Senate Week in Review: May 6-10, 2024

Mandating Child Abuse Awareness Notices in Businesses

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Republicans are working to enhance the safety of minors across Illinois with legislation that mandates public posting of child abuse reporting information in various public establishments.

House Bill 4350 requires establishments to display a notice, developed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in collaboration with an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center, that provides essential contact information and guidance on how minors can report instances of physical and sexual abuse.

The legislation targets such locations as hotels, motels, tattoo parlors, bus stations, and hospital emergency rooms, and requires DCFS to make the model notice available for download on its website.

House Bill 4350 was passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 and now advances to the Senate for further consideration.

Formally Recognize Space Force as Official Military Branch

The Senate recently advanced legislation to formally recognize the United States Space Force as an official branch of the United States Armed Forces. House Bill 5640 changes state law to include the Space Force wherever the Armed Forces are mentioned.

The United States Space Force, established on Dec. 20, 2019, is designated as an Armed Force within the Department of the Air Force. The Space Force’s mission is to ensure the U.S. can operate freely in space, manage space operations, and protect American interests.

House Bill 5640 was passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee and now advances to the Senate for further action.

Proposal for Enhanced Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities

On May 8, Senate lawmakers heard testimony on new legislation to improve accessibility and inclusivity for individuals with disabilities and their caregivers in public spaces.

Senate Bill 2908, also known as Sami’s Law, would require certain public buildings, such as the State Capitol building and state rest stops, to install at least one publicly accessible adult changing station if the building is constructed two or more years after the effective date of the Act or if a building is seeking alterations or additions that are valued at $50,000 or more four or more years after the law takes effect.

Sami’s Law, sponsored by Senator Sue Rezin, is an initiative of one of Sen. Rezin’s district staffers, Renee Abraham. The bill is named after Renee’s 26-year-old daughter, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Renee was granted the opportunity to testify during the hearing.

The legislation was introduced during a subject matter hearing in the Senate Executive Committee and is expected to start a larger conversation on the need to provide increased accessibility for individuals with severe disabilities.

Suits and Sneakers for Cancer Awareness

On May 7, Senate lawmakers donned sneakers with their usual session attire and suit jackets to demonstrate solidarity with cancer patients and survivors throughout Illinois.

This unique fashion choice was inspired by the Coaches vs. Cancer program, a joint initiative between the American Cancer Society and the NCAA to raise cancer awareness. Each year, this initiative sees lawmakers sporting suits and sneakers at the State Capitol to support the ongoing advocacy campaign.

State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) said the annual awareness day at the Capitol is a small but powerful gesture that brings attention to the tens of thousands of citizens touched by cancer each year.

This initiative coincides with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Cancer Action Day, a key advocacy event dedicated to empowering those affected by cancer to raise their voices at the state Capitol.

Free FASFA Help for Students

High school students can access valuable resources to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC).

The FAFSA form is an application process that determines how much federal financial aid a student is eligible to receive, which could include grants, scholarships, work-study funds, and loans.

ISAC aims to ensure that every student, especially high school seniors navigating the challenges of FAFSA, is aware of the free assistance available for financial aid and college planning. It’s important for students intending to pursue post-high school education this fall to know that there is still time to apply for financial aid.

Students can visit ISAC’s website for free assistance with the college planning and financial aid process—including help completing the FAFSA or Alternative Application for IL Financial Aid.

Law Enforcement Appreciation Month

In observance of Law Enforcement Appreciation Month this May, the Illinois State Police, together with law enforcement agencies across the state, are honoring the dedication and sacrifices of police officers.

This annual month of recognition was created to unite in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, to honor current and former officers, and to extend support to law enforcement personnel and their families. It’s also an occasion for citizens to express gratitude to the dedicated individuals who safeguard our communities while facing the inherent risks of police work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, law enforcement ranks consistently among the top ten most hazardous jobs in the United States. In 2021 alone, the nation mourned the loss of 159 officers, with approximately 40 percent of fatalities resulting from assaults or homicides and another 40percent from transportation incidents.

Throughout the month, the Illinois State Police will share images and posts on social media from events that celebrate the brave men and women in law enforcement.

Jil Tracy

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