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McGuire DCFS measure becomes law

childcare 081518SPRINGFIELD — Legislation championed by Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) to support children whose families are involved with the Department of Children & Family Services was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner Aug. 14.

McGuire is the chief sponsor of HB 4885, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support. The legislation makes DCFS-involved children under five years of age eligible for the state Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and makes children under three years of age eligible for the state Early Intervention (EI) program.

“Quality childcare now is assured for children from troubled families,” McGuire said. “In addition, access to the EI program means those infants and toddlers now will have any developmental delays identified and treated.”

This measure is one of several actions taken by the Illinois General Assembly and DCFS to improve protection of children following the April 2017 death of Semaj Crosby in unincorporated Joliet Township. Improvements have been made at the Joliet DCFS office in staffing and coordination with local human service providers, and the legislature voted to fund a special unit within DCFS to address high-risk households.

Morrison’s proposal to require SMA testing in newborns signed into law

babies 081518SPRINGFIELD – Illinois newborns will now be tested for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) under a proposal passed by State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) that was signed into law on Tuesday.   

“Medical advancements have made all the difference in treating this horrific disease that affects our youngest children,” Morrison said. “Including testing for SMA in regular newborn screenings will ensure treatment can begin immediately to prevent the disease from progressing and causing life-time harm or even death.”

Morrison’s new law, passed under Senate Bill 456, requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to test for SMA during the newborn screening test. The department is required by the new law to begin testing by 2020 at the latest.

SMA is the most common genetic disorder linked to infant death worldwide and affects between 1 in 6,000 to 1 in 10,000 U.S. births. It is a terminal, degenerative disease that causes severe symptoms that eventually prohibit a child from walking, standing, eating, swallowing and even breathing. Most children with the genetic disorder will not live past 18 months.

Fortunately, advances in medical treatment led the FDA to approve the first treatment for SMA in December 2016. The drug is only effective, however, if given early before symptoms fully develop, making testing of paramount importance.

“I am proud Illinois is taking a lead in ensuring all children are tested for a painful disease that can now be both tested for and treated,” Morrison said.

Senate Bill 456 was signed into law on Tuesday and takes effect immediately.

New Martinez law seeks to place teachers in low-income classrooms

martinez 042618SPRINGFIELD — A new law passed by Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) expands the Grow Your Own Teacher initiative, a program designed to train people to become teachers in hard-to-staff schools.

Under the new law, eligibility for the program is extended to high school students enrolled at dual-credit courses at participating colleges and universities and to all pre-K teachers, not just those teaching at public schools.

“We have a great need for teachers in our state, especially in early childhood education,” Martinez said. “If we have people willing to teach, especially in low-income areas, we should help them.”

The Grow Your Own Teacher initiative provides financial, academic and emotional support to people studying to become teachers. After graduation, participants commit to teaching at least five years at a high-needs school or in a high-needs teaching position, usually at schools with a high percentage of low-income students.

House Bill 4882 takes effect immediately. 

New Bennett law protects student loan borrowers from losing professional licenses

bennett 053018SPRINGFIELD – Student loan borrowers will now have protections in place to help them keep their professional licenses as they work to pay off their debt, thanks to a new law passed by State Senator Scott Bennett.

Bennett (D-Champaign) worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pass Senate Bill 2439, which removes from Illinois law provisions that allow an individual’s professional license to be taken away if they are behind on their student loan payments. 

“There are many things we can do to collect debt for student loans, but taking away someone’s job should never be an option,” Bennett said. “This new law protects licensed professionals from becoming trapped in insurmountable debt.”

The Career Preservation and Student Loan Repayment Act puts provisions in place to prevent licensing agencies from denying, revoking, or suspending licenses to individuals with student loan default in 38 professions such as occupational therapists, teachers, structural engineers, home inspectors and real estate agents.

“For many people, the reward of a fulfilling career is what makes an investment in higher education worth it,” Bennett said. “I am glad that we are now able to protect that investment and ensure that borrowers can stay current on their payments – instead of severely punishing them when they fall behind.” 

The governor signed the law this week. It takes effect immediately.

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