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Legislation requiring menstrual products in school bathrooms advances to governor’s desk

An ethics reform proposal approved by the Illinois House and sent to the state Senate would ban constitutional officeholders from lobbying the state until six months after leaving office or for the rest of their term, whichever is sooner.

Illinois State Capitol
Monday was the last day of the legislative session in Springfield.
State Journal-Register, distributed by the Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers on Monday advanced legislation requiring menstrual products in school bathrooms, enhancing the powers of the legislative inspector general and creating a new judicial circuit.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker now can sign the menstrual products bill into law; the other two measures need Illinois Senate approval.

The ethics proposal passed by the House Monday night — their last day in session — would allow the legislative inspector general to initiate investigations without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission, composed largely of lawmakers.

Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Highland Park, said the bill is “a real opportunity to make meaningful change” and takes the first steps in “addressing some of the most egregious scandals in our state’s history.”

The bill sets a revolving-door prohibition, barring constitutional officeholders from lobbying the state until six months after they leave office or for the remainder of their term, whichever is sooner.

It would also bar public officials in the state’s various units of government from lobbying their own unit of government. The city of Chicago, which has its own ethics rules, would not have to follow suit.

Asked why that “revolving door” ban isn’t longer than six months, Gillespie said the bill is a “first step” and the focus was on getting a bill legislators could agree on and pass.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted ... but we got a good solid bill that addresses many of the issues that we’ve seen over the last couple of years,” Gillespie said.

A separate one-year ban for state employees who’ve worked with contracts or regulatory licensing, or hold managerial positions, such as chief of staff, including deputies, also was expanded.

“I’m really disappointed with this piece of legislation ... we have seen time after time after time, members of this body — elected officials in Illinois — who have gone against the public’s trust and who, in some cases, have gone to trial for it,” said Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.

“If we are going to show the public that they can have a renewed sense of trust in state government, we’ve got to do something a whole heck of a lot better than this watered-down, diluted — and I think, in some instances, really deceptive — ethics reform.”

Despite the division, the bill advanced out of the House, 113-to-5. It has not yet passed the Illinois Senate.

The menstrual hygiene products measure passed both chambers despite GOP complaints about the products being made available in male bathrooms.

House Bill 156 makes tampons and sanitary napkins available during school hours in “bathrooms of every school building that are open for student use” from 4th through 12th grades, according to a description of the bill.

Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, said requiring schools to provide these products in male bathrooms was “dumb,” and legislators should “be talking about things like the budget, not talking about putting female hygiene products in a boy’s bathroom.”

Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, declared “men and boys don’t menstruate and we sure as heck don’t need tampons in our bathrooms.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, said transgender students may use the male bathroom but also menstruate.

She added that “41% of folks who are transgender have thought of or attempted suicide. ... I don’t want to keep speaking around the subjects that you all are wanting me to talk about because it wouldn’t be fair … to the kids that I’m standing here to help normalize life for. A student or child needs a product in the bathroom. They should be able to go in the bathroom and get the product. That’s it.”

The bill passed the Senate Friday in a partisan 39-to-17 vote.

The House also passed Senate Bill 2406 which, as amended, would make St. Clair County its own judicial circuit and create the state’s 24th judicial circuit, which would include Monroe, Randolph, Washington and Perry and expand the subcircuits in the 19th Circuit, in Lake County, from six to 10.

“A fact: St. Clair County has 262,000 people, 64% are white, 30% are African American, yet they only have one African American judge,” said sponsor Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea. “This is not acceptable. By changing the makeup of this circuit we will make sure that minorities have fair representation as circuit judges.”

Rep. Charles Meier, R-Highland, said there are larger counties that don’t have their own circuit and creating this would burden residents since the administrative costs of more workers likely would be passed to them.

The bill passed 71 to 45 and heads to the Senate.

Another bill that passed in the Senate modernizes the state’s firearm transfer program and provides an incentivize — but not a mandate — to require fingerprints to receive a FOID card.

“Let me just say that quite simply this bill seeks to fix our broken system of how people get FOID cards,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria. “There are people that should … not have guns and we don’t allow the kind of time or the kind of resources to really thoroughly do background checks and to check these folks out.”

To improve the backlog of FOID applications and renewals at the Illinois State Police, the bill merges and digitizes the Concealed Carry License and FOID card into one. The bill also creates a task force that ensures firearms are taken when a FOID card is revoked.

FOID cards will be automatically renewed if the cardholder voluntarily submits fingerprints to the state police.

A similar bill passed the House last week, except with a fingerprint mandate. Koehler said this bill is a compromise.

“I get calls in my office saying, ‘By golly, I’m not giving my fingerprints to the government.’ And we said, ‘OK, you don’t have to. You don’t have to, you can just do what you’ve always done,’” Koehler said, “But if you want to have the non-expiring FOID card, then you can voluntarily give your fingerprints. I mean, it’s a choice that you have.”

But Republicans said the bill didn’t go far enough and that the FOID system should be abolished.

“For the last seven years I’ve introduced ‘repeal the FOID’ legislation. Now, interestingly enough, the process to get a FOID card ... is the same background check as when you buy a gun,” said Sen Neil Anderson, R-Moline. “This is a redundancy in law. There’s no reason for the FOID card. And we sure as hell shouldn’t be fingerprinting, whether it’s mandatory, or in this case, simply incentivizing.”

Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said the bill was “chipping away at the Second Amendment” and that the legislature should “void the FOID so they can exercise their God-given constitutional right.”

But Koehler said “the reality” is simply that the FOID card system exists, “but it doesn’t work very well. This is an attempt to make it work better.”

The bill, HB562, passed 40-to-17. It has not yet been taken up by the House.