This past week saw a lot of floor action in the House. Legislation from both sides of the aisle passed and now await for arrival in the Senate. Of note were some Republican bills, including Rep. Chris Bos’ HB4593 which seeks to hold those who sexually abuse children accountable. Under the legislation, those who pay for sex would no longer be able to claim they did not know the person they solicited for sex was underage or was a person with an intellectual disability and use it as an affirmative defense. This change in the law would place the burden on the exploiter to prove they did not know their victim was underage or disabled, rather than placing the burden on the victim.
Rep. Dan Swanson’s HB4682 also passed the House this week. His legislation seeks to help veterans with housing costs such as rent and past-due utility bills and expands available counseling services to cover all mental health services. Using the Veterans Lottery Game fund, we will have the ability to offer better support to our veterans. As a veteran myself, I was proud to vote yes on this legislation.
Beginning next Monday, Governor Pritzker will lift the mask mandate in Illinois except for schools. In part due to the rapidly dropping case and hospitalization numbers (but really an upcoming election), our benevolent dictator has decided now is the time to unmask. While schools have the option to not wear masks, Governor Pritzker exempted them from the new order while he waits on the Illinois Supreme Court to rule in regards to the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) ordered by Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow and upheld by the Illinois Appellate Court. Masks will continue to be legally mandatory in healthcare settings, public transportation settings (including airports), and inside federal buildings.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and their director, Marc Smith, has once again been held in contempt of court, the fourth time in six weeks. A series of laws and consent decrees place a hard mandate upon DCFS to provide adequate placements for all children assigned to its care. Each of these four contempt holdings is the result of a court finding that Smith and the Department have ignored these mandates concerning at least one individual child or juvenile.
At the heart of the most recent contempt holding is the case of a 16-year-old girl. A recent patient at a psychiatric hospital, the juvenile has multiple foster-care challenges and needs. DCFS is required by law to find a stable foster care setting for this person, and the setting has to have multiple resources in place to meet her individualized patient requirements. The Department’s records, presented this week under an order of a Cook County juvenile court judge, showed the girl had no foster home and had been moved around 25 times since September. This is an abject failure of DCFS, and a scenario we have seen too many times.
This week, Russian forces invaded Ukraine in an act of war the likes of which have not been seen in Europe since 1939. In response, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed two pieces of legislation. The language would require Illinois to divest any pension funds in Russian companies and prohibit the state’s treasury from holding any Russian assets. Furthermore, Republican Deputy Leader Tom Demmer introduced legislation to fund an additional $20 million in the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget for FY22 and FY23 to aid in the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees. Illinois’ refugee resettlement program, run by DHS, has resettled more than 123,644 refugees from more than 60 countries since 1975. The General Assembly stands behind the people of Ukraine and is prepared to offer our support in any way possible
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