More than 100 new laws were signed during the week, targeting the state’s teacher shortage, streamlining services for veterans, and supporting Illinois’ number one industry: agriculture. Other new laws will encourage Illinois students to pursue their higher education in-state, and increase senior citizens’ access to high-speed Internet services.
Education package to reduce teacher shortage in Illinois
In response to the state’s ongoing teacher shortage, new laws will cut red tape for teachers and offer more teaching opportunities for military spouses.
Senate Bill 1829 seeks to increase the number of eligible childcare professionals without lowering certification standards, while Senate Bill 3536 makes it easier for willing educators to expand their skills. Senate Bill 2658 extends the validity of a Professional Educator License, with stipulations, from two years to three years for service members and their spouses. The measure has the dual benefit of making it easier for military spouses to secure work as an educator in Illinois, while also helping address the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.
House Bill 4742 allows school districts experiencing severe teacher shortages to contract with a third-party recruiting firm to supplement their substitute teaching search, empowering local school districts to address their teacher shortage, while also protecting existing school staff. House Bill 5196 will decrease the fees teacher’s aides must pay to become licensed from $50 to $25, removing financial obstacles that have prevented individuals from maintaining and obtaining employment in Illinois.
Seventy-eight percent of the districts surveyed as part of a 2017 Teacher Shortage Survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools identified either a minor or serious problem with teacher shortages. More than half indicated a serious problem with substitute teacher shortages.
New laws will streamline services for veterans
New state laws will streamline veteran identification services and make it easier for homeless veterans to access critical medical benefits they have earned.
House Bill 4848 requires health care providers to provide one free, complete copy of a patient’s medical records if the patient is an indigent homeless veteran. House Bill 4332 simplifies the process of obtaining a veteran’s designation on ID cards, by expanding the forms of proof that are acceptable. House Bill 4576 and Senate Bill 2225 allow combat veterans and veterans who earned the Southeast Asia Service Medal during Operation Desert Storm to have the feat reflected on their auto license plates.
House Bill 4954 provides that each year the 4th of November be observed throughout the state as GI Bill of Rights Day, commemorating the 1944 landmark legislation that provided benefits to World War II veterans.
Governor takes action on agriculture legislation
A package of legislation was signed during the week to benefit Illinois farmers and ag businesses.
Senate Bill 3072 was signed to streamline and reduce some of the bureaucracy associated with the State Fair Advisory Board, which deals with operational matters impacting the Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs. House Bill 4999 reduces the number of meetings and other administrative requirements for the Advisory Board of Livestock Commissioners, which approves the rules and regulations of the department on prevention, elimination and control of diseases in our livestock. The changes were sought to achieve cost and staff time savings for administrative support.
Seeking to ensure the humane treatment of dogs and cats, House Bill 5029 makes certain breeders live up to legal standards for health. The new law clears up any confusion for licenses and consumers relating to the definition of a dog and cat breeder, establishing that breeders are anyone who intentionally breeds cats and dogs to sell, offer to sell, exchange or offer for adoption.
House Bill 5459 amends the Horse Racing Act to allow more foals to qualify for Illinois races. Proponents say this will help the racing and horse breeding industries in the state.
Senate Bill 2752 will change the definitions of “adulterated” meats and poultry to further protect consumers against food-borne illnesses. The new law ensures Illinois law conforms to federal guidelines, and that the state is adhering to best practices when it comes to food safety.
Senate Bill 2875 grants authority to the Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a value-added certification process and programs, which will guarantee Illinois certified products have traits and qualities that warrant higher prices. The new law also repeals some programs within the Department of Agriculture that have not functioned in years but still exist on paper.
MAP grant change helps colleges keep Illinois students in the state
New laws seek to give Illinois’ colleges and universities the necessary tools to attract in-state students, advancing improved financial aid plans, a more liberal application of credit transfers, and increased student counseling support.
While the state’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) renewals are awarded annually throughout a student’s post-secondary education, under House Bill 5020 priority consideration will now be given to existing recipients. Nearly 130,000 students received MAP grants in Fiscal Year 2018 and all but graduating students may be eligible for priority status in Fiscal Year 2019.
Senate Bill 2354 makes it easier for thousands of students to “reverse transfer” credits from one Illinois school to another, offering a low-cost alternative to award degrees to individuals who have accrued a significant number of college credits, but are left without a postsecondary credential despite having earned enough credits to be eligible for an associate degree. To help prevent students from spending time and money on needless credits, the measure also encourages institutions to counsel students who expect to transfer to a public university on how best to apply credits toward degrees. The new law seeks to help more students finish their degrees and prevent students from spending time and money on needless credits.
New law targets increased broadband access for Illinois seniors
A new law seeks to increase Illinois seniors’ access to high-speed Internet and provide more convenience with permanent identification cards. Created by the Broadband Advisory Council, House Bill 5752 is charged with exploring new ways to expand broadband access, commonly known as “high-speed Internet,” throughout the state, targeting unserved and underserved areas.
Proponents say senior citizens would benefit from the resources and support offered on online platforms, such as telehealth, “smart home” system and home-based smart medical services. Fewer than four-in-10 people ages 65 and older have high-speed Internet access in their homes, compared to 77 percent of people ages 30 to 49, according to AARP Illinois’ most recent data.