Happy holidays to you and your family! I hope you are able to find some time to relax, reflect and enjoy some holiday cheer with friends, family, and other loved ones. This truly is a magical time of year! It has been an honor to represent you in the Illinois Senate, and I look forward to continuing with my service on your behalf in 2024.
When I took my oath of office in January of this year, I pledged to come to Springfield and work in a bipartisan manner to tackle our state’s most pressing problems, and to make Illinois a place people want to live, rather than leave. I am happy to report that I was able to obtain bipartisan support on several initiatives.
As we prepare to bid 2023 a fond farewell and ring in the New Year, more than 300 new laws are set to take effect on January 1, 2024. I will be highlighting some of the more noteworthy bills over the next two weeks, but a full list of laws taking effect on January 1 can be viewed here. I either voted in favor of or sponsored/co-sponsored all of the bills listed below.
Human Trafficking Victims Get Opportunity to Move Past Trauma
Victims of human trafficking will have more tools to overcome their trauma and pursue a better life under a new law. The new law creates a pathway for victims, who are often forced to participate in unlawful activity by their traffickers, to expunge their criminal records.
House Bill 2418/P.A. 103-0035 allows victims of human trafficking to petition for vacation, expungement, or immediate sealing of their sentence. It also allows the victim making the petition to attend hearings remotely to avoid undue hardship or create a risk of harm. The law also allows the petition to be filed under seal if a public filing may expose the victim to future harm. These steps help ensure a victim is able to avoid future victimization from their former abuser or abusers.
New Laws Protect Children in Legal Proceedings
A new law set to take effect on January 1 will help ensure that young victims of violent crimes won’t be re-traumatized when they seek justice through the criminal justice system. House Bill 2607/P.A. 103-0164 allows victims under the age of 13 to testify remotely in most cases.
The law was inspired by constituents of my Senate colleague Senator Rose, who were forced to take legal action to prevent their child from being required to testify against their abuser in court, rather than via closed-circuit TV. This new law will spare families from having to take similar action to protect their children.
Additionally, another new law allows for the admissibility of certified hospital or public or private agency records in adjudicatory hearings on abused, neglected, or dependent minors. Often in these cases, medical records are needed in court proceedings to prove abuse and neglect. House Bill 1434/ P.A. 103-0124 reduces burdensome restrictions and ensures the records are available, while still protecting their privacy.
New Tools in the Battle Against the Opioid Crisis
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported record-high opioid deaths in our state in 2022. To help combat this deadly crisis, Senate Republicans introduced and supported several new laws taking effect on January 1 to provide new tools to help save lives in the battle against this growing public health crisis.
Deaths resulting from drugs laced with fentanyl are becoming more commonplace, but a new law will expand the availability of test strips capable of detecting even trace amounts of fentanyl that substances may be laced with. House Bill 3203/P.A. 103-0336, will allow test strips to be sold over the counter and enable county health departments to provide them for free. I was a proud co-sponsor of this bill.
Schools will also be required to maintain a supply of an opioid antagonist, like Narcan under House Bill 3428/P.A. 103-0348, and public schools will be required to provide instruction to high schoolers on the dangers of fentanyl under House Bill 3924/P.A. 103-0365.
Greater Protections for Reporting Elder Abuse
More people will be able to report suspected abuse that may have contributed to a senior citizen’s death under a new law taking effect on January 1. House Bill 2858/P.A. 103-0329 states that any person may report information about the suspicious death of an eligible adult to an agency designated to receive such reports or to the Illinois Department on Aging. The new law will allow people who interact with the state’s senior citizens on a regular basis to come forward without fear of consequences from their employers. As the chief co-sponsor of this bill, I worked on a bipartisan basis for its passage.
New Laws Support, and Protect First Responders
Several new laws that aim to support and protect first responders take effect in 2024. Senate Bill 1543/P.A. 103-0382 creates the position of Statewide PTSD Mental Health Coordinator. The Coordinator is tasked with implementing mental health support and education programs for law enforcement.
Whenever any full-time firefighter or paramedic contracts COVID-19 in the line of duty, causing them to be unable to perform their duties during a disaster declaration by the Governor, the employee will continue to be paid by their local government, other than Chicago, under Senate Bill 214/P.A. 103-0063.
To further support first responders, municipalities will be required to provide the same medical insurance options to police, firefighters, and corrections officers who experience a catastrophic injury on the job and can no longer work as provided to active workers under House Bill 3249/P.A. 103-0340.
Additionally, Senate Bill 1963/P.A. 103-0009 creates a $500 tax credit for volunteer emergency workers.
I hope you find this information helpful as we prepare to enter the new year. From my family to yours, have a happy, safe, and blessed holiday season.