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State lawmakers tackle hair discrimination, inadequate care for new mothers, restraining orders allowing temporary gun seizure

Those were among the measures contained in bills passed by the state House or Senate on Wednesday, a little less than three weeks before the current legislative session is scheduled to end.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, celebrates passage of a bill he sponsored last month.
State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, celebrates passage of a bill he sponsored last month.
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Black and Brown students would be protected against discrimination related to their hairstyles, new mothers could get some additional care after giving birth, and those seeking to temporarily take firearms away from gunowners who pose a risk would be better informed of their legal options.

Those were among the measures contained in bills passed by the state House or Senate on Wednesday, a little less than three weeks before the current legislative session is scheduled to end.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, said the bill he sponsored “prohibits discrimination against hairstyles traditionally associated with race and ethnicity in our schools” and will “mean a lot to many of our students.”

During debate on the bill, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said that while “religious schools or private schools” shouldn’t be under such a government mandate, she would “still be happy to support the bill” and urged her Republican colleagues to do the same.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, last year.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, last year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

The bill, which would require the Illinois Board of Education to ensure schools don’t apply their uniform or other dress code policies to hairstyles, passed in a mostly partisan 40 to 13 vote and now moves to the House.

The Senate also passed a bill that aims to help Illinois mothers receive adequate care after giving birth and to stop unnecessary complications that could lead to death.

The bill “expands the [Department of Human Services] mandate to treat any pregnant or postpartum individual determined to be high risk and aims to reduce racial disparities in maternal health outcomes” said sponsor state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin.

It also requires private insurers to reimburse immediate postpartum contraceptives and cover postpartum complications such as “infection, depression or hemorrhaging” for at least a year after giving birth.

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, last year.
State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, last year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

That legislation passed unanimously and also advances to the House.

The House passed a bill that seeks to strengthen the state’s Firearms Restraining Order Act, which went into effect in early 2019. The original law allows people to seek court orders to “temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a significant risk to themselves or others,” according to a news release on the bill.

Strengthening that law is “critical” to reducing future firearm tragedies, said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie.

“When tragedies occur, it is our responsibility to re-examine the status quo and determine how we can improve state laws to prevent another tragedy,” Stoneback said. “This law has been in effect for over two years and four months, it has not been implemented correctly because of a lack of awareness, it has not protected people. … It’s time to correct these flaws.”

State Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, takes a picture of a roll call on the video board in February.
State Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback, D-Skokie, takes a picture of a roll call on the video board in February.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

The new legislation includes provisions that would require the Illinois Department of Public Health to promote awareness of firearms restraining orders to the general public, create a commission on the implementation of the original law and require the creation of a standard curriculum for training law enforcement officers on the restraining orders.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said the bill won’t stop the rise in violence and disagreed that the original law was underutilized, but she did agree with the education portion of the bill. She urged members to vote no.

Despite the division, the bill passed 69 to 43 with six members not voting. It now goes to the state Senate.

Rachel Hinton reported from Chicago, Andrew Sullender from Springfield