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Senate Week in Review: September 11-15, 2017

A large data breach announced September 7 by consumer reporting agency Equifax has caused millions of Americans’ sensitive information to be compromised, and state officials are urging residents to be proactive and take necessary precautions to prevent identity fraud or further damage from the data breach.

Also during the week, Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation that modifies police education requirements for candidates, and a measure to require the Firefighters Memorial Fund be used for scholarships for families of fallen firefighters, as a way of honoring them.

In other action, legislators are working toward improving the state of veteran affairs in Illinois with a new law that allows the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs to implement recommendations provided by the Veterans’ Suicide Task Force to expand programs to benefit veterans—especially those from high-casualty combat units.

Equifax data breach

Equifax announced late last week that it suffered a breach affecting at least 143 million Americans. Information compromised in the breach includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, dates of birth, credit card numbers and addresses.

The company has set up a website where people can check whether their personal information potentially was affected by the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.  Consumers with questions regarding Equifax’s data breach are encouraged to contact Equifax at 866-447-7559.

People can also contact the state Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-866-999-5630 or review Identity Theft resources on the Attorney General’s website. The hotline is staffed with identity theft experts who can help victims report the crime to local law enforcement and financial institutions, work to repair their credit and prevent future theft. Hotline operators can also assist callers who want to take proactive steps to prevent their personal information from being stolen.

The Attorney General is also calling on Equifax to suspend its charge for placing a credit freeze on their accounts in light of the significant risk of identity theft posted by the breach. Currently, Equifax is permitted to charge Illinois residents up to $10 to implement a credit freeze, remove a freeze or temporarily thaw a credit freeze, with limited exceptions for identity theft victims, individuals age 65 or older, and active-duty military service members. In announcing the breach, Equifax also said it would offer free credit monitoring to everyone.

Police education requirements

The job candidate pool for Illinois police will soon grow thanks to legislation (House Bill 305) that will waive police education requirements for applicants completing their bachelor’s degree. The bill was signed into law by Governor Rauner on September 8.

The previous Illinois police qualifications strictly required that all candidates have an associate’s degree or higher in order to apply—which inadvertently would omit applicants who are in the process of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The law now states that applicants are eligible for a position with the police department if they either possess an associate’s degree or have completed at least 60 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree. As a result, local police departments will have greater hiring flexibility and a more competitive pool of qualified, educated candidates.

Scholarships for families of fallen firefighters

To honor firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty and their families, a new law requires that the Illinois Firefighters Memorial Fund must be used to provide scholarships for the children and spouses to pursue a secondary education.  House Bill 2550 was signed into law by Governor Rauner on September 8.

Under the legislation, the State Marshal is responsible for recognizing the fallen firefighters and honoring them by administering the scholarship awards to their children and spouses.

IDVA to expand programs

Legislation signed by the Governor last week outlines provisions for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) to implement recommendations provided by the Veterans’ Suicide Task Force to expand programs to benefit veterans—especially those from high-casualty combat units.

The law recommends the IDVA work with the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs (USDVA) on veteran outreach, and expand its program offerings based on a report submitted by the Veterans’ Suicide Task Force in December 2016. The Task Force’s recommendations include a public awareness campaign; mental health training; veteran service officer hiring; higher learning; family preparation course; employment; and peer-to-peer program.

The IDVA will reach out to the USDVA in order to identify the veterans returning home from service in combat units, offer help with their home transition, and establish a public awareness campaign concerning veterans’ trauma and internal injuries in order to promote understanding and acceptance from the general public.

The IDVA also plans to provide mental health training for frontline employees at veteran service organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, in order to better identify veterans who might be at risk for suicide.

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