The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally a time when a slower pace is enjoyed by all. Legislators, however, are finalizing bill filings for January and finalizing legislative priorities for the year. My priorities for 2024 will be a continuation of my promise to represent the conservative values the people of Northwest Illinois hold dear.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a legislative forum sponsored by the Northern Illinois Council of Government. Several elected officials participated and the discussion was lively.
Over 350 Migrants Land at Rockford Airport on Dec. 31; are Rerouted to Chicago
In the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve, a plane carrying 355 migrants landed at Chicago Rockford International Airport in Winnebago County. Little notice was given about their pending arrival, and upon landing in Rockford, the passengers were boarded onto buses and driven to Chicago.
Upon learning of the plane full of migrants’ arrival at the Rockford Airport, I released the following statement:
“Winnebago Sheriff Gary Caruana and his department is to be commended for their quick response in correctly rerouting these migrants to Chicago. Their arrival this morning is a direct consequence of the weak border policies of the Biden Administration and the ill-thought-out sanctuary state designation made by Governor JB Pritzker and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Legislature.
“When Illinois Democrats roll out the welcome mat to illegal immigrants and asylum seekers by offering driver’s licenses, free healthcare, and housing assistance, it is no surprise that Illinois has become a destination for non-citizens crossing into this country from our southern border. I am reviewing Illinois’ sanctuary state law and working on a legislative remedy to protect our communities from having to spend their very limited budget dollars on an issue that was not of their making.”
New Year, New Laws, Part II
Last week I started highlighting some of the more than 300 new laws that are taking effect on January 1, 2024. This week I want to share a few more initiatives that hit the books on January 1, and one that expired as we rang in the new year:
Invest in Kids Expired on December 31
Since the inception of the Invest in Kids program in 2017, more than $330 million in private donations have been made to a tax credit scholarship fund that has provided more than 40,000 scholarships to help low-income K-12 students in struggling schools optimize their chances for academic success by attending a school of their choice. I have been a vocal advocate for this program, which literally changes the lives of many kids.
Now, because legislative Democrats refused to save the program, and Governor JB Pritzker failed to intervene, the program expired as the new year began. As the Senate Republican Caucus looks ahead to the New Year, this program and the students it serves will continue to be a priority.
School Safety, Staffing and Work-Based Learning Focus of New Education Laws for 2024
New laws that focus on school safety, incentives for teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools, and work-based learning are now in effect for 2024.
Schools are now required to include in their emergency and crisis response plan a rapid entry strategy for law enforcement under House Bill 3559/P.A. 103-0194. Under HB 3680/P.A. 103-0197, if a student needs extra accommodation during emergencies, including natural disasters or an active shooter situation, then that accommodation will be considered during the development of that student’s individualized education program (IEP).
Hard-to-staff schools will get a boost this year thanks to HB 3801/P.A. 103-0207, which provides $4,000 retention bonuses to National Board-Certified Teachers for two consecutive years. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill.
Students seeking to enrich themselves with work-based learning experiences, including scheduled events of the FFA and 4-H programs, will be considered “in attendance” under House Bill 3814/P.A. 103-0560. I was also a co-sponsor of this legislation.
New Elections Laws for 2024
Several changes to Illinois’ election law are coming just in time for the 2024 election cycle under Senate Bill 2123/P.A. 103-0467. Changes include:
- Sponsoring entities of political committees: Removes a requirement for a sponsoring entity to be listed on a political committee’s statement of organization forms submitted to the State Board of Elections (SBE).
- Voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds: Allows 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote. Voter registration applications must be held in abeyance by SBE until they are old enough to vote; then it is sent to the proper election authority.
- Ballot information updates to the statewide voter registration list: For the purpose of adding and updating information maintained on the statewide voter registration list, requires election authorities to transmit, within one day of receipt, certain Vote by Mail (VBM) and early ballot information to SBE. Election authorities must also transmit information on rejected VBM ballots within one day after rejection. If the ballot is cured, it must be removed from the list. Requires SBE to maintain this information on its website and make it accessible to State and local political committees. Requires this information to be updated every 24 hours and the entire statewide voter registration list to be updated every month.
- Vote Centers: Requires curbside voting to be available for a least one vote center per jurisdiction. Requires jurisdictions with a population of more than 500,000 to have at least two vote centers. Extends sunset on sections of code mandating vote centers from July 1, 2023, to July 1, 2029.
- Task Forces: Creates the Ranked-Choice and Voting Systems Task Force to “review voting systems and the methods of voting, including ranked-choice voting, that could be authorized by law.” Creates the Security of Remote Vote by Mail Task Force to study issues relating to a fully electronic VBM process.
- Election Day State Holiday: Makes November 5, 2024, a state holiday known as the 2024 General Election Day. Adds that schools closed for the holiday must be made available to election authorities to serve as polling places.
