SPRINGFIELD, IL – Legislation addressing sexual harassment complaints and providing tax credits for flood victims was signed into law by the Governor during the week.
In other action, Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) announced appointments for the newly created Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention.
Also during the week, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved a request for Illinois flood victims from severe storms this summer; the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) announced its priority for hunter safety for the upcoming Firearm Deer Season; and Illinois recognizes Nurse Practitioner Week.
Legislation Addressing Sexual Harassment Signed Into Law
On Nov. 16, the Governor signed legislation introduced in response to recent allegations of sexual harassment in and around the Statehouse. House Bill 137 will give the Legislative Inspector General power to investigate all complaints submitted during the last three years.
The post of Legislative Inspector General had been vacant since 2015. It was only recently discovered that during the vacancy, complaints were filed but never addressed. However, a statute of limitations in current law may prohibit the new Special Legislative Inspector General from moving forward with an investigation of some complaints, which is why House Bill 137 was introduced to allow the newly-appointed Inspector General to look into these complaints that occurred between the dates of December 2014 and November 2017.
Senate Bill 402 was also signed into law this week, a measure specifically prohibiting sexual harassment of legislators and lobbyists. The measure also requires state agencies and lobbyists to adopt a sexual harassment policy, and requires all state officials, employees, and lobbyists to complete in person sexual harassment training on an annual basis. The new law also imposes penalties for violations of the sexual harassment prohibition and requires the Department of Human Rights to implement a hotline to report sexual harassment.
The passage of these laws are first steps to addressing the problem of sexual harassment at the Capitol. Members of the Senate are taking further steps to combat this issue, with the creation of a new task force on sexual discrimination and harassment, which is currently in development.
Brady Appoints Members to New Senate Task Force
Also this week, Brady announced the appointment of five Senate Republican lawmakers who will serve on the newly established Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention to help address the problem surrounding the issue of sexual harassment in Springfield.
The Task Force was recently created to conduct a review of legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment in both the private and public sectors. The Task Force will decide on the recommendations on how to combat harassment in workplaces, educational institutions and throughout state and local governments.
Brady appointed the following Senate Republican members to the Task Force:
Pam Althoff (R-32nd District)
Karen McConnaughay (R-33rd District)
John Curran (R-41st District)
Jil Tracy (R-47th District)
Dale Righter (R-55th District)
The members will not receive compensation for this appointment.
Tax Credit Bill Will Assist Flood Victims
Legislation providing a tax credit of up to $750 for flood victims in 18 Illinois counties was signed by Gov. Rauner during the week. These areas dealt with severe storms this summer that led to flooding and resulted in tremendous damage for property owners throughout the state.
Senate Bill 403 allows residents whose properties were affected by the storms to apply a natural disaster credit to their 2017 Illinois income taxes. Counties included for this tax credit are Cook, Lake, Kane, McHenry, Alexander, Clinton, Jackson, Marshall, Union, Woodford, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson and Whiteside.
A taxpayer’s residence or land owned by a small business, but not rental or leasing businesses, are eligible properties for the credit. Senate Bill 403 affirms township assessors will issue eligibility certificates for requesting property owners then will certify with the Illinois Department of Revenue listings of flood-damaged properties.
Projections reported to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency estimate $4.6 million in damages from the storms this past summer.
SBA Assistance Approved for Illinois Flood Victims
Residents and employers in Lake, Cook and McHenry counties who are still struggling to recover from the devastating July storms and resultant flooding, may benefit from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) recent approval of the state’s request for assistance. As a result, those in Lake County and the contiguous counties of Cook and McHenry are now eligible to apply for low-interest, long-term loans.
Eligibility for the SBA declaration requires at least 25 homes and/or businesses in a county to sustain major, uninsured losses of 40 percent or more – the SBA damage assessment from August revealed 233 homes and 21 businesses in Lake County to have met this criteria. For information on the disaster loan program and application deadlines, visit http://www.sba.gov/disaster.
IDNR Urges Safety During Deer Hunting Season
IDNR is making it a top priority to ensure safety during the upcoming deer season’s first firearm hunting weekend of Nov. 17-19.
Most hunting incidents that occur—23 of the 29 from last year—actually involve hunters falling from elevated tree stands. IDNR requests hunters using tree stands should use a Fall Arrest System (FAS) safety harness, as 80 percent of tree stand accidents occurred due to hunters not using the restraint system.
IDNR Conservation Police are also reminding hunters with a firearm to follow these safety tips:
• Treat every firearm as if it is loaded, and never assume a firearm is unloaded;
• Always point a firearm in a safe direction;
• Be sure of the target, and make sure there are no other hunters, homes, buildings, vehicles or other animals beyond the target;
• Keep their finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
Further guidelines and safety tips can be found at http://www.huntercourse.com. The Firearm Deer Season begins Nov. 17-19 and ends on the Nov. 30-Dec. 3 weekend.
Nurse Practitioners Week Declared in Illinois
November 12-18 has been declared Nurse Practitioner Week in Illinois, recognizing the life-saving efforts of over 13,500 nurse practitioners working throughout the state. Making a profound contribution to the healthcare system in Illinois and throughout the nation, nurse practitioners have multiple duties including diagnosing, treating and prescribing patients, and provide acute and specialty care. Nationally, residents pay more than a billion visits to nurse practitioners every year.