The spring 2022 Springfield legislative session was calm — it’s an election year, so no one wanted to raise too much of a fuss — but the General Assembly still passed 411 bills. As of June 13, just 10 remain outstanding on Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk.
He signed more into law earlier this month, including ones from the senators and representatives of Hyde Park and its surrounding area.
The governor has signed House Bill 5549, which requires that for every $3 million in the state’s special African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, the fund must maintain at least one Black-led Center of Excellence HIV Biomedical Resource Hub. Its fund balance was $4.5 million as of June 13, according to the Illinois Comptroller’s database.
Rep. Lamont Robinson (D-5th) pushed for that bill, and he said in March that it would mean $11 million would go to 11 Black-led organizations that do HIV-related work in Chicago, including the Brave Space Alliance, 1515 E. 52nd Place.
HB 4556 expands access for pharmacists and other health care professionals to distribute fentanyl testing strips to help reduce opioid overdoses. The testing strips can detect fentanyl in counterfeit pills and drugs.
The bill is designed to expand on the Overdose Prevention and Harm Reduction Act, passed in 2019. That law authorizes government agencies and nongovernmental organizations to create needle access programs aimed at reducing HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
The measure took effect immediately when signed June 2.
“This reform will help save lives,” state Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) said in a statement. “We still have a long way to go, but removing penalties organizations face when they have access to test strips is a responsible way to address the opioid crisis and to create real public safety for all instead of continuing the misguided policies of the past.”
Peters advocated for it in the General Assembly’s upper chamber. In April, he called it a harm-reduction tool, one that has already been adopted by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
“We need to ensure that all communities in our state are protected and that they know what is going into their body,” he said. “I’m glad that we are taking this important step to make sure that people will not be left to the wolves of the fentanyl overdose crisis.”
HB 3205 goes into effect at the beginning of next year and will prohibit third-party delivery services from listing non-partnered restaurants or retailers on their platform. Services will also not be able to post a menu or any intellectual property of a bar, restaurant or retail establishment without written express consent of that business, both meant to protect the businesses from deceptive third-party practices.
“Small businesses and especially Black and Brown owned businesses have suffered during the last two years,” said Peters in a statement. “We have to ensure that restaurants and bars are able to support themselves and that outside delivery services do not take advantage of small businesses.”
Pritzker signed three laws Hunter got through the legislature. Her Senate Bill 4000 will allow retired members of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to be re-employed as a teacher or administrator for up to 140 days on a temporary non-annual basis without their retirement annuity being canceled. It goes into effect immediately, aiming to combat the teacher shortage.
“Bringing retired teachers back into the workforce is one way to guarantee that children will be taken care of by qualified educators,” she said in a statement. “Retired teachers who are willing to come back are an essential resource to the Chicago Public Schools system, and their service is greatly appreciated in this time of need.”
Another of her bills, HB 2988, which Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26th) spearheaded in the legislature’s lower chamber, creates the Task Force on Missing and Murdered Chicago Women, which will examine and report on the systemic causes behind violence that Chicago women and girls experience. The cases of at least 50 women reported missing or murdered in Chicago are unsolved.
The task force's report, due at the end of 2024, will explore methods for tracking and collecting data on violence against Chicago women and girls, policies and institutions that impact violence against them, measures necessary to address and reduce violence against them, and ways to help victims, their families and their communities.
“Women that go missing or turn up murdered anywhere is an unacceptable tragedy, and in Chicago specifically, we need answers,” Hunter said in a statement. “The families of Black and Brown women that are missing or murdered are even less likely to get answers. We need to know how we lost dozens of women for their families, and for the protection of others.”
Her HB 2382, effective at the beginning of next year, creates the Healthy Food Development Program, enabling the state departments of Human Services and Commerce and Economic Opportunity to expand access to healthy foods through grants, loans, equipment or other financial assistance to grocery and corner stores, farmers' markets and other small retailers in underserved areas.
The exact program design has not yet been established, but the departments can partner with nonprofits on implementation, and the Department of Human Services will designate a grocery ambassador to assist healthy food retailers by providing research and data on eligible areas with insufficient grocery access.
Hunter referenced the impending closure of the Englewood Whole Foods, 832 W. 63rd St., in her statement on the bill becoming law.
“Food deserts can be traced back to redlining, which is rooted in racism and classism,” she said. “Addressing food insecurity is a health issue, a wealth issue, and a race issue. We must do better to provide equal access to quality foods for our residents.”
One May 31, Peters' SB 3470 became law, requiring the Department of Children and Family Services to save or invest a minimum percentage of a youth's benefits once they reach the age of 14, meaning that the youth will have some money to transition into adulthood when they age out of state care.
“State services should help empower youth and give them strong support to enter our society,” Peters said in a statement. “We should not be sending young people out into the world without the resources they need to live independently, and we must ensure that they are able to make the transition into adult life.”
Pritzker signed one other bill of special local concern into law last month, in addition to Peters’ bill to get life rings installed on the Lake Michigan shores and Buckner’s to ban “ghost guns” in Illinois.
Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II's (D-25th) HB 4580 requires CPS to evaluate enrollment at existing schools and to determine if there is a need to revise boundaries every five years; he filed the bill when he learned that the enrollment boundaries at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., hadn't been remapped since the school was established in the late-1960s.
Capitol News Illinois contributed from Springfield. CNI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.