WEEK IN REVIEW: March 18-22, 2019

Senate Committees met throughout the week, considering a wide variety of legislation ahead of the March 22 deadline to move Senate Bills out of committees.

From controversial measures, like a proposal to repeal parental notification for abortions, to legislation that would target fentanyl, and a measure to protect victims in sexual harassment cases, many pieces of legislation were considered in Senate committees this week.

 Controversial repeal of parental notification for abortions clears Senate committee

A controversial legislative measure, which would repeal the requirement for parental notification before an underage girl has an abortion, passed a Senate committee this week.

Senate Bill 1594 would repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 1995, which prohibits a doctor from performing an abortion on a minor unless they have given at least 48 hours’ notice to a parent or guardian.

Opponents of the measure have raised concerns that minors do not have the emotional maturity to make such a difficult decisions, which will have lifelong consequences, without the support of a parent or guardian. They argue that a parent has a responsibility to provide for the health and emotional well-being of their child, and that repealing parental notification for abortions impedes their ability to fulfill that responsibility.

Senate Bill 1594 passed in the Senate Public Health Committee on March 19 and now heads to the Senate Floor for consideration by the full body.

Ag lobby day at the Capitol

FFA students and agricultural advocates from throughout Illinois descended on the Capitol during the week for Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day (IALD) on March 19. IALD brings together farm, agricultural commodity organizations and agriculture interest groups to advocate to lawmakers about the importance of Illinois agriculture.

Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) welcomed students to his Springfield office to discuss the importance of agriculture in Illinois, and agricultural education. Agriculture is a major driver of Illinois’ economy. Marketing of the state’s agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion with billions more flowing into the state from ag-related industries.

Legislation takes aim at fentanyl

Legislation taking aim at fentanyl, now the biggest cause of opioid overdose deaths, passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee during the week.

Despite the fact that fentanyl is now considered to be the biggest cause of opioid overdose deaths, current Illinois criminal law treats it as a lesser threat. That could all change under SB 199, which would put the drug on the same level as heroin.

According to 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is now the drug that is most frequently involved in overdoses in the United States. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. While it is commercially sold as a prescription pain reliever, much of the drug involved in overdoses and deaths is made illegally. It is often mixed in with heroin and cocaine by dealers.

Senate Bill 199 creates a Class 1 felony penalty structure for the possession of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, targeted at illegal dealers and suppliers of the drug. It gives law enforcement another tool in the battle against the opioid crisis.

Senate Bill 199 passed the Senate Criminal Law committee unanimously and is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

New legislation creates statewide sexual assault evidence tracking system

New legislation, which aims to provide sexual assault victims more transparency on the status of the processing of rape kit evidence, unanimously passed out of the Senate Criminal Law Committee during the week. Senate Bill 1411 would require the Illinois State Police to establish a statewide sexual assault electronic tracking system.

Currently, Illinois does not have a uniform system across all law enforcement to track sexual assault evidence. In 2017, the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission was formed to tackle this problem and improve how the state collects and tracks this vital evidence. The Commission was a bipartisan effort, bringing together one legislator from each caucus, representatives from sexual assault organizations, law enforcement and state’s attorneys.

Senate Bill 1411 now heads to the Senate Floor for a full vote.

Senate passes Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act

The Senate passed an important new protection for victims of sexual harassment in union work places on March 20.

Union members are entitled to representation by their union for disciplinary and grievance issues, including in cases of alleged sexual harassment. This representation extends to both victims and accused perpetrators in sexual harassment disciplinary hearings, if both individuals are union members. However, under current law, the union can assign the same representative to both the victim and the person or persons accused of harassment.

Under Senate Bill 1877, the newly created Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act, a union is prohibited from designating the same person to represent both a victim of sexual harassment and an alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment in disciplinary proceedings. Proponents of the bill say this is a common sense protection for victims of sexual harassment that ensures they are represented by someone solely focused on their side of the disciplinary process.

Senate Bill 1877 has passed the Senate unanimously and is now headed to the House for consideration in that chamber.

Dave Syverson

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