The year is coming to a close, and I am spending this last week before Christmas visiting with constituents and meeting with community leaders. I am also finalizing my legislative agenda for 2024. It is filled with legislation that promotes the conservative values of the people living in the 45th District.
I had a wonderful time last week at the annual lunch for the Stephenson County Farm Bureau. We were joined by Congressman Darin LaHood and several other community leaders, and we discussed the federal Farm Bill and had a wonderful conversation about agricultural issues and how legislators could best represent the priorities of Illinois farmers.
Please note that in honor of Christmas and New Year’s, my legislative office will be closed through Wednesday of this week (December 27). The office will be open on Thursday and 28th and Friday the 29th, but closed on New Year’s Day, Monday, January 1. The office will return with normal hours starting Tuesday, January 2.
New Year, New Laws
As Illinoisans prepare to bid 2023 a fond farewell and ring in the New Year, more than 300 new laws are set to take effect on January 1, 2024. New laws for 2024 range from limiting 2nd Amendment Rights to more positive legislation supported by Senate Republicans that increases protections and support for children, veterans and first responders. A full list of laws taking effect on January 1 can be viewed here.
Conflicting Priorities on Crime as the Year Ends
Among the issues that made headlines during the fall veto session is the Democrats’ refusal to extend
bipartisan legislation that passed in 2017, and is set to expire at the end of the year. This expiring law established higher minimum prison terms for people convicted for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon if they’d previously been convicted of certain crimes. The legislation also increased penalties for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.
Democrat lawmakers blocked legislation that would have extended this law from being heard in the Illinois House of Representatives, so stricter penalties that keep you safer expire on December 31. At the same time, Democrats prioritized passing legislation that created laws that allow non-citizens to work as police officers and felons to work at casinos. Both of these bad bills take effect January 1.
New “Assault Weapon” Ban Requirements
While sales and purchases of certain firearms had already been made illegal by Illinois’ controversial “assault weapon” ban (AWB), Illinois residents who already owned guns covered by the ban are allowed to keep them if they file required paperwork before January 1, 2024.
The ban was the central component of the “Protect Illinois Communities Act,” which I voted against and has strenuously opposed.
The law requires owners of now-banned weapons and/or accessories to file an affidavit with the Illinois State Police (ISP) stating that they owned the firearms and/or accessories before the ban came into effect on January 10, 2023.
ISP submitted rules for the process, including what firearms and accessories are banned, to the Legislature’s bicameral and bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). After pushback from lawmakers on the panel, ISP held a series of hearings this fall discussing the rules and soliciting questions and feedback. Much of the feedback involved confusion over exactly which firearms and accessories are included in the vaguely worded ban and rules.
Additional concerns involve firearms purchased during a window created by conflicting court rulings. Between April 28 and May 4, 2023, a federal injunction blocked the implementation of the ban, allowing Illinois residents to make purchases during that window of firearms that would have been illegal if the AWB were in effect. Senator Chesney supported legislation to modify the affidavit process to allow residents to keep those guns, but Democrat leaders refused to allow that bill to be called for a vote. According to the ISP rules, those firearms will become illegal on January 1, 2024.
For more information on what firearms and accessories are included, ISP created a document which can be found at: https://isp.illinois.gov/StaticFiles/docs/Home/AssaultWeapons/PICA%20Emergency%20Rule%20Register.pdf. For further information, including setting up an online account to file an affidavit, visit: https://isp.illinois.gov/Home/AssaultWeapons.
Meanwhile, several court cases challenging the constitutionality of the ban are ongoing, including two cases docketed with the United States Supreme Court. As an advocate for the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, I remain hopeful that the ban will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Human Trafficking Victims Get Opportunity to Move Past Trauma
Victims of human trafficking will have more tools to overcome their trauma and pursue a better life under a new law sponsored by Senator Erica Harriss. The new law creates a pathway for victims, who are often forced to participate in unlawful activity by their traffickers, to expunge their criminal records.
House Bill 2418/P.A. 103-0035, legislation I was proud to co-sponsor, allows victims of human trafficking to petition for vacation, expungement, or immediate sealing of their sentence. It also allows the victim making the petition to attend hearings remotely to avoid undue hardship or create a risk of harm. The law also allows the petition to be filed under seal if a public filing may expose the victim to future harm. These steps help ensure a victim is able to avoid future victimization from their former abuser or abusers.
New Laws Protect Children in Legal Proceedings
A new law set to take effect on January 1 will help ensure that young victims of violent crimes won’t be re-traumatized when they seek justice through the criminal justice system. House Bill 2607/P.A. 103-0164 allows victims under the age of 13 to testify remotely in most cases. I was a co-sponsor of this important bill.
The law was inspired by Illinoisans who were forced to take legal action to prevent their child from being required to testify against their abuser in court, rather than via closed-circuit TV. This new law will spare families from having to take similar action to protect their children.
Additionally, another new law provides for the admissibility of certified hospital or public or private agency records in adjudicatory hearings on abused, neglected, or dependent minors. Often in these cases, medical records are needed in court proceedings to prove abuse and neglect. House Bill 1434/ P.A. 103-0124 reduces burdensome restrictions and ensures the records are available, while still protecting their privacy.
New Tools in the Battle Against the Opioid Crisis
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported record-high opioid deaths in 2022. To help combat this deadly crisis, Senate Republicans introduced, and I was proud to support several new laws taking effect on January 1 to provide new tools to help save lives in the battle against this growing public health crisis.
Deaths resulting from drugs laced with fentanyl are becoming more commonplace, but a new laws will expand the availability of test strips capable of detecting even trace amounts of fentanyl that substances may be laced with. House Bill 3203/P.A. 103-0336, will allow test strips to be sold over the counter and enable county health departments to provide them for free. I was a co-sponsor of this important legislation.
Schools will also be required to maintain a supply of an opioid antagonist, like Narcan under House Bill 3428/P.A. 103-0348, and public schools will be required to provide instruction to high schoolers on the dangers of fentanyl under House Bill 3924/P.A. 103-0365.
Greater Protections for Reporting Elder Abuse
More people will be able to report suspected abuse that may have contributed to a senior citizen’s death under a new law taking effect on January 1. House Bill 2858/P.A. 103-0329 states that any person may report information about the suspicious death of an eligible adult to an agency designated to receive such reports or to the Illinois Department on Aging.
The new law will allow people who interact with the state’s senior citizens on a regular basis, and might have important information about possible abusive behavior, to come forward without fear of consequences from their employer.
New Laws Support, and Protect First Responders
Several new laws that aim to support and protect first responders take effect in 2024. Senate Bill 1543/P.A. 103-0382 creates the position of Statewide PTSD Mental Health Coordinator. The Coordinator is tasked with implementing mental health support and education programs for law enforcement.
Whenever any full-time firefighter or paramedic contracts COVID-19 in the line of duty, causing them to be unable to perform their duties during a disaster declaration by the Governor, the employee will continue to be paid by their local government, other than Chicago, under Senate Bill 214/P.A. 103-0063, which was unanimously supported by the Senate Republican Caucus.
To further support first responders, municipalities will be required to provide the same medical insurance options to police, firefighters, and corrections officers who experience a catastrophic injury on the job and can no longer work as provided to active workers under House Bill 3249/P.A. 103-0340. I co-sponsored this new law.
Additionally, Senate Bill 1963/P.A. 103-0009 creates a $500 tax credit for volunteer emergency workers. The Department of Revenue just came out with the process for applying for that credit, and the process is outlined at: https://tax.illinois.gov/individuals/credits/volunteer-emergency-worker-credit.html.