Senate Week in Review: June 24-28, 2019

The United States Supreme Court ruled during the week that courts have no role in deciding partisan gerrymandering claims, a decision that Senate Republicans say further underscores the need for a fair maps redistricting process in Illinois.

In other action, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation on June 25 that makes Illinois the 11th state to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis for adults.

And a new law increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 is among several other new laws that will take effect on July 1.

Courts have no role in policing gerrymandering

On June 27, the United States Supreme Court ruled that courts have no role in deciding whether state legislative and federal Congressional maps are drawn for the benefit of a certain political party. Senate Republicans say this decision further underscores the need for the Illinois General Assembly to approve a state constitutional amendment to allow for fair maps in Illinois.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady issued the following statement in response to the United States Supreme Court ruling:

“Today’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court shows the time is now for the Illinois General Assembly to vote upon Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 4. This bipartisan measure, which has 37 sponsors (enough to pass the measure) would give the people of Illinois the opportunity to amend the Illinois Constitution and create a new, non-partisan system for drawing maps. 

A healthy democracy requires competitive elections and new ideas, which is in the people’s best interest. Our current system, which gives the party in power ultimate authority to redraw legislative maps, inhibits that. As a result, I am calling on the Illinois Senate President to ensure this bipartisan measure gets called for a vote, and for the Governor to follow through with his pledge to support fair maps in Illinois.  We need to take the power of drawing legislative maps away from politicians and put it in the hands of the people.”

Residents can voice their support for fair maps by signing a petition at http://senategop.state.il.us/.

Recreational cannabis legal in Illinois beginning January 1

Signed by Governor Pritzker on June 25, the new recreational use and sale of cannabis law (House Bill 1438/PA 101-0027) sets in place regulations for businesses, possession limits for consumers, tax rates, taxpayer-funded interest-free loans to former felons, and a process for expunging cannabis-related criminal records.

Adults ages 21 and older can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or five grams of concentrate.  Those with medical cannabis cards can grow up to five plants for personal use. There are no limits on THC levels.

Businesses must be properly licensed and follow strict regulations to sell cannabis products, and local governments have the option to opt out of allowing dispensaries in their jurisdiction.

The sale of cannabis is subject to an excise tax at both the wholesale and consumer level. Municipalities and counties can also impose taxes.  However, medical marijuana is exempt from all taxes.

Adults can begin buying and using cannabis legally starting January 1, 2020.

Several new laws taking effect July 1

The new fiscal year begins on July 1, and several new laws will also take effect. From increasing the age to purchase tobacco products to changing what is considered a full day of school, these new laws cover a wide range of topics.

Perhaps the most high-profile of these new laws to take effect on July 1 is the new law that increases the age to purchase tobacco, electronic cigarettes, or alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21. House Bill 345/PA 101-0002 also eliminates penalties for underage possession; however, retailers will still be fined for selling restricted products to underage customers. A number of communities in Illinois already have Tobacco 21 rules, but beginning July 1, this will be the statewide standard.

Other new laws taking effect July 1 include:

Texting While Driving Penalties (HB 4846/PA 100-0858): States that first-time incidences of driving while operating a handheld mobile device are considered a “moving violation,” and the operator using a hand-held device could face a $75 fine. Previous law considered first-time offenses as a “non-moving violation.”

State Hospital Residents ID (SB 2903/PA 100-0717): Requires the Secretary of State to issue a standard Illinois ID card to a person upon conditional release or absolute discharge from the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Chronic Absence Data Collection (HB 5771/PA 100-0819): Requires any preschool that receives funding via the Preschool for All program to collect and review its chronic absence data and determine what systems of support and resources are needed to positively engage chronically absent students and their families to encourage the habit of daily attendance and promote success.

School Report Card Attendance (SB 1532/PA 100-0448): Provides that the State Report Card for schools must contain data on average daily attendance.

Instructional Day Definition (SB 28/PA 101-0012):  Defines a school instructional day as a minimum of five clock hours of seat time. Provides that participation in dual credit enrollment, in a supervised career development experience, in a youth apprenticeship or in a blended learning program will be counted toward the calculation of clock hours of school work per day. Expands the e-learning pilot program to all school districts and provides that the regional offices of education or intermediate service centers have the responsibility to verify e-learning programs prior to their use in a school district.

Diversion from Institutionalization (SB 2424/PA 100-0924): Requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to create the Diversion from Facility Based Care Program consisting of at least six homes in various locations to serve individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are at risk of institutionalization.

Government Entity Billing (SB 544/PA 100-0994): Amends the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act to allow for billing of certain government entities by circuit clerk for civil filing fees and to clarify civil case debt collection fees.

Illinois Liquor Control Commission (SB 3022/PA 100-1050): Makes the Illinois Liquor Control Commission independent from the Illinois Department of Revenue. The Commission had been merged with the Department by an Executive Order from Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2003.

Meat Products for Personal Use (SB 1364/PA 100-1185): Expands the options a Type I meat processing establishment may pursue to process or slaughter meat for its own personal use.

Criminal Fines (SB 1328/PA 100-1161): Increases the minimum felony fine from $25 to $75.