Seven Days To Go!

With the legislative session in Springfield fast approaching its May 31st adjournment, we want to give you up-to-date information about the major bills we’ve been working on. As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

Expansion of Sealing and Expungement—HB 298 Currently, Illinois law does not allow the sealing of felony offenses resulting in acquittal or dismissal when a person has a prior conviction on their record. HB 298 amends the record-sealing law to give the courts the discretion to seal the records of felony cases that ended in either dismissal or acquittal of the charges or reversal or vacation of a conviction. Sealing allows eligible individuals to seek gainful employment without the stigma of a criminal record, while allowing law enforcement agencies and certain governmental entities, such as schools, access to those records. Sealed records are always available to law enforcement. HB 298 passed the IL House in April by a bi-partisan vote of 68 to 34 and has now moved to the Senate. On May 6, 2011, HB 298 passed out of the Senate Criminal Law Committee by a unanimous vote and has passed unanimously out of the Senate on May 23, 2011, and it is headed to the Governor for final approval.

Amends the Cannabis Control Act, the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, and the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act – HB 2048 provides that the State’s Attorneys from their share of the monies and the sale proceeds of all other property forfeited and seized under the Acts, in addition to other authorized purposes, may make grants to local substance abuse treatment facilities and half-way houses – addressing the root problem of addiction and stopping the revolving jail and prison doors. Funding for treatment in Illinois is disappearing, so this is more important than ever. On May 12, 2011, this bill passed both Houses of state government and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The Environmental Justice Act—SB 2193 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 50-7 and has now passed unanimously out of committee in the House. The bill seeks to ensure that no segment of the population—regardless of race, national origin, age, or income—should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects of environmental pollution. The legislation creates an Environmental Justice Commission under the office of the Governor, which would bring together legislators, heads of multiple departments (the Illinois EPA and IL Departments of Aging, Public Health, Transportation, and Natural Resources), business and community groups to study and assess current laws and policies, develop and recommend options to the governor and the General Assembly, and bring a new focus on these issues at a state level. We hope the bill will be voted on by the full House, perhaps as early as May 11th! (Senate Vote Count) (Fact Sheet)

Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes—SB 1037 was approved by the Senate with a vote of 58-0 and has now passed unanimously out of committee in the House The legislation amends the Code of Criminal Procedure by adding a provision for a motion to vacate prostitution convictions for sex trafficking victims by allowing relief at any time from a conviction in which the arresting charge was prostitution or first offender felony prostitution under the Criminal Code of 1961 or a similar local ordinance and the defendant’s participation in the offense resulted from having been a victim of sex trafficking or trafficking in persons. It provides that a motion seeking this relief must be made with due diligence, after the defendant has ceased to be a victim of the trafficking or has sought victim services, subject to reasonable concerns for the safety of the defendant and others. We hope for a full vote on the House floor this week, perhaps as early as May 11th. (Vote Count) (Fact Sheet)

The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act—HB 30 would permit the use of cannabis by patients with serious medical conditions. The bill stipulates that medical cannabis would be obtained through dispensaries, which would operate on a non-profit basis. A second medical opinion is required if cannabis is to be used in any instance other than treating patients with cancer; glaucoma; HIV/AIDS; hepatitis C; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; or agitation due to Alzheimer’s disease. Landlords can prohibit smoking on the premises of leased property. The bill also stipulates that a quantitative blood and urine testing standard be added for use either by employers or police in driving stops. HB 30 passed out of the House Human Services Committee in March. The bill was called in the House on May 4th, but the vote fell short of the 60 required for passage. The bill is now being held for postponed consideration. We are continuing to work for passage of this legislation before the end of May.

Illinois Minimum Wage Bill SB 1565 calls for an increase of $.50/hour plus inflation each year for four years until the current $8.25/hour minimum wage reaches its historic value of $10.65/hour—the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1.60 in 1968. After 2014, the minimum wage would then be adjusted each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The bill also calls for raising the minimum wage for tipped workers from 60% of the minimum wage to 100 percent. An important benefit of this minimum wage increase is that it will inject substantial dollars into Illinois’ economy, as working families spend the higher wages on necessities at local businesses. The bill is being held in the Senate Executive Committee. This late in the session, it seems unlikely that the bill will advance. The Raise Illinois Coalition will continue its efforts to build support for a minimum wag increase over the next year.

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