Landmark 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 harassment and discrimination protections
Victims of sexual harassment and discrimination will have better legal protections thanks to a new law co-sponsored by Senator Jil Tracy and signed August 9 by Governor J.B. Pritzker.
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 Senator Tracy 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,” Senator Tracy said. “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 new law, which includes those recommendations and other ideas proposed by lawmakers this spring, does the following:
• Prohibits unions from assigning the same union representative to a victim and their alleged harasser in disciplinary proceedings.
• Limits 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 better protect 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 by which Inspectors General file complaints with appropriate ethics commissions.
• Creates a Complainant’s Bill of Rights for investigation in the Executive and Legislative branches of state government.
• Requires other state governmental units to update ordinances for sexual harassment complaints between elected officials.
The Task Force’s membership included State Senators, representatives from statewide women’s rights and civil rights associations, and local government officials and attorneys.
New law aims to reduce property taxes
A new 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 is set to begin its work of getting Illinois veterans the help they need for service-related ailments, and ensuring that they are properly compensated.
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 December 31, 2020.
Task Force to examine state response to elder abuse
The new Elder Abuse Task Force created this spring will soon begin looking at how Illinois handles cases of elder abuse. In 2017, 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 January 1, 2021.