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Sex education standardization bill sent to Pritzker’s desk, lead pipe removal bill moves closer

The proposed Lead Service Line Replacement Notification Act would require “water utilities statewide to replace all lead service lines and creates a low-income water assistance program to help fund financial assistance and water projects that include lead pipe replacement.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, speaks on the  House floor in Springfield on Friday.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, speaks in support of the sex education standardization bill in Springfield on Friday.
BlueRoomStream

SPRINGFIELD — Utilities providing water in Illinois would be required to replace all lead service lines, and schools across the state would need to follow new standards for sex education curriculums under bills that advanced in the General Assembly Friday.

The proposed Lead Service Line Replacement Notification Act would require “water utilities statewide to replace all lead service lines and creates a low-income water assistance program to help fund financial assistance and water projects that include lead pipe replacement,” according to a news release announcing the passage of the bill.

“Lead service lines are a health threat that poisons our children, undermines our residents’ confidence in our municipal government and costs billions of dollars,” sponsor state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said in a statement.

“This is a feasible and equitable path forward that would require all cities in Illinois to tackle a problem that we know harms Black and Latinx communities the most.”

The bill passed the Senate and heads back to the House, so its members can vote on changes made since it left that chamber.

State Sen. Melinda Bush in 2016.
State Sen. Melinda Bush in 2016.
Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times file

After a heated debate, House members passed legislation that would change the state’s sex education curriculum to “provide comprehensive personal health and safety education in kindergarten through the 5th grade and comprehensive sexual health education in the 6th through 12th grades in all public schools.”

Starting in second grade, students would learn to define consent, gender identity and different types of families, including co-habitating and same-sex couples.

State Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago, said the bill she sponsored would “provide young people with information and skills that they need to be safe and healthy.”

Republican state Rep. Tony McCombie of Savanna urged members to vote no because the bill “goes far beyond health, wellness and safety for our kiddos.”

“Everyone wants to help our youth to be educated, we want our youth to be safe and protected, but this bill like so many others in this house goes way too far,” McCombie said.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna
State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna
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But state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a North Side Democrat who is gay, spoke in support of the bill, saying “as a kid who didn’t understand why I didn’t fit in, who couldn’t define why I felt different, and whose parents were not an option to go to ... I wish I had had a curriculum that didn’t call me unnatural.”

The bill passed 60 to 48 and now heads to the governor’s desk.

The state Senate also took up a bill barring law enforcement agencies from stopping, arresting, searching or detaining someone “solely based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.”

Republicans objected, saying it would “tie the hands” of law enforcement.

The bill also bars law enforcement agencies and officials from inquiring about or investigating “the citizenship or immigration status or place of birth of any individual in the agency or official’s custody or who has otherwise been stopped or detained by the agency or official.” And it bars new jailing contracts between any Illinois law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Current contracts would be allowed to phase out.

“This bill aims to limit police collaboration with immigration agencies and ensure that immigrant families in Illinois are able to work with law enforcement,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago.

State Sen. Omar Aquino in 2016.
State Sen. Omar Aquino in 2016.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Aquino noted the bill was not a “get out of jail free card,” as undocumented immigrants who have committed another crime are still subject to being investigated for those crimes.

Republican state Sen. Jil Tracy, of Quincy, objected to a provision she said would, “prohibit law enforcement from inquiring or investigating the place of birth or immigration status of a person who has been detained.”

“This still ties the hand of Illinois law enforcement to be able to do their job,” Tracy said.

Aquino told Tracy the bill does not “stop law enforcement from doing their job.”

“It is not the job of local law enforcement to do the job of ICE, that is not their role,” Aquino said. “They are not immigrant enforcers of any kind. They are supposed to serve and protect, not aid and abet the separation of families in our communities.”

The bill passed the Senate 36 to 19 and advanced to the House. One Democrat, state Sen. Rachelle Crowe, D-Maryville, voted against the measure.

The Senate also unanimously passed a bill allowing special education students to complete the school semester in which they turned 22.

“When a special ed student in our high school program hits age 22 they are immediately dropped from the program. This leads to countless numbers of students being forced to leave before the end of the school year,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, “It isn’t fair to our students.”