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The Majority Report 03/03/18 - Senate Democrats approve gun safety measures


Senate Democrats approve gun safety measures

Sen. Don HarmonWith Congress paralyzed by partisan politics, Senate President John Cullerton applauded his Illinois colleagues for taking action to protect public safety and urged state lawmakers across the country to show similar leadership.

Cullerton said he was proud of the Illinois Senate’s continued leadership in pushing for safer communities.

“I want to specifically call on Indiana officials to finally do something about the flood of guns from their state flowing into Chicago and being used for crimes,” he said. “If Indiana were to take public safety as seriously as we do, both of our states would be far better.”

Cullerton's remarks followed the Illinois Senate’s approval of legislation regarding gun dealer licenses and creation of a process through which guns can be removed from people believed to be prone to violence.

The Gun Dealer Licensing Act, sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would allow Illinois to license gun dealers in an effort to quell gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods and across the state.

“There’s no one law that’s going to solve all our problems, but other states that have adopted similar licensing requirements have seen a 65 percent reduction in guns used in crimes,” Harmon said. “I can only hope we reach that number, but I know this bill will at least keep some guns off the street and some young people alive.”

The red flag proposal, sponsored by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), creates the Lethal Violence Order of Protection Act. It would empower family or law enforcement officers to notify a judge when someone with access to firearms shows warning signs of causing personal or public harm.

“This plan not only gives families the power to intervene when they see troubling behavior, but it also protects the rights of individuals by ensuring due process in the court system,” Morrison said.

The Illinois House also approved a package of gun legislation. The votes coincided with a rally hosted by gun reform advocacy group Moms Demand Action that drew 500 supporters to the Capitol.

Read more: About the Gun Dealer Licensing Act
Read more: About the Lethal Violence Order of Protection Act
Video: Morrison, Harmon join gun control activists
In the news: Six gun safety measures approved by General Assembly


Castro calls for public health chief’s resignation

Sen. Cristina CastroThe director of Illinois’ public health agency should resign, State Senator Cristina Castro said, pointing to new information that calls into question his priorities and his ability to lead in a crisis.

Castro (D-Elgin) is urging Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah to resign after emails emerged, as reported by WBEZ radio, regarding the Rauner administration’s bungled response to the Legionnaires’ epidemic at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy.

Castro said she is deeply concerned about the way Shah and others handled the disease outbreak and the deaths of 13 veterans.

“Illinois needs a public health director whose top priority is solving public health problems, not what social media says about him,” she said. “I wish he was as concerned about saving lives at the Quincy veterans home as he was about saving his own tail.”

Emails obtained through an open records request detailed correspondence between Shah, the state Veterans’ Affairs Department and the governor’s office in the wake of the 2015 outbreak at the home. The conversation focused mainly on public perception of the crisis, rather than on solutions and protection for residents and staff.

Video: Castro explains her call for Shah to step aside
In the news: Read some of the emails the administration is fighting to keep secret


Bertino-Tarrant: Schools can't shoulder Rauner plan

Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant

The governor’s plan to dump the state’s share of teacher pension costs on local school districts would have devastating effects on classrooms and learning throughout Illinois, state education officials said Tuesday.

The testimony of State Superintendent of Schools Tony Smith and other education officials during a Senate budget hearing confirms what Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been saying since Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget plan Feb. 14.

“The governor is playing the game of trickling expenses down to local districts. My school leaders are already facing high levels of unpredictability and uncertainty. They’re unable to carry a half-billion dollars in new spending that the governor is putting on them,” said State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Democrat from Plainfield and a member of the Senate Appropriations II Committee.

Bertino-Tarrant said she’s open to a policy discussion about whether there’s a responsible way to transition some costs over a longer term, but agreed Rauner’s four-year plan to shift $2 billion in state responsibilities to schools would wreak havoc and undermines lawmakers’ historic efforts to invest in public education.

Rauner’s proposed education budget includes an increase of $350 million required by the state’s new school funding formula. However, his proposal also would require schools to bear $490 million in unexpected pension costs.


Steans delivers message from 5,000 chronic pain sufferers

Sen. Heather A. Steans and Rep. Kelly CassidyNearly 5,000 petition signatures asking that intractable pain be added to the list of approved conditions for Illinois’ medical marijuana program were delivered to the governor’s office.

State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Kelly Cassidy, both Chicago Democrats, delivered the petitions, along with a strong message about Gov. Bruce Rauner’s preference to continue appealing a judge’s ruling on the matter.

“Given a choice between showing compassion for those suffering from chronic pain or pursuing a costly legal battle, the Rauner administration chose the latter,” Steans said. “I do not believe that appealing the court’s decision is an effective use of taxpayer dollars. From the number of Illinoisans that signed this petition, I’m not the only one that seems to think so.”

In February, the Rauner administration decided to appeal a Cook County judge’s ruling to add intractable pain to the list of qualifying conditions in the medical marijuana program. Intractable pain is a severe form of chronic pain. Patients with intractable pain may be prescribed opioids to cope with this condition.


Morrison, lawmakers create bipartisan children’s caucus

Sen. Julie Morrison

Legislators from the House and Senate have created a Children’s Health Caucus, which will examine data on the current health and well-being of Illinois children and adolescents.

The caucus will be co-chaired by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), State Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria), and State Representatives Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Tom Demmer (R-Dixon).

“Children face a unique set of health care challenges that require solutions based on sound, up-to-date data,” Morrison said. “It is imperative the health issues facing children are addressed early on to prevent more medically-complex conditions that can end up being more expensive and more difficult to treat later in life.”

The caucus will be staffed by the newly formed Collaborative for Children’s Health Policy involving stakeholders from across the state. Founding organizations in the collaborative include: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, EverThrive Illinois, Illinois Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Ounce of Prevention Fund and Voices for Illinois Children.

Read more: About the children’s caucus
Video: Morrison discusses importance of the children's caucus


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Senator Bill Cunningham, Chicago: Illinois Senate approves marijuana ballot question | The Associated Press

Senator Toi Hutchinson, Chicago: Effingham could benefit from ‘Home Rule’ proposal | Effingham Daily News

Senator Emil Jones, Chicago: Lawmakers approve revamp of hospital Medicaid funding | Chicago Tribune

Senator Dave Koehler, Peoria: Can a grocery co-op solve Peoria’s food desert problem? | Peoria Journal Star

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