Senate Week in Review: April 1-5, 2019

Citizens and advocacy groups from across the state crowded the Capitol during the week, voicing their support or opposition to hundreds of bills currently being considered by lawmakers.

Senators spent many hours debating and voting on legislation – such as measures to combat the opioid crisis and to provide a more affordable alternative to medicine for treating allergic reactions – as they work to meet an April 12 deadline for the third reading of Senate bills.

Also during the week, state officials and lawmakers urged motorists to pay more attention and be more careful while driving, as distracted-driving accidents resulted in the deaths of two Illinois State Police (ISP) Troopers in just three days.

Making our roads safer 

State officials and lawmakers are asking the public to slow down and drive more carefully after two ISP Troopers were killed in recent distracted-driving accidents.

On March 28, Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was struck and killed by a semitrailer during a roadside inspection of another truck, along Route 20 near Route 75 in Freeport.  On April 3, Governor J.B. Pritzker, ISP Acting Director Brendan Kelly and scores of ISP Troopers joined hundreds of people who paid tribute to Trooper Jones-Story, a 12-year ISP veteran, during a memorial service in the Warren High School gymnasium.

Trooper Gerald Ellis was on duty March 30 when he was killed in a head-on collision with a vehicle traveling the wrong way on Interstate 94. His funeral service was set for April 5 in Grayslake.

Their deaths brought to three the number of troopers killed in 2019.  On Jan. 12, Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed after being hit by a car on I-294 while at the scene of an accident.

Lawmakers from around the state are expressing concern about the number of ISP Troopers who have been hit by vehicles – 16 so far in 2019.  In 2018, just eight Troopers were hit; 12 were hit in 2017; and five in 2016.

Acting Director Kelly and the Governor are urging motorists to obey Scott’s Law, which mandates that when approaching any police or other emergency vehicle stopped along the roadway, drivers must proceed with due caution, change lanes if possible, and reduce their speed.

State Police have also stepped up enforcement of Scott’s Law and are trying to raise awareness of the issue through social media.

Advocacy groups in Springfield

Hundreds of Illinois students visited the Capitol April 3 to view state government in action and talked with legislators about issues, as part of the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day.  The annual event in Springfield focuses on encouraging young people, who are tomorrow’s leaders, to take an interest in state government.

Also on April 3, healthcare leaders from around the state presented information about their community programs as part of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s Quality Advocacy Showcase.  The event gives local healthcare leaders the opportunity to talk with legislators about how hospitals are improving patient safety and enhancing quality care, while reducing healthcare costs.

Combatting opioid crisis

The Senate has taken another major step in combatting the opioid overdose epidemic by passing legislation to treat the deadly drug Fentanyl as seriously as heroin.

Senate Bill 199 creates a Class 1 felony penalty structure for the possession of Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs, targeted at illegal dealers and suppliers of the drug.  The goal is to put Fentanyl offenses on the same level as heroin, and to help prosecute those who are engaged in the illegal manufacturing and trade of the deadly drug.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originally developed as a painkiller.  Experts say the drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  Fentanyl is now the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the United States, according to a 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Senate Bill 199 is currently awaiting action in the House after being passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.

EpiPen alternatives

Health insurance companies would be required to offer generic alternatives for EpiPens under legislation that passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate on April 4.

EpiPen is the brand name of a device that delivers the drug epinephrine, which is a life-saving medication used when someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction.  The cost of this drug, which can be in the hundreds of dollars range, often places it out of reach to those who need it most.

Senate Bill 2047 would require health insurance companies to offer generic alternatives for insulin auto-injectors.  The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.