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Cunningham advances measure to crack down on school violence threats made on social media

cunningham 050919SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that seeks to deter threats from being made against schools on social media was approved by the Senate Criminal Law Committee Tuesday.

“False threats against our schools not only cause a panic, but also trigger costly emergency responses that divert first responders’ attention away from situations where they’re really needed,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “School safety is a serious issue and we need to do all we can to deter false threats from being made.”

Under Illinois law, a person commits the offense of disorderly conduct when he or she calls 911 for the purpose of making a false complaint or providing false information, including a threat against a school.

House Bill 1579 expands the offense to include threats made on any platform, including social media. Current law only covers threats made by telephone or threats that specifically mention the use a bomb.

If an individual is convicted of transmitting a false threat, he or she must also pay for the costs of the emergency response the threat triggered.

In drafting the legislation, Cunningham worked closely with Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan, whose department heightened security measures at local schools several times last year due to threats on social media.

“According to law enforcement in my district, threats of violence against schools are increasingly coming through social media rather than the phone and make no mention of a bomb,” Cunningham said. “We’re in the social media age right now and this trend is only going to continue. We need to update our laws to reflect modern concerns.”

The measure further allows the court to order a mental health evaluation for a minor charged with disorderly conduct for transmitting a threat to a school.

“Police and health care providers need to work together to determine whether or not a threat is legitimate,” Cunningham said. “We need to use every tool available to make sure our students aren’t at risk.”

The measure will now go before the entire Senate.

Crowe pushes for insurance coverage for breast milk

crowe 050919SPRINGFIELD – Mothers needing donated breast milk would benefit under new legislation carried by State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon).

The initiative would require insurance companies to cover costs of pasteurized donated human breast milk for mothers in Illinois.

“Mothers incapable of producing milk should still have access to the benefits and nutrients of milk for their newborns,” Crowe said.

Under the measure for coverage, the milk must come from a milk bank licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. To qualify, the mother must be unable to produce milk to meet the infant’s needs, and the infant must also be critically ill.

House Bill 3509 passed the Senate Insurance Committee and will go before the full Senate for further consideration.

Aquino immigrant financial aid package sent to governor

Senator AquinoSPRINGFIELD – A bill sponsored by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) that would allow undocumented and transgender students to receive state financial aid for college passed the Senate today.

House Bill 2691, known as the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act, would allow undocumented and transgender Illinois residents to be eligible for State financial aid at institutions of higher education.

“Every student, regardless of their immigration status or gender identity, deserves full access to higher education,” said Aquino. “Our state has an obligation to these students to make sure that we can provide them with the economic means to be successful and enter the work force.”

Under current law, undocumented students are ineligible for State financial assistance. Transgender students who do not register for selective service are also barred from receiving aid.

“This is a matter of priorities,” said Aquino. “You need to ask yourself as a legislator, ‘Do I prioritize students?’ ‘Do I prioritize undocumented immigrants?’ ‘Do I prioritize transgender people and their rights?’ All of these people pay taxes in our state and deserve to receive the benefits they pay into.”

House Bill 2691 awaits the governor’s signature.

Bennett: Illinois has a toxic coal ash problem

bennett 050919Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect land and water from coal ash pollution

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation today to address the issue of severe groundwater contamination at Illinois coal ash dumpsites.

Recently, several state environmental groups found unsafe levels of toxic pollutants at 22 of Illinois’ coal ash storage sites in the last year.

Millions of tons of coal ash, generated by the state’s coal-fired power plants, have been stored in primarily unlined ponds and landfills near the plants for decades. This toxic byproduct of burning coal continues to flow into groundwater, lakes, rivers, and streams around the state, including the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’ only National Scenic River.

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