New Bills from Illinois Lawmakers’ Spring Session

Illinois legislators passed more than 400 bills over the past several months, with many crossing the legislative finish line within the past week.

Some 408 changes could be heading to Illinois, should Gov. J.B. Pritzker sign them into law – a likelihood as he’s a Democrat, and no legislation can pass without support from Democrats who control the General Assembly.

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Beyond public safety measures and the state spending plan (lawmakers passed a budget not only on time, but early), here are eight that are getting attention:

The Crown Act (SB3616) : Last year Illinois passed a law banning schools from discriminating against students for having natural or protective hairstyles. The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act is an extension of it, and prohibits discrimination in the workplace for race, including braids, locs, twists and Afros.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon Booth says Black people have lost out on jobs and opportunities for advancement because their hair or style didn’t conform with Euro-centric norms.

“It’s not just about simply prohibiting harm, but it is a statement that frankly needs to be made and that statement is that Black women and the way that they wear their hair is more than sufficient. For far too long, many women who have worn natural hair or protective hairstyles have been told that their hair was unprofessional or unruly,” Gordon Booth said during the floor debate. “And there are women across this state and across this country who have had to unfortunately endure some very serious pain very specific to their hair. They have lost out on job opportunities, they have lost out on advancement opportunities within their respective work spaces because their hair did not grow out of their head in the way that conformed with more Euro-centric norms.”

Eat your veggies (HB4089): If schools offer a lunch program, they’ll have to offer one that will satisfy vegetarian students, by offering a plant-based option for those who request it in advance.

No Plastic in Parks (SB1915): State parks are supposed to be places to embrace Illinois’ natural beauty. Plastic forks or Styrofoam plates have no place in the parks, per legislators’ wishes. State vendors that provide food for state parks and natural areas will have to do away with one-time use, disposable plastic-ware and instead offer choices made of compostable materials or renewable ones, like bamboo.

Sales Check (HB2910): There’s a lot of talk about transparency in government; not so much about transparency at the grocery store. Lawmakers want to make it easy on thrifty shoppers to know they’re actually getting a deal as promised by discount ads and coupons. At checkout, grocers will have to display to shoppers both the original and the sale price.

Preventing Police Miscommunication (HB4825): Illinois legislators want to establish a way for police to know that someone they pull over or interact with has autism or another communications disability. The idea came from a DuPage County teenager concerned about what would happen if his autistic twin was pulled over in a routine traffic stop. With the new system, those with autism or other communications disabilities could voluntarily register with the state; police would see that information when they run the plate. Sponsoring State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, said that’ll make things go smoother for the driver and the officer.

Suburban Outsourcing Test Fail (SB1234): Chicago residents may recall with annoyance when in 2016 Illinois closed all vehicle emissions testing centers in the city. Lawmakers from the city say it’s more than an inconvenience; some people who can ill afford it may have to take off work to drive to a suburban location and wait in line to get their car tested. State Sen. Rob Martwick, D-Chicago, took a video when he got his emissions test, and said he was stunned by the long line of cars. He and Sen. Sara Feighenholtz, D-Chicago, were among those peeved enough, they worked to pass a bill that’ll move the state Environmental Protection Agency toward reestablishing testing sites in Chicago.

Two Birds/One Stone, Two Eyes/One Shot (HB4929): When COVID-19 vaccines first came out, there was a mad rush to get them. Public health officials encourage anyone who hasn’t gotten the shot or booster to do so, ASAP.  The General Assembly voted to expand the pool of professionals who can do so. Who else could be up to the task? They’ve eyed … optometrists. At least, those who go through training. Eye doctors will only be able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to those 17 or older.

Rock On (HB4261): Illinois has a state snack (popcorn), bird (the Northern cardinal), pie (pumpkin), and animal (the white-tailed deer). But until some students pressed their legislators to act on it, Illinois has had no official rock. Pending Pritzker’s sign-off, Illinois will officially make that rock solid, by establishing Dolostone as the state rock. “Dolostone is a sedimentary rock that underlies nearly all of Illinois, with the exception of the northernmost part of the state. It helps enrich soil across the state by providing valuable nutrients for plant growth, and caused a major mineral rush in Galena, Ill. in the early 1800s,” according to a press release from Illinois Senate Democrats.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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