Senate Week in Review: August 5-9, 2019

Victims of sexual harassment and discrimination will have better legal protections thanks to a new law I co-sponsored that was signed August 9 by Governor J.B. Pritzker.

In other news, a new state task force will look for ways to provide property tax relief to homeowners and report its findings by the end of the year.  

Also during the week, another state task force has presented its recommendations for the futures of two major Southern Illinois facilities.  And new laws are on the books to protect pets that are staying in kennels, and to prevent coal ash pollution.

New law gives victims better protections

Senate Bill 75 is the result of public hearings and study by the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention, which I co-chaired.

Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated in the workplace – public or private. Increasing awareness and publicity surrounding harassment and assault cases clearly demonstrated the need for preventive measures, effective regulation and possible criminal charges for offenders. The Task Force conducted a thorough review of the legal consequences of harassment and discrimination in workplaces, educational institutions, and state and local governments.

In February, the bipartisan Task Force reported its recommendations to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, protect hotel and casino employees from sexual harassment by guests, and update government ethics laws.

The Task Force’s membership included State Senators, representatives from statewide women’s rights and civil rights associations, and local government officials and attorneys. 

State launches Property Tax Relief Task Force

Governor Pritzker recently signed legislation creating the bipartisan Property Tax Relief Task Force.  The panel will be made up of lawmakers appointed by the four legislative leaders, and individuals appointed by the Governor.

I am pleased to have been appointed by Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady to serve on the Task Force with my colleagues Senators Donald Dewitte, Dan McConchie, Dale Righter, and Craig Wilcox.

The Task Force has been charged with identifying the causes of increasingly burdensome property taxes across Illinois.  Members will review successful public policy strategies from throughout the nation that create short-term and long-term property tax relief for homeowners, and make recommendations about what steps Illinois could take to provide property tax relief.

An initial report is due within 90 days, and the Task Force will submit a final report by December 31.

According to investment site SmartAsset.com, Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the country, with an average effective rate of nearly double the national average.

Long-term strategic plans released for Pyramid State Park and Sparta

A special task force of lawmakers, state officials and other stakeholders has released strategic plans for Pyramid State Park and the World Shooting and Recreation Complex in Sparta.  The studies were facilitated by Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s Innovation and Economic Development office and presented to the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at a ceremony at the Sparta complex on August 5.

The reports focus on the current and future needs of the two facilities and how to best manage and grow them for the future.  Pyramid State Park, with a total of 19,701 acres, is the largest state park in Illinois.  It was built on reclaimed surface mine land and is popular for a number of activities, including fishing, hunting, sporting dog events, 4-H programs, and re-enactments.  The World Shooting and Recreational Complex is a 1,600 acre world-class shooting and recreational facility that welcomes thousands of people per year.

The planning reports can be viewed at https://econdev.siu.edu/.

New law to protect animals in kennels

On August 6, Governor Pritzker signed a new law aimed at making sure pets are safe from fires while staying at a kennel.  The new law requires that kennels either have to be staffed at all times or install a fire alarm or sprinkler system that notifies local fire departments.  The legislation was inspired by a fire earlier this year at a Chicago-area kennel where 31 dogs were killed.

New protections for coal ash storage

Also signed into law recently are new protections from pollution caused by coal ash.  Senate Bill 9 creates new controls for where coal ash sites can be located and how they are run, to prevent issues and pollution from these sites.

The new law requires permits for both the operation and closure of CCR Surface Impoundments, otherwise known as coal ash disposal sites.  It also creates fees for the operation and closure of the sites. The fees range from $15,000 to $75,000, depending on the closure status of the site.

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