Several lawmakers met during the week for Senate committee and task force hearings on trending issues in state government, including the Legionella outbreaks, sexual harassment and firearms.
In light of new data reports, the joint Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees held another hearing to resume their conversations on the Quincy Veterans’ Home with testimony from the Illinois Department of Public Health Director, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director and the Capital Development Board Ethics Officer.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Firearms held a hearing to discuss several House bills involving gun sales and possession that are currently under consideration.
The Senate Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Awareness and Prevention met to hear testimony on sexual harassment in the private sector.
Legislative session resumes for the Senate on March 13.
New data on Legionella at Quincy Veterans’ Home
The Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees met March 5 to review new data about the outbreaks and sequence of events at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy.
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Nirav Shah, Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) Director Erica Jeffries and Capital Development Board Ethics Officer Amy Romano joined the members to address their questions and concerns.
In response to why the IDVA did not replace the Home’s plumbing system after the outbreak, Jeffries said the alternative solution to eradicate the Legionella bacteria—with minimal disruption to the residents and better use of tax dollars—was to install a new water treatment system.
Jeffries also discussed preliminary, long-term plans for the 210-acre campus, which could involve the demolition and construction of brand new buildings in the next five years, but would have to temporarily relocate the 350 residents once work is underway. In the interim, all the faucets and water filters have been replaced campus-wide, and the Home tests the water supply daily for any presence of Legionella bacteria.
Pending gun safety reforms
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Firearms held their first hearing on March 8 to focus on legislative initiatives involving gun sales and possession. The subject matter hearing reviewed and heard testimony on five House Bills currently under consideration by the General Assembly.
House Bill 1465, which I am co-sponsoring, would ban the sale and delivery of assault weapons and high capacity magazines—devices capable of holding more than the standard rounds of ammunition—to anyone younger than 21 years of age, and would prohibit the possession of such weapons and devices for those younger than the age requirement. The legislation provides 90 days for anyone violating the age requirement for assault weapons and high capacity magazines to transfer ownership or dispose of the items.
House Bill 1467 would ban the sales, manufacturing, purchase and possession of “bump stocks,” a device attachment that allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster, and “trigger cranks,” a device that can pull a trigger more quickly than a human could. The bill would set the penalty for the possession of these items at the same level as possession of an actual machine gun.
House Bill 1468 would require a 72-hour waiting period for assault weapons following purchase, which includes certain semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, semi-automatic pistols, and .50 caliber rifles, as current Illinois law requires a 72-hour waiting period for handguns and a 24-hour waiting period for long guns. Additionally, it would ban the sale of these firearms to non-residents at gun shows.
House Bill 1469, in honor of fallen Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer, would ban large capacity ammunition feeding devices—which can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition—as well as body armor for civilians. Both devices were used by the assailant in the recent attack on Bauer at the James Thompson Center—ultimately resulting in the Commander’s death.
House Bill 1664 would require the Illinois State Police to provide a Dangerous Persons Hotline, a website and a toll-free number, for individuals to notify the Department if someone is a clear and present danger to himself or herself or another person and in possession of firearms.
Task Force hears sexual harassment testimony
The Senate Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Awareness and Prevention met March 5 to hear firsthand testimony from private sector employees, including hospitality industry workers who were instrumental in passing Chicago’s “panic button” ordinance for hotel workers. In response to incidents of hotel employees being assaulted, groped, and propositioned while interacting with guests, the ordinance was passed to require hotels to provide panic buttons to all employees who work alone in guest rooms or other areas, and required hotel to develop, maintain and comply with a policy prohibiting sexual harassment.
The objective of the Task Force is to help ensure that every woman and man feels safe in their work environment—and comfortable filing complaints if their safety is violated. The members use testimony to analyze the issues and illegal activities workers face within the private and public sectors to determine what types of proposed changes and legislation will be needed to reduce and eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.