Senate Week in Review: July 16-20, 2018

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a number of measures into law during the week, including bills opponents say will strip away citizens’ constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights.

Other laws signed during the week will enable the state to move forward on renovation and construction projects at the Quincy Veterans’ Home.

Also during the week, the State Fire Marshal announced $2.2 million in grants for local fire departments to purchase equipment.

Concerns raised about recently signed gun laws

Legislation (House Bill 2354) signed into law during the week will allow family members or law enforcement to petition the court to have firearms removed from individuals believed to be a danger to themselves or others. Another measure (Senate Bill 3256) was signed to extend the current 72-hour waiting period for handguns to include all guns purchased in Illinois.

Though expressing appreciation for the intent to improve public safety, opponents underscored concerns with House Bill 2354, citing the overly broad language that allows for third-party allegations that could strip someone of their Second Amendment rights based on very little real evidence. Concerns were also raised there is very limited due process allowed for a respondent in the new law.

Opponents stressed that when considering legislation that would infringe on a Constitutionally-guaranteed right, the scope of the measure should be as limited, necessary and as precise as possible.

Additionally, those challenging Senate Bill 3256 said the law undermines individuals’ Second Amendment rights, but doesn’t address the root problem of gun violence.

Opponents said there must be a balance to work in the interest of public safety while also protecting gun owners. They advocated instead for legislation that holds criminals accountable for the actions and does more to help those suffering from mental illness.

The new laws take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

New law authorizes Quincy Veterans’ Home rehab project

The Governor also this week signed Senate Bill 3128, the Quincy Veterans’ Home Rehabilitation Act, allowing for the state to move forward on an expansion at the current facility while reducing red tape on future construction to allow the state to proceed more expediently on the project.

The Quincy Veterans’ Home may now begin its five-year capital development plan following the signing of Senate Bill 3128, which provides for design-build contracting for the facility’s projects to renovate, rehabilitate and rebuilt the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy. This is expected to eliminate redundancies associated with the traditional construction process, and is anticipated to reduce time spent on the project and associated costs.

Over the next five years, the campus will undergo a major rehabilitation to update the care facilities and residence to ensure it is up to code and safe for veteran residents and their families.

Senate Bill 3128 authorizes the Capital Development Board and the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs to use design-build contracting in the upcoming projects at the Veterans’ Home. It also provides for the deposit and use of federal funds received as reimbursement for capital improvement project expenses.

The Quincy campus is the largest Veterans’ Home in Illinois. Importantly, the $52 million capital development plan allows for the residents to continue living in the facility undisturbed during the construction. The Governor also signed House Bill 5683, authorizing a recently purchased adjacent nursing facility to be included as an official part of the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Quincy. This facility will be used as temporary housing for veterans during the construction on the new facility at the existing campus, which will ensure continuity of care for residents.

Illinois State Fire Marshal announces $2.2 million in grants for fire safety

On July 17, the office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal and Gov. Rauner announced the recipients of the Small Firefighting and Ambulance Service Equipment Grant Program, also known as the Small Equipment Grant Program.

One hundred fire departments and nonprofit ambulance services across the state received grants for the purchase of safety equipment, protective clothing, breathing apparatus and other needed tools. The money for this grant comes from the Fire Prevention Fund. The grants total $2.2 million, with each recipient receiving up to $26,000.

Gov. Rauner congratulated the fire chiefs in attendance for the grant announcement and recognized the risks that first responders take daily.

“Firefighters do not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to battle fires, to save lives and to keep us safe,” said Rauner. “It is our job to ensure they have the equipment needed to stay safe. This grant ensures fire departments are better equipped, allowing first responders to more effectively and safely do their jobs.”

State Fire Marshal Matt Perez discussed the grant’s importance.

“This year we had over 400 fire departments from across the state apply for a grant,” Perez said. “The requests for grants totaled over $9 million. We had $2.2 million in funds to award and we ensured that the neediest stations across the state received the money to ensure the safety of the men and women that protect their cities. It is imperative that we continue to find ways to aid the men and women that respond first in a disaster and always put the lives of others before their own.”

This year, research conducted by the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) Research Center led OSFM to evaluate new needs. The research on cardiovascular and chemical exposure risks faced by firefighters prompted the inclusion of gear washers as acceptable purchases in this year’s grant application cycle.

Dave Syverson

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