Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a number of bills into law in recent weeks.
Here is a summary:
State Seal of Biliteracy
A proposal that will help students meet foreign language requirements when they apply for college was sponsored by Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez, D-Chicago.
Under the new law, state universities and community colleges would have to accept the State Seal of Biliteracy as the equivalent of two years of foreign language learning taken during high school.
The State Seal of Biliteracy, which Martinez worked to establish, is awarded to high school students demonstrating proficiency in English and at least one other language.
House Bill 4330 provides that the rules the Illinois State Board of Education establishes for the program must ensure that a student meets two years of foreign language requirements for college admissions purposes.
It’s optional for schools to offer a State Seal of Biliteracy to students. For the 2015-16 school year, 54 Illinois schools were approved for the State Seal of Biliteracy.
The law also requires state universities and community colleges to establish criteria to translate a State Seal of Biliteracy into course credit.
House Bill 4330 is effective Jan. 1, 2017.
Government consolidation model
State Sen. Tom Cullerton’s bipartisan government consolidation model may soon be applied throughout the state to streamline and remove redundancies in local government.
Senate Bill 2994 requires all Illinois county boards to submit a report to the General Assembly recommending units of government that may be dissolved or consolidated, based on a program implemented in DuPage County.
Illinois has more than 7,000 government entities that were developed decades ago.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills carried this measure in the House.
Senate Bill 2994 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support. It takes immediate effect.
Increasing transparency of government
House Bill 4379 will regulate all travel, meal and lodging expenses for officers and employees.
The new law will create the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act, which will require non-home-rule units of government, school districts and community college districts to regulate travel, meal and lodging expenses.
News of lavish expenses at the College of DuPage brought up cases illustrating the abuse of public funds by employees, prompting the legislation by Sen. Tom Cullerton.
Certain documentation will be required to be submitted in writing to school boards or corporate entities before the expenses can be approved by a roll call vote at an open meeting. The will be public record that would be subject to FOIA.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Modernizing elections process
A measure sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link aims to assist in cleaning voter rolls and modernizing the election process. Senate Bill 1529 would allow the state to create the Electronic Registration Information Operations Fund. ERIC is an organization that collects voter information across states to update voter rolls.
The legislation will allow for the use of digital signatures for election materials, such as voter registration cards, applications to vote and applications to vote by mail.
The legislation is now in effect.
Unclaimed property legislation
Senate Bill 2783 restricts the amount of time that unclaimed property can sit with government entities.
Sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, the measure will change the time that a government entity can hold on to unclaimed property from seven years to five years. Currently, after seven years, it has to be sent to the state treasurer to be put into the I-Cash system that tries to return unclaimed property to its rightful owner.
The proposal was an initiative of State Treasurer Michael Frerichs who has made it a priority to get unclaimed property where it belongs.
Veterans designation on drivers’ licenses
Legislation will ensure members of the armed forces and reservists receive a designation as a veteran on their driver’s licenses and state IDs.
State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, was a chief co-sponsor of the measure in the Senate. It was initiated because some Illinois National Guard members were concerned that they would not be designated as a veteran because they were not called to active duty.
Under the new law, Illinois National Guard members and reservists who have not been called to active duty can receive the veteran identification on their drivers’ licenses and identification cards.
Senate Bill 2173 is effective immediately.
Drug education plan, and court reform
The proposal from state Sen. Melinda Bush aims to provide more education to those struggling with addiction.
Under the new legislation, all Department of Human Services programs serving persons with substance use issues will provide educational information on treatment options for opioid addiction, such as medication, how to recognize and response to an overdose and how to use antidotes like naloxone.
The legislation was House Bill 5593.
The governor also signed a companion proposal into law, contained in House Bill 5594, ensuring defendants in drug court won’t be denied prescription medication.
The new law requires drug courts to allow patients who are receiving medication for opioid addiction to continue taking it as prescribed by a licensed physician, and prevents a court from halting that medication before a doctor says so. Currently, courts may prohibit individuals from participating in such treatment as a condition for successful completion of the drug court program – a practice federal law now prohibits.
Both new laws take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.