On March 19, State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) returned to Springfield to continue with legislative session, attending a number of hearings ahead of the March 22 deadline to move Senate bills out of committees.
Included in this week’s committee agenda was the highly-controversial measure to repeal the requirement for parental notification before an underage girl has an abortion. Currently, doctors are prohibited from performing an abortion on a minor unless they have given at least 48 hours’ notice to a parent or guardian.
“This week was the annual Right to Life rally at the Capitol and on the same day that over 1,500 individuals marched in defense of the unborn a Senate committee passed a bill that would repeal of parental notification for abortions,” said Fowler. “Parents have a responsibility and a right to be involved in the medical decisions impacting their children, especially where the decision being made will have lasting, life-changing consequences. This is a bill that unnecessarily seeks to remove parents from the conversation, and I will not support it if called before the Senate.”
Senate Bill 1594 passed out of the Senate Public Health Committee on March 20 by a vote of eight to four. The measure is expected to advance to the Senate floor for further action.
Also happening in the Capitol this week was the annual Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day (IALD) on March 19, bringing in FFA students and agricultural advocates to the Capitol. Senator Fowler welcomed a number of FFA groups from the 59th Senate District, including the Joppa, Vienna, Harrisburg, Egyptian, Eldorado and Crab Orchard FFAs. FFA is a national organization which promotes interest in agriculture and encourages leadership in today’s youth.
This week was also SIU System Day at the Capitol, bringing students, faculty and staff to the Capitol to discuss and demonstrate some of the impressive programs operating across the SIU system. Students presented their research and programs to lawmakers as part of their annual lobbying day.
Local representatives for chambers within the 59th District also made the trip to Springfield to take part in the annual Chamber Day at the Capitol. Sen. Fowler welcomed representatives from the Marion Chamber and the West City Area Chamber of Commerce to the Senate floor.
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 is 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.