Joint Task Force Hearing
The Joint Senate/House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment is continuing to meet as part of a comprehensive review of the legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment in the public and private sectors.
The group convened in Chicago on Tuesday, March 27, to discuss federal policy and legislation on sexual harassment as well as sexual harassment policy and legislation in other states.
The bipartisan group heard testimony from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office of Legal Counsel, and the Congressional Office of Compliance. You can track the group’s progress at ilga.gov.
Sen. Syverson calls for legislative action to combat robo-calls
State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) is pushing legislation to battle the seemingly non-stop barrage of robo-calls and scam calls that keep cell phones ringing around the clock.
“These calls aren’t part of any upstanding sales methods, they are a form of harassment,” said Syverson. “We need to empower state government to effectively combat this growing problem.”
Estimates place the number of robo-calls per month at 2.4 billion in 2016, up from 1.5 billion in 2015. The increase is driven largely by internet powered phone systems that have made it cheaper and easier to place the calls from anywhere in the world.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported in October that telemarketing calls were the number one consumer complaint. According to a recent article in Money Magazine, 13,000 complaints about robo-calls are sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) every day.
Many of the robo-calls involve fraudulent schemes, including a recent scam where callers who pretended to be from the IRS claimed that the person answering the phone owed back taxes and then threatened legal action. That one scheme reaped more than $54 million, according to the FCC.
“Because of the low cost of the auto-dialers, callers can afford to make thousands of calls even if only a small percentage of people ever take their bait,” said Syverson. “If the robo-calls weren’t profitable to the scammers, they wouldn’t be doing them.”
Senate Bill 2573, filed by Senator Syverson, would strengthen the Illinois Automated Dialers Act by making it a separate violation to disguise their caller ID information. This is targeted at the act of “spoofing,” where the callers are able to make their number show up as a different number of the recipient’s caller id system. The bill also requires prior written consent before callers can use an auto-dialer to initiate a telemarketing call. Both of these changes would align Illinois law with federal law. The legislation would also make the unlawful practices subject to enforcement by the Attorney General.
“This bill would give the same tools to our Attorney General and state law enforcement that the federal government has,” said Syverson.
Senate Resolution 59, also filed by Syverson, would create the bipartisan Illinois Automated Dialing and Solicitation Task Force. The members of the task force would study penalties for violating the Do Not Call List and penalties for call spoofing, as well as exploring any new technology for preventing automated calls.
The task force would be made up of four members of the General Assembly, one member appointed by the governor, two members from the Illinois Attorney General’s office, one member from the Illinois State Police Department, and five members from the telecommunications industry appointed by the Governor and the four legislative leaders.
“The task force will allow us to find new ways Illinois can combat these unsolicited calls, as well as finding out what new technology and applications consumers can use to prevent them,” said Syverson.
Senator Syverson is also urging Congress to take further action to combat the growing nuisance of robo-calls.
“In most cases we have the ability to trace the calls to the country of origin,” said Syverson. “We need Congress to act more swiftly and harshly against them.”
He also recommends that all consumers register their numbers with the Federal Do Not Call Registry at: https://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx
If you would like to file a complaint with the FTC regarding robo-calls, you can do so here: https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx
Jobs reform legislation focuses on recidivism, blighted areas
Republican Senators are co-sponsoring jobs reform legislation that focuses on helping reduce the tendency of convicted criminals to commit another crime, and ensures neglected areas in communities receive honest advantages when it comes to tax increment finance (TIF) revenues.
Senate Bill 2282 provides protection for employers, specifically negligent-hiring liability, when they employ an individual with a nonviolent, nonsexual criminal conviction.
Senate Bill 2880 would restrict transferring TIF dollars from one TIF district to another, and puts more restrictions on when a blighted area of a community can be considered for tax increment financing.
Both bills await hearings before Senate committees.
Dept. of Health Issues Warning About Synthetic Cannabinoids
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is warning people about the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids, after six people in northern Illinois who used synthetic cannabinoids suffered severe bleeding. All reported using synthetic cannabinoids, often called fake weed, K2, and spice.
Officials say synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug, but hundreds of different chemicals manufactured and sold. These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they act on the same brain cell receptors as the main active ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoid products are unsafe. It is difficult to know what is in them or what your reaction to them will be. The health effects from using synthetic cannabinoids can be unpredictable and harmful—even life threatening.
IDPH continues to investigate these cases to try to identify a common product. Anyone who has a serious reaction to synthetic cannabinoids should call 911 or immediately go to the emergency room at their local hospital.
Reminder: Tax Filing Deadline is Fast Approaching
The deadline to file state and federal taxes is mere weeks away. Taxpayers can file their returns on or before Tuesday, April 17, for the 2017 tax filing year.
Some common documents, records, or receipts you may need to help you file include:
a copy of your federal income tax return and schedules
copies of all W-2 and 1099 forms
tax returns you filed with other states
your property number and amount of property tax paid
receipts for qualified education or moving expenses
your routing and account number for direct deposit into checking or savings accounts
You can use MyTax Illinois to electronically file your original Individual Income Tax Return. If you haven’t already, you can start your IL-1040 online for free at mytax.illinois.gov.
Illinois Vietnam Veteran Commemoration
On Thursday, March 29, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Illinois Bicentennial group celebrated our veterans and heroes by commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
The celebration is thanked and honored veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war, or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States, and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
Each Vietnam Veteran received a Commemoration Pin during the ceremony and was recognized for the bravery they exhibited while serving our country. The event was held at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Illinois Bicentennial Volunteerism & Philanthropy Project
Organizers of the Illinois Bicentennial celebration are hoping to make 2018 a record year for volunteerism and community engagement. The group encourages all Illinois organizations and volunteers to make a similar commitment.
Illinois Bicentennial encourages volunteers to share in this Bicentennial initiative, engage in new volunteerism activities, and spread word about the Illinois Bicentennial Volunteerism & Philanthropy Project.
If you are an Illinoisan looking to help Illinoisans, search for volunteer opportunities near you, at: illinois.gov.
Cream of the Crop – Photo Contest
As part of the Ag Invest program, the Illinois State Treasurer has launched the 2018 Cream of the Crop Photo Contest. The Treasurer invites youth from across the state, ages 8-18, to start submitting their most innovative, scenic snapshot that depicts their vision of agriculture in our state.
Contest winners will make their mark in the Midwest as they will be featured on the new marketing materials for the Ag Invest program.
Apply here: photo contest application.