Healthcare Changes for 2024
From background checks for healthcare workers to mandated coverage for certain cancer screenings and treatments, a number of changes were made to Illinois healthcare in 2024.
Under House Bill 2102/P.A. 103-0428, checks for healthcare workers are expanded to all 50 states. It also sets out other provisions for more thorough vetting of the backgrounds of healthcare workers including a check against State Police and FBI databases, including civil, criminal, and latent databases. Additionally, it requires the State Police to forward records to state departments and agencies, and fingerprints to the FBI for a national criminal history.
House Bill 3202/P.A. 103-0455, a new law that will require insurance companies to cover home saliva cancer screening tests for at-risk individuals, also took effect on January 1.
Other changes in coverage include:
- SB 1913/A. 103-0243: Requires coverage for behavioral health services delivered via telehealth.
- SB 1282/A. 103-0084: Mandates insurers and managed care plans to provide coverage for preventive liver disease screenings for high-risk individuals between ages 35 and 64.
- HB 3809/A. 103-0458: Mandates coverage for therapy, diagnostic testing, and equipment necessary to increase quality of life for children who have any disease, syndrome, or disorder that includes low tone neuromuscular, neurological, or cognitive impairment.
- HB 2799/A. 103-0325: Requires insurers and managed care plans to provide coverage for medically necessary proton beam therapy for the treatment of cancer. Prohibits insurers and managed care plans from requiring a higher standard of clinical evidence for the coverage of proton beam therapy than applied for any other form of radiation therapy.
Help for Parents of Children with Special Needs
A new law aims to empower parents of children with special needs as they make important medical decisions.
Under prior Illinois law, parents had access to medical records for children under the age of 12. However, they could be denied access to certain records and test results for children 12 -17 years of age, even if the records are from tests and/or procedures that required parental consent to be performed. Once the child turns 18, if they are declared a developmentally disabled adult, parents could once again get access. Senate Bill 188 closes the loophole for special needs children aged 12 – 17, allowing parents to access certain medical records.
Changes for Sportsmen in 2024
Hunters, fishermen, and trappers are now able to obtain a three-year license under a new law for which I served as a chief co-sponsor. Under House Bill 3677/P.A. 103-0456, for residents aged 65 or older, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a three-year fishing/hunting license. For resident veterans of the United States Armed Forces, the fee is one-half of the fee charged for a three-year fishing license.
Additionally, under House Bill 2317/P.A. 103-0528, for sport fishing devices or spearing devices, any resident of Illinois who is age 26 or older who has not purchased a resident fishing license in the past 10 years is eligible to receive a one-time annual resident fishing license for a fee of $5. The new law also provides that any nonresident who has not purchased a nonresident fishing license in the past 10 years shall be eligible to receive a one-time annual sport fishing license for a fee of $10.
New Transportation Laws Streamline Work Sites, Outlaw Video Conferencing While Driving
The Illinois Dig Once Act, Senate Bill 1438/P.A. 103-0378, will reduce the number of construction projects necessary along roadways by requiring state agencies to coordinate to minimize the number of road excavations necessary for the installation of broadband infrastructure and underground utilities.
In recent years, the way we communicate and do business has changed rapidly and the use of video conferencing has increased exponentially. House Bill 2431/P.A. 103-0310 will keep roads safer by prohibiting individuals from video conferencing while driving.
New Laws Support and Recognize Veterans and Military Families
According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, more than 700 Illinoisans were identified as homeless veterans in 2022. Two new laws set to take effect on January 1 seek to reduce homelessness among veterans and extend other assistance to military families.
Senate Bill 2005/P.A. 103-0247 requires housing authorities to develop and implement policies granting housing preferences to veterans who are homeless. Similar benefits are already provided to other groups of Illinoisans, and this law would extend these to veterans. (Note: Some housing authorities were already doing this, so it ensures that this benefit is available to all Illinois veterans/standardizes the practice.)
State agencies must now also consider the military status of any homeless family member when determining eligibility for state or federal benefits such as housing or rental assistance, job training, and employment opportunities under Senate Bill 1376/P.A. 103-0086. I was a chief co-sponsor of this bill.
Senate Bill 1072/P.A. 103-0409 designates the Honor and Remember Flag as the symbol of the State’s concern for and commitment to honoring and remembering the lives of all members of the United States Armed Forces who have lost their lives while serving. I was proud to co-sponsor this initiative.
Owning a pet can lift a person’s mood, help veterans feel less stressed, and provide comfort to those with post-traumatic stress disorder. House Bill 2500/P.A. 103-0434, a law set to take effect in 2024, will require animal shelters to waive adoption fees for a dog or cat if the person adopting is a veteran. As an advocate for pet adoptions from shelters, I was happy to co-sponsor this legislation.