of Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago. It permits the PRB to grant or deny a prisoner early release on the basis of medical incapacity or terminal illness, as long as the prisoner is not expected to survive past 18 months.

An inmate can qualify for “medical incapacity,” as written in the bill, if they have a medical condition preventing them from completing more than one daily activity.

The release petitions would be considered by three-member panels of the PRB, with a simple majority of the panel needed to make a decision.

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RESTAURANT CASE DECLINED: The Illinois Supreme Court announced Wednesday, May 26, it will not take up a case from a suburban restaurant challenging Gov. JB Pritzker’s indoor dining ban.

FoxFire Tavern in Kane County asked the state’s highest court to hear their case in December after suing Pritzker over his ban in October.

The restaurant won an early victory when a Kane County judge granted the restaurant’s request for a temporary restraining order that allowed FoxFire to ignore the new indoor dining restrictions contained in Pritzker’s executive order.

An appellate court’s decision in November overruled the Kane County judge’s decision, finding the governor’s executive order is valid under the state law that gives the governor certain powers during a disaster. Following that appellate court decision, FoxFire’s attorneys appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.

The announcement Wednesday ends the restaurant’s case at the Illinois Supreme Court.

FoxFire has a similar but separate legal challenge pending in Sangamon County.

A spokesperson for Pritzker said the governor “is pleased the court rejected this request and sided with upholding Gov. Pritzker’s ability to follow the science and protect the citizens of Illinois.”

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HIV DECRIMINALIZATION: The Illinois Senate on Tuesday, May 25, passed measures decriminalizing the transmission of HIV and requiring public high schools to teach media literacy.

Both measures have already passed the House and will need only a signature from Gov. JB Pritzker to become law.

House Bill 1063 would eliminate existing criminal statutes that penalize HIV transmission as a Class 2 felony. If Pritzker signs the bill, Illinois would join 11 other states that do not have laws criminalizing the transmission of HIV, including Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

HB 1063 also would repeal existing laws allowing law enforcement or state’s attorneys to access a person’s HIV status. Under current criminal law, a person who transmits HIV to another person can be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV.”

Current law prohibits the forced disclosure of a person’s HIV status but provides exceptions for law enforcement officials or state’s attorneys to subpoena or petition for the HIV status of criminal defendants.

Sen. Robert Peters, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, was lead sponsor in the House.

It passed out of the Senate by a vote of 37-17 on Tuesday, and passed from the House last month by a vote of 99-9. It will head to the governor for his signature.

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TEACHING STANDARDS CHALLENGE: The leader of one of the state’s largest anti-abortion group told a legislative committee Tuesday, May 25, that the group intend to file a legal challenge against the state’s new “culturally responsive teaching and leading standards.”

Ralph Rivera, a lobbyist for Illinois Right to Life Action and the Pro-Family Alliance, told a House committee that 30 public school teachers have signed on to a future lawsuit that will challenge the constitutionality of those standards.

The standards, which the Illinois State Board of Education endorsed last year, call on schools of education to train prospective new teachers in how to make their instruction more inclusive and relevant to students from different cultural backgrounds as well as students of different sexual orientations and gender identities.

The Illinois State Board of Education proposed those standards last year which were approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in February amid strong opposition from religious organizations and Republican lawmakers.

Opponents of the standards pointed to language calling on teachers and school leaders to approach their work “affirming the validity of students’ backgrounds and identities,” and that they should “assess how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”

Schools of education won’t begin implementing those new standards until 2025. But the issue came up Tuesday during discussion of a bill dealing with mentoring programs for new teachers and principals.

Senate Bill 814 would make a number of changes and updates to those programs, including a requirement that the content of those programs align with the Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards. If enacted into law, that bill would take effect immediately.

Rivera said he had no problems with the underlying mentoring programs or any other part of the bill. He said his only opposition was to the provisions requiring those programs be aligned with the new teaching and leadership standards.

He also said it wasn’t his group’s intent to proceed with the lawsuit until those standards go into effect in 2025.

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MEDIA LITERACY: The Senate on Tuesday, May 25, joined the House in passing House Bill 234, which would require public high schools in the state to offer instruction in how to understand and evaluate news and social media as part of their computer literacy courses.

Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

The requirement would begin in the 2022-2023 school year and would include instruction on accessing information across various platforms; analyzing and evaluating media messages; creating their own media messages; and social responsibility and civics.

There was no debate on the measure Tuesday as it passed 42-15. It passed the House on April 20 on a 68-44 vote.

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MENSTRUAL HYGIENE BILLS: The Illinois Senate passed two bills Tuesday, May 25, that would bring awareness to period poverty by advising state universities and colleges, as well as homeless shelters, to provide menstrual hygiene products in their bathrooms at no cost to users.

Both bill sponsors cited period poverty, or the issue of not being able to afford products such as pads, tampons or liners to manage menstrual bleeding, as motivation for their legislation.

Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Swansea, is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 310, which would require all shelters that provide temporary housing assistance to women and youth to make available products such as sanitary napkins, tampons and panty liners.

HB 310 does not include enforcement or penalties to homeless shelters that do not provide the menstrual hygiene products because the obligation of the requirement is subject to the availability of funds in the shelter’s general budget.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 56-1 vote and will await a signature from the governor to become law.

A measure requiring universities and colleges to provide the same products as those in the homeless shelter bill received some debate on the Senate floor over cost.

House Bill 641, sponsored by Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, requires public universities and community colleges to make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge in restrooms of any buildings owned or leased by the higher education institutions.

HB 641 would require the governing board of each public university and community college district in the state to decide funding to meet the bills requirement for free menstrual hygiene products in their facilities.

The bill passed the Senate on a 42-13 vote, and it will head back to the House for a concurrence vote on a minor amendment before it can head to the governor.

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PRISONER REVIEW BOARD: Republican senators on Monday, May 24, raised concerns about four Prisoner Review Board members who have continued to serve for almost two years despite not being confirmed by the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, a constitutional requirement in the state.

In a news conference in Springfield, Republican Sen. Steve McClure, of Springfield, said Gov. JB Pritzker, who initially appointed the members in 2019, is using “shady practices” in allowing the appointees to serve unconfirmed, keeping the Senate from fulfilling “one of its essential obligations.”

McClure was joined at the conference by fellow Republican members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, Sen. Jason Plummer, of Edwardsville, and Sen. Terri Bryant, of Murphysboro.

The PRB, an independent 15-person body appointed by the governor, imposes release conditions for incarcerated individuals being released from prison.

The board has the authority to grant, deny or determine conditions of parole and notify victims and families when an inmate is going to be released from custody. The board also makes recommendations for clemency petitions to the governor.

The appointees in question include Aurthur Mae Perkins, Joseph Ruggiero, Oreal James and Eleanor Wilson. All four were appointed members of the Prisoner Review Board by Pritzker in March and April of 2019, but were never confirmed by the Senate.

Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said the Republicans were “grandstanding” by calling the news conference.

“For the Prisoner Review Board to be able to undertake its difficult and complex mission, members must be able to make parole determinations entirely independently,” she said in an email statement. “Subjecting members to political grandstanding sets a new and dangerous precedent for this constitutional function.”

“The members’ appointments and votes are transparent, and their meetings are open to the public. Additionally, the Senate Executive Appointments Committee sets the schedule for confirming gubernatorial appointees, and it is routine practice for appointees to be withdrawn so that the Senate has more time to consider the appointments,” she added.

McClure said Pritzker is “skirting a constitutional requirement” and he said he believes the Executive Appointments Committee is allowing it to happen.

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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