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Senate passes ‘sexting’ measure, bill lifting benefit ban for those with drug convictions

Senate passes ‘sexting’ measure, bill lifting benefit ban for those with drug convictions

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate on Thursday 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.

“Students need to be aware of the dangers and consequences of sending and sharing sexually explicit messages online,” Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said during brief Senate floor debate.

Stadelman 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.

“A drug abuser or drug user is a victimless crime, and in many times people are sick, and that’s the reason why they get into drugs,” she said.

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.

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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