As summer nears, bills from the spring legislative session are now being signed into law – beginning with a controversial measure to expand abortion in Illinois, and a reinstatement of the five-hour school day minimum.
Meanwhile, wet weather continues to put pressure on farmers struggling to get their crops planted, and flooded communities have been receiving some help from prison inmates.
Controversial abortion legislation signed into law
On June 12, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the “Reproductive Health Act” into law. The law replaces existing statutes and enshrines abortion as a fundamental right in Illinois. All insurance providers will be required to provide abortion coverage without restriction.
Opponents of the Act noted that it eliminates state bans on both late-term and partial birth abortions, along with potentially infringing on protections for doctors, nurses, and hospitals who refuse to perform the procedures.
Five-hour school day minimum reinstated
Also during the week, legislation reinstating a minimum school day length of five hours of class time was signed into law.
The new law states that class time now also includes participation in dual credit programs, supervised career development experiences, youth apprenticeship programs, and blended learning programs. The requirement had been removed when the new evidence-based school funding formula was enacted.
Without the minimum, there was no standard in place for how long schools had to hold classes each day to receive credit for the day. The new law also expands an existing e-learning pilot program to all schools statewide.
Wet year putting the squeeze on Illinois farmers
Due to continued wet weather throughout the spring and into June, Illinois farmers have struggled to get their crops planted on time.
According to the most recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS), only 73 percent of the Illinois corn crop has been planted. By comparison, the state corn crop was considered 100 percent planted by the same date in each of the three previous years.
Soybeans progress hasn’t fared well either, with the state crop only at 49 percent planted, compared to 96 percent at the same time last year.
Those travelling rural roads are advised to keep an eye out for farm machinery as farmers continue to work to get their crops in the ground.
According to Bill Graff, Executive Director of the Illinois Farm Service Agency (FSA), which is part of the USDA, for the majority of Illinois farmers, corn must been planted by June 5 and soybeans by June 20 to receive full federal crop insurance coverage. After those dates, coverage drops to lower levels.
Graff also noted that the county USDA emergency boards are currently working to send information and statistics to the Illinois USDA Farm Service Agency, so that the state USDA emergency board can meet and develop a recommendation for a potential disaster declaration.
Inmates helping out with flood protection
Water levels on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers are finally beginning to drop after cresting in the “major flooding” category along much of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers throughout Illinois.
Communities facing the floodwaters have gotten a helping hand from Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) inmates. According to IDOC, since March their work crews have put in more than 6,000 hours placing sandbags.
In addition, the IDOC facilities have produced one million sandbags, which were distributed by the Illinois Department of Transportation to flooded areas throughout the state.