SENATE WEEK IN REVIEW: August 12-16, 2019

Landmark anti-sexual harassment and discrimination reforms, and a measure aimed at reducing property taxes by allowing for some government consolidation have recently been signed into law.

Also during the week, two new task forces aimed at supporting veterans and targeting elder abuse prepared to begin their work.

Landmark Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation Signed into Law

Illinois now has a more robust set of sexual harassment and discrimination protection on the book thanks to a new law.

Senate Bill 75 will provide victims of sexual harassment and discrimination with better legal protections. The new law is largely was the product of the work of the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention, and includes a number of provisions recommended by the Task Force, as well as ideas proposed by lawmakers proposed during the legislative session.

Provisions include:

Prohibits unions from assigning the same union representative to victim and alleged harasser in disciplinary proceedings. This element was initially filed by State Sen. John Curran and passed in the Senate before being added to the larger omnibus legislation.
Limits on the use of non-disclosure clauses which could restrict an employee’s ability to report sexual discrimination or harassment.
Updates the Human Rights Act to increase protections for employees and improve reporting.
Expands the Victims Economic Safety Act to offer protections for victims of gender violence.
Creates new protections for hotel and casino employees.
Requires state officials, employees, and lobbyists to take sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training.
Speeds up the process of Inspectors General filing complaints with appropriate ethics commissions.
Creates a Complainants Bill of Rights for investigation in the Executive and Legislative branches.
Requires other governmental units to update ordinances for sexual harassment complaints between elected officials.

Legislation Aimed at Reducing Property Taxes becomes law

A newly signed law that provides a reasonable way for drainage districts to be absorbed by municipalities could help property owners see lower tax bills.

Senate Bill 90 outlines the petition process for a drainage district to be dissolved, and allows the drainage district to be taken over by a municipality if that municipality accounts for at least 75 percent of a drainage district’s territory. The new law also requires both the municipality and the county in which the drainage district lies to pass an ordinance with specific criteria for carrying out the dissolution.

Current law allows drainage districts to dissolve but there is no process in place for another unit of government to take over legal responsibility for drainage.

New Task Force Seeks to Help Veterans

A newly-created task force aimed at getting Illinois veterans the help they need for service-related ailments, and ensuring that they are properly compensated is set to begin work.

The 14-member Veterans’ Service-Related Ailments Task Force, which will receive assistance from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, has been tasked with examining the disparity between the average level of disability compensation at the national level and the amount of compensation Illinois veterans are receiving.

The Task Force is charged with presenting a report on its findings and a list of recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Dec. 31, 2020.

Illinois Task Force to Examine State Response to Elder Abuse Cases

The new Elder Abuse Task Force created this spring will soon begin looking at how Illinois handles cases of elder abuse. In 2017 alone, more than 16,000 cases of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation were reported to the Illinois Adult Protective Services Department within the Illinois Department on Aging.

The 22-member Task Force is charged with analyzing the effectiveness of Illinois’ current system of reporting and addressing elder abuse, researching what works in other states, and developing a long-term plan for improving outcomes for older Illinoisans.

The group must report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Jan. 1, 2021.

Dave Syverson

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