Children and adults with autism would benefit from two measures that passed out of the Illinois Senate with the support of Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
Senate Bill 345, which Harmon sponsored, acknowledges that autism is a whole-body disorder that affects more than simply a person’s neurology and behavior. The legislation would empower physicians to approach their diagnoses more effectively and would prohibit health insurance companies from restricting covered treatments for patients who have autism.
Studies have shown that medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and immunodeficiency problems, commonly occur in people on the autism spectrum. When properly diagnosed and treated, not only do these medical conditions improve, so, too, do the autism symptoms.
“It is not uncommon for medical providers to dismiss underlying medical symptoms simply as autism and miss the opportunity to adequately evaluate and treat patients,” Harmon said. “Senate Bill 345 eliminates a bureaucratic barrier and encourages providers to be more thorough with their medical evaluations and recommendations for treatment.”
The legislation creates the Autism and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the Senate and in the House. It now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner to be signed into law.
Laura Cellini, a parent advocate from Springfield, supports the legislation. She noted that people with autism have a mortality rate that is 10 times that of their peers of the same age.
“Often this is due to their inability to receive accurate diagnoses and treatment for their underlying health issues,” she said. “That is why this legislation is so critical to improving health outcomes for people with autism.”
In addition, Harmon supported House Bill 4257, which would allow people on the autism spectrum to be issued state-issued wallet cards that identify them as autistic. The cards can be shown to police officers, firefighters and others during high-stress encounters in which the cardholder is unable to communicate effectively.
Individuals with developmental disabilities, autism and mental illness can have difficulty communicating with other people, especially during heightened situations, prompting law enforcement professionals and others to mistake them as simply being difficult or defiant. The wallet card would be a signal for authorities to de-escalate the situation.
The cards would be issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
The legislation was sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego). Harmon was a co-sponsor in the Senate.
“As we continue to learn about the causes and symptoms of autism – a disorder that affects thousands of Illinois families and individuals every day – it is critical that we do whatever we can to offer people the kinds of resources they need to thrive,” Harmon said. “Ensuring they are not denied needed medical treatment and giving them the ability to communicate effectively when the stakes are high are just two ways we can help.”
A measure prohibiting new state regulation of training for yoga teachers will head to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 2743, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), garnered bipartisan support as a pro-business measure that curbs government regulation where it’s unneeded.
“There’s simply no reason for Illinois to regulate something that, for most people, is a personal pursuit, not a profession or a career,” Harmon said. “It makes no sense from a business standpoint, from a government standpoint or from a practical standpoint.”
Harmon’s legislation exempts yoga instruction and yoga teacher training from state oversight as a trade, occupation, vocation or professional school.
Several yoga teacher training programs in Illinois were notified earlier this year by the Illinois Board of Higher Education that they were subject to state regulation as vocational schools and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.
The measure passed unanimously in the Illinois House on Wednesday. It passed unanimously in the Senate in April.
Saying the state lacks adequate information about Illinois’ recovering bobcat population, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has proposed a prohibition on trapping the animals and selling their pelts.
Senate Bill 2143, which passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday, does not repeal recently enacted state law that allows hunting of bobcats.
“If it was up to me, I would take bobcats off the list of animals that can be hunted in Illinois,” Harmon said. “But under this legislation, folks still can hunt bobcats in an effort to manage the population in a responsible and humane way. They just can’t trap them.”
Currently, bobcat pelts have a market price of about $35 in Illinois. Harmon said he is concerned that Illinois is creating a market for the pelts of an animal that not long ago was a threatened species here.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation in July 2015 allowing licensed hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The practice had been banned in Illinois for about 40 years because the population had dwindled. Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 1999.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 3,000 bobcats in southern Illinois, 2,000 in western Illinois and 1,500 in other parts of the state. More precise figures and other data about the state’s bobcat population are unknown, though. The animals are nocturnal and reclusive.
“We don’t have the numbers, and we don’t have all the facts. Let’s slow down and not create a market for pelts of an animal whose population is still coming back,” Harmon said.
“If we’re going to kill animals, I would like for people to use all of the resources those animals provide. That’s the responsible thing to do. But it troubles me that bobcat hunting rules are rushed and without the benefit of having all the facts.
“Let’s not inadvertently create the incentives to hunt for sport only animals that were recently endangered and may still well be threatened.”
Yoga instructors would continue to be free from state government regulation under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
Senate Bill 2743 exempts yoga instruction and yoga teacher training from state regulation as a trade, occupation, vocation or profession.
“Over-regulation of yoga training disproportionately would impact small, women-owned businesses and advantage large chain fitness clubs,” Harmon said. “That’s not good for business in Illinois.”
The Illinois Board of Higher Education has discretion in determining what types of programs and courses it considers to be occupational or vocational in nature. For example, IBHE regulates training for nurse aids, dental assistants, accountants and HVAC technicians, all of which clearly are vocations.
However, teaching yoga typically is a personal pursuit, not a profession or a career path, Harmon said, noting that the state does not regulate certain ballet, karate or pilates instruction.
Yet several yoga teacher training schools in Illinois recently were notified by IBHE that they are subject to state regulation for training programs and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.
“Yoga has been practiced successfully for thousands of years without government regulation. I see no reason to intrude now,” Harmon said.
SB2743 unanimously passed out of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee and will head to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Senator Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore
Years served: 2003 - Present
Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.
Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.
Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly