This Week in Illinois

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Leader Durkin, House Republicans Introduce Fair Maps Amendment. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin announced this week that he, along with the entire House Republican caucus, has filed HJRCA 10, a constitutional amendment for the independent drawing of legislative maps.

“Governor Pritzker has urged the legislature to create an independent commission to draw legislative maps, so House Republicans are proposing to do just that,” said Leader Durkin. “Not only are we answering the Governor’s call on this issue, but we are also prepared to provide the majority of the votes required to pass this out of the House and on to the Senate. So I call on my Democratic colleagues to join us and Governor Pritzker in supporting the independent drawing of legislative maps and pass HJRCA 10 this legislative session.”

HJRCA 10 would establish an independent commission, comprised of 11 members, charged with proposing a legislative map. The commission would be required to hold public hearings both before and after releasing a proposed plan.

The map would need to receive the affirmative vote of at least seven commissioners, including two from each political party whose candidate for Governor received the most and second-most votes and two commissioners not affiliated with each such political party.

If the commission fails to adopt a new map by June 30 of the year following the decennial census, the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and the next senior Justice, not of the same party as the Chief Justice, will be required to appoint a Special Commissioner for Redistricting that must adopt and file a map by August 31 of the same year.

Leader Durkin’s Fair Maps proposal quickly won the endorsement of the Chicago-Sun-Times editorial board, which stated: “The makeup of the Illinois Legislature — and of every state legislature — should reflect the will of the voters, not party bosses.”

CRIMINAL LAW

Rep. Patrick Windhorst introduces bill to toughen Illinois’ sex offender registration law. HB 339 would provide that a person who has video-stalked a victim under age 18 must register as a sex offender. The offense refers to unauthorized video recording and live video transmission. 

The Illinois State Police already operates a sex offender registry, and some people are already required to submit their names and addresses for publication on it. Based on existing law, persons who have been adjudicated for acts such as criminal sexual assault and possession of child pornography may already be required to register. Windhorst’s bill enhances the existing Sex Offender Registration law by adding unauthorized video recording/live video transmission to the list of offenses for which a person can be required to register as a consequence of being adjudicated of the offense. “Adjudication” can mean both getting convicted of the offense and being placed on court supervision for the offense.

Representative Windhorst served for fourteen years as State’s Attorney for Massac County.

HEALTH CARE

Lauryn Russell Law Bringing More Awareness to Lyme Disease. In November of last year, Rep. Dan Swanson was successful in overriding the Governor’s Amendatory Veto of his legislation to provide more treatment options for those suffering with Lyme disease.

The Lauryn Russell Lyme Disease Prevention & Protection Law was inspired by Lauryn Russell, a 12-year-old student from Mercer County, who has Lyme disease and has had to seek treatment out of state due to potential disciplinary action that could be taken against her Illinois physician for treating Lauryn’s post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) or Chronic Lyme Disease. Advocates for Lyme disease sufferers say the current recommended treatment of the disease, 10 to 21 days of antibiotics, is insufficient for people with advanced or persistent levels of the disease.

Rep. Swanson along with Lauryn and her mother Jennifer Russell led a discussion on the legislation last fall on WRMJ. Listen to the Interview.

TAXES

Illinois Department of Revenue set to accept tax returns for 2018. State tax returns will be accepted starting next week. The Department encourages taxpayers and their preparers to submit their returns electronically, noting that electronic returns are processed faster and can draw faster tax refunds for taxpayers. The new tax forms will be published on Monday, January 28th. A taxpayer may request that any refund be directly deposited into his or her bank account. 

TRANSPORTATION

Illinois ranks high on driver-friendly infrastructure.  WalletHub ranked Illinois as the #2 state out of 50 for infrastructure friendliness to drivers. The survey ranked several points of infrastructure on a per-capita basis and found Illinois above average on many of them, including auto-repair shops per capita (Illinois ranked #4 among the 50 states), highway safety (#5 of 50), car dealerships per capita (#7), road quality (#21), and gas prices (#24).

Oregon, which does not charge a sales tax on motor fuel or car-related merchandise, scored #1. 

UTILITIES

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can offer help to eligible households. Affected are eligible households that must pay natural gas or electricity bills for heating. The purpose of LIHEAP is to provide some help to households with income that does not exceed 150% of the federal nonfarm poverty level. For households with incomes below the ceiling, LIHEAP can help to pay some utility bills. LIHEAP can help with bills for Ameren Illinois, Com Ed, Nicor Gas, and Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas. The application process is detailed here

LIHEAP only accepts a limited number of people each year and, by the time the cold months come around, the LIHEAP program may be full up for the year and funding may be running short or even exhausted. More information about LIHEAP is available here.