Governor Pat Quinn faces an end-of-August deadline for acting on most measures approved by the General Assembly this spring – including my legislation to increase Illinois’ speed limit from 65 to 70.
My Senate Bill 2356 increases the maximum speed limit to 70 mph on all interstates and toll highways effective January 1. Passed by the House of Representatives on May 22 and by the Senate on April 23, the legislation now moves to the Governor’s desk and will become law with or without his signature unless he vetoes it in the next two weeks.
The progression of this legislation is a good example of what can be accomplished when lawmakers work together in a bipartisan manner for the good of our state. It was sponsored by lawmakers from both political parties who represent all regions of our state, and now it is up to the Governor to give this measure the serious consideration it deserves.
Senate Bill 2356 is also sponsored by Senator Martin Sandoval of Cicero, the Senate Transportation Committee Chairman, and 28 other Senators; and Representative Jerry Costello of Red Bud and State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville and 40 other House members.
During the week of August 5-9, Governor Quinn signed dozens of bills, covering topics as wide-ranging as student athletes, domestic violence, rehabilitation of criminals, and hunting.
Student Athlete Insurance
Prompted by the death of a high school football player, injured during a game, “Rocky’s Law” requires all Illinois high schools to offer catastrophic insurance coverage for student athletes.
Rasul “Rocky” Clark, who played for Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, suffered a spinal cord injury, which left him paralyzed from the neck down. In May 2011, he reached his insurance benefit limit of $5 million and his coverage was dropped, leaving him and his family with mounting medical bills. Clark passed away in January, 2012, from surgical complications.
Senate Bill 2178 requires all public and private high schools in the state to provide a minimum policy covering $3 million in benefits or five years of coverage relating to medical injuries for athletes who participate in an IHSA school-sponsored athletic event.
Domestic Violence Protections
Several bills targeting crime were also signed into law during the week, including several measures targeting domestic violence.
One of these new laws cracks down on individuals with repeat domestic battery convictions. Currently, many domestic crimes are considered misdemeanors, and are punishable by lighter sentences such as probation or conditional discharge. Seeking to keep chronic domestic abusers off the street and send a strong message this type of crime won’t be tolerated. House Bill 958 will classify domestic battery as a Class 3 felony if a defendant had three prior convictions, or a Class 2 felony for four or more previous domestic battery convictions—punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Similarly, House Bill 3300 seeks to protect domestic violence victims who are covered by their abuser’s insurance policy. Under the new law, insurance companies will be required to comply with requests to communicate with victims of domestic crime through specific channels, whether it is through email, telephone, etc. House Bill 3300 seeks to ensure that an abuser doesn’t involuntarily gain access to their victim’s personal information, such as their address.
Teen Dating Violence
Another new law targets the unfortunately common occurrence of teen dating violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about one in five women and nearly one in seven men, who have experienced rape, physical violence and/or were stalked by a partner, had initially experienced some sort of physical violence between the ages of 11 and 17.
House Bill 3379 seeks to reduce those numbers by increasing awareness among Illinois’ youth about dating violence. All public school districts will be required to adopt a policy prohibiting this type of crime, and to educate both students and school employees on how to recognize, respond to and report teen dating violence.
Violence Task Forces
Two bills targeting crime were signed into law this week. House Bill 2879 establishes a Violence Prevention Task Force whose members are charged with gathering information to help in providing future job training and shelter opportunities to at-risk young people and adults. Proponents of the law hope to increase the potential for personal and professional success as a way to reduce violence. House Bill 3236 will extend by one year the Eradicate Domestic Violence Task Force’s deadline to submit its report to the General Assembly. The task force now has until April 1, 2014, to present its recommendations.
Traffic Safety Bills Honor Victims
Two tragic traffic accidents led to the approval of legislation named in honor of the victims.
“Patricia’s Law” (House Bill 1010) would prohibit a judge from giving court supervision for offenses that caused the death of another person. This legislation is in direct response to the case of Patricia McNamara, who was killed by a distracted driver in McHenry County in 2011, when the driver rammed into her car after running through a stop sign. The driver, who had three previous speeding tickets, pled guilty only to failure to obey a stop sign. He was fined and sentenced to court supervision, which meant no conviction would appear on his record.
Another measure, known as “Kelsey’s Law,” grew out of a serious accident in Grundy County, when Kelsey Little was struck by the passenger-side mirror of a truck as she and several friends were walking along the side of road in 2011, where there was no sidewalk. The truck was driven by a 15-year-old boy who had only his learner’s permit. Just days after the accident, the boy was able to obtain his graduated driver’s license because the existing form did not require him to disclose he had a pending traffic ticket. House Bill 1009 prohibits the issuance of a graduated driver’s license to anyone with a pending traffic citation and allows the Secretary of State to pull the graduated license of anyone who had a pending citation at the time the license was issued.