Illinois does not have a budget. Maybe you’ve heard.
But the Illinois House and Senate did pass a handful of worthy non-budgetary bills in the spring legislative session that now await Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature.
We’re still pushing for the passage of an actual state budget between now and July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, because we’re hopelessly naive that way. In the meantime, here are 10 bills, all largely independent of the budget stalemate, that the governor can sign into law now.
Reform how the state buys goods and services: Rauner has said Illinois could save a bundle through procurement policy reforms. A bill awaiting his signature moves in that direction, allowing for such common-sense practices as standardized contracts and joint purchases. More aggressive procurement reform could save Illinois a half billion dollars a year, Rauner’s office says, but the savings from this bill “won’t be anywhere near that number.” Democrats estimate it would save $70 million a year. Senate Bill 8 is a step in the right direction.
Allow transgender people to change birth certificates: Illinois allows people to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity only if they have had sexual reassignment surgery. House Bill 1785, consistent with the latest medical standards, would allow transgender people to change birth certificates if licensed health care professionals who provided medical care sign declarations confirming “clinically appropriate” treatment, or health professionals identify an intersex condition.
Keep your paycheck private: A prospective employer has no business asking you to reveal your current salary, information it can use to low-ball you on pay. Demanding a job applicants “salary history” also can perpetuate unfair salary disparities between men and women. House Bill 2462 prohibits companies from asking applicants to divulge their current or most recent salary.
Lock up repeat gun offenders longer: As the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, says, repeat gun offenders must be taken off the streets long enough to give “a breather” to neighborhoods “ravaged” by guns. Senate Bill 1722 would increase the sentencing range to between seven and 14 years for individuals with previous qualifying convictions who are convicted of gun crimes. Judges could impose shorter sentences as long as they explained their reasoning in writing.
Prohibit higher insurance premiums for pre-existing medical conditions: Under federal law, insurers can’t jack up rates for pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and epilepsy. But that could all change under some proposed Republican replacements to the Affordable Care Act. To get a jump on protecting people in Illinois, House Bill 2959 would continue the prohibition here. It sends the right signal to Washington. The bill garnered bipartisan support in the state Legislature, but far from unanimous support.
Sell the Thompson Center: Sign Senate Bill 886 and unload the joint, governor. As we wrote earlier this month, don’t get hung up on the fact that Chicago, rather than the state, will call the shots on zoning changes for the site’s future developer. That’s how zoning works. It’s a massively dysfunctional building and can’t be fixed.
Make it easier to expunge a record for a stupid teenage crime: About 24,000 kids are arrested in the state every year, but whether they shot somebody or just jumped a CTA turnstile, their criminal records can follow them for life, making it harder to get a job. House Bill 3817 would require the automatic expungement of records of juvenile arrests that do not lead to charges and of those charges that are dismissed or result in an acquittal. Job seekers asked about convictions would not have to report juvenile court adjudications.
Automatically register eligible voters: This is how Springfield is supposed to work but doesn’t. The Legislature passed a bipartisan bill last year to make it possible to automatically register voters when they apply for a driver’s license or in other ways do business with a state agency. Rauner vetoed the bill out of concern that ineligible voters could slip in and because there was no easy way for people to opt out from registering. Now a revised bill, Senate Bill 1933, is back, and it has been approved unanimously by both branches of the Legislature. Here’s hoping the gov get with the spirit of compromise.
Cut the confusing small print from student loan agreements: It’s not hard to get caught up in jargon when applying for a student loan. Senate Bill 1351 stops lenders in their tracks by requiring clear information about money — like how you’ll pay in fees — and loan servicing. The purpose of this “student loan bill of rights,” drafted by Lisa Madigan and Sen. Daniel Biss, is to protect young borrowers from potentially tens of thousands of dollars of poorly understood fees and penalties.
Keep cops from acting like immigration agents: The Illinois Trust Act would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide criminal warrants when it wants city and county cops to help arrest or detain undocumented immigrants. Under Senate Bill 31, ICE could still go after immigrants on its own.
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