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Steans law improves dental health for teens

dentist 081418CHICAGO – Children entering the ninth grade now will be required to receive a dental examination under legislation sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans that was signed into law yesterday.

“Dental exams are an important preventative health care tool,” Steans (D-Chicago) said. “Regular dental checkups can help children develop good habits while also addressing potential issues that can disrupt sleep, eating and speaking. I hope that adding an exam before high school will help ensure Illinoisans have good oral hygiene.”

Currently, children are required to undergo a dental examination before entering kindergarten, second grade and sixth grade regardless of whether they attend a public, private or parochial school.

House Bill 4908 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Mulroe ensures babies screened for rare diseases

baby 081418CHICAGO – Bureaucratic hurdles standing in the way of newborns receiving life-saving health screenings will be eliminated under a new law sponsored by State Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago).

“Parents need to know if their newborn has a lysosomal storage disorder so they can plan for their child’s needs,” Mulroe said. “Yet, complicated rules have prevented children from being tested for these life-altering diseases for nearly a decade after the law mandated us to do so. Their lives should not be put on the line because of red tape.”

State government operates under a web of purchasing and contract rules which govern how it solicits goods and services. An October 2017 report from the Chicago Tribune found this bureaucracy prevented the state labs from starting up this important newborn testing.

Originally passed in 2007, the Newborn Metabolic Screening Act mandated testing for diseases, including Krabbe. The disease presents no symptoms at birth, but the genetic defect causes a lack of an enzyme that sustains the protective coating around nerve cells, leading to a painful, debilitating condition. If detected early enough, treatments can be arranged to improve the quality of life.

Since the passage of the 2007 law, the initial deadline of 2010 has been extended as the Illinois Department of Public Health struggled to comply with the screening requirements due to a lack of the necessary technology, equipment, commodities and services to meet them. Ten years of regulatory missteps and byzantine state contracting rules prevented the screenings from being performed until December 2017.

House Bill 4745 exempts newborn screenings from those purchasing rules. 

“Illinois has been derelict in its duty to prevent this suffering,” Mulroe said. “This is the first step toward fixing that.”

The legislation was signed into law Friday. It takes effect immediately.

McGuire law to strenghten colleges includes four-year MAP grants, simplified credit transfers

mcguire 062918CREST HILL — Months of bipartisan cooperation and input from the state’s public universities came to fruition this morning as legislation enacting a plan put forth by the Higher Education Working Group became law.

State Senator Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, is Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and led the bipartisan, bicameral working group as it assessed the damage of the budget impasse and a decades-long trend of declining enrollment at Illinois colleges and universities. McGuire applauded the legislation that passed today, which included measures allowing students to extend their Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants to four years and giving students more options to transfer credits in order to obtain associate’s degrees.

“I commend my colleagues on the Higher Education Working Group, who joined me in acting without partisan rancor and coming to compromises that will bring stability, certainty, and accessibility to the students who can most benefit from a strong public community college and university system,” McGuire said.

Senate Bill 2354, sponsored by McGuire, instructs the Illinois Community College Board to develop a policy to allow students to “reverse transfer” credit from their four-year state school to their community college in order to obtain an associate’s degree. It also instructs state agencies to adopt a policy to award academic credit applicable toward an associate’s degree for certain military training. Lastly, it requires colleges to conduct a meeting with students who have 30 credit hours to counsel them on the school’s degree requirements.

“Navigating the degree requirements at college can be confusing and, for some students, costly,” McGuire said. “Allowing these new avenues to earning credit and obtaining associate’s degrees can make all the difference for people seeking an affordable college education.”

House Bill 5020, for which McGuire served as a chief co-sponsor in the Senate, ensures students who have already received MAP grants in previous years will be the first to receive them in subsequent years, making them a much more dependable source of funding for students who continue to qualify.

“Students who rely on MAP funding need assurances that they can afford to continue their education,” McGuire said. “By offering this assurance to students at state schools, we’re making our public institutions a more attractive option to students who are willing to put in the work to qualify.”

Signed by the governor at a ceremony at William Rainer Harper Community College this morning, the laws are effective immediately.

Tom Cullerton’s new law cuts red tape for veterans’ ID cards

flag on camoVILLA PARK —A new law championed by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) will make it easier for veterans to obtain an official veteran designation on their state identification cards.

Cullerton’s House Bill 4332 was signed into law Sunday, allowing an identification card issued under the federal Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015 to be used as verification for a veteran’s designation on a state ID or license.

“This commonsense law will streamline the process for Illinois’ veterans,” Cullerton said. “Our veterans have already jumped through hoops and filled out various forms to receive a federal designation – they should not have to complete a redundant process to receive state approval.”

Cullerton served as an infantryman in the Army from 1990 to 1993. He continues to use his military experience to champion commonsense legislation to help military veterans, personnel and their families.

“Our returning heroes should not have to go through additional red tape when they return home,” Cullerton said. “It is our duty to ease their transition back to civilian life by utilizing practical procedures.”

This measure is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Illinois AMVETS Service Foundation.

House Bill 4332 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. It goes into effect on January 1, 2019.

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