The General Assembly's focus narrowed last month as the House and Senate met self-imposed deadlines to exchange bills before lawmakers took their spring break. The Senate sent 407 hills to the House, while the House sent 732 to the Senate. Lawmakers have until midmonth to finish second-chamber committee and floor action.
Criminal justice reform took two steps forward.
The House approved a package designed to prevent so-called prosecutorial misconduct, while the Senate passed its own reform measure.
The House bills, sponsored by Rep. James Durkin, a Westchester Republican, would permit defense attorneys to depose certain state witnesses before trial, require special hearings to test the reliability of statements made by jailhouse informants and codify a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prosecutors must disclose certain evidence favorable to the accused.
The Senate approved a bill drafted by the DuPage County state's attorney's office. It would require police and other agencies investigating a crime to hand over to prosecutors information that might negate the guilt of the accused. It also would provide a mechanism for defendants to raise claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence. Sen. Ed Petka, a Plainfield Republican, sponsored that bill.
Both chambers voted to make it more difficult for girls under 18 to get abortions.
The Senate measure, which is more restrictive than the House bill, would require notification of a parent or legal guardian 48 hours before an abortion. Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican and the bill's sponsor, Edited by Rodd Whelpley argues minors often lack the ability to make fully informed choices.
Abortion-rights proponents amended the House bill to include grandparents, siblings, step-siblings, aunts, uncles and clergy to the list of people who could be notified of a girl's intention to get an abortion. Rep. Terry Parke, a Hoffman Estates Republican, sponsored that bill.
The legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approved regulations to discourage so-called predatory lending, when home equity loans or second mortgages are offered to people who can't afford them. Among other provision, the rules, covering high-interest lending, would require the lender to verify the borrower's ability to repay.
Consumer-backed restrictions on so-called payday loans failed in the House, but that chamber approved another measure backed by the shortterm loan industry. The approved bill would permit a borrower to refinance each loan three times. The total of a borrower's loans would be capped at $2,000.
Most gun bills - those backed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and those backed by the National Rifle Association - were killed off early in the legislative process.
Among those measures that did pass was one to expand the list of exotic ammo prohibited by law and another to make forging a firearm owner's identification card a felony.
The House shot down a proposal to permit citizens to carry concealed weapons. A Senate bill would have shielded from prosecution persons with concealed weapons who have pending orders of protection against others.
The House also killed NRA-backed legislation that would have pre-empted local gun ordinances.
The House approved proposals designed to limit voting errors and give voters more information about candidates and public questions.
Under legislation sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, counties would be reimbursed for purchasing voter-error detection equipment designed to kick back over-votes and undervotes. The proposal would cost an estimated $50 million.
Separate legislation would require the State Board of Elections to prepare and distribute pamphlets with candidates' portraits and statements. Those pamphlets would include arguments for and against ballot initiatives. That proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Boland, an East Moline Democrat, would cost an estimated $2 million to $3 million per election.
Public and private
The attorney general's office would establish a special division to educate citizens and government bodies about access to public records under legislation that passed the House. The proposal was prompted by a 1999 Associated Press investigation that found local officials in Illinois either weren't aware of open records laws or were reluctant to follow them.
Another successful House measure, spearheaded by the Illinois Press Association, would require local governments to keep verbatim minutes of closed meetings. Courts could then review the minutes if the public body is accused of violating the Open Meetings Act.
Lawmakers also moved a handful of bills designed to protect personal privacy. Both chambers approved legislation to limit disclosure of personal information about Illinois citizens without their consent. Several states, including Illinois, disseminate motor vehicle records to third parties.
The House also approved legislation to limit information insurance agencies can share about policyholders.
In a victory for gay rights proponents and Rep. Larry McKeon, the legislature's only openly gay lawmaker, the House approved the Chicago Democrat's bill to add sexual orientation to the list of anti-bias factors relative to employment, real estate transactions, access to financial credit and the availability of public accommodations. The list currently includes race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental handicap, military status or unfavorable discharge from military service.
Police officials throughout the state would be required to report the race, gender and age of all individuals stopped for traffic violations under legislation that passed the House. Each law enforcement agency would be required to compile the data and send it to the secretary of state's office annually. That office would be required to analyze the data and submit reports to the governor, the General Assembly and each law enforcement agency.
"Racial profiling is a national issue. It's been a problem for African-American people, and especially women, for a long time," says Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat and the bill's sponsor. "There was no one incident [that prompted the bill]. It's been an accumulation of incidents, especially in the city of Chicago and the suburbs."
The House passed revised legislation to authorize the University of Illinois to study the production of industrial hemp. Gov. George Ryan vetoed similar legislation in February, saying such a study should include research into how hemp production would impact the law enforcement community. He also said it should not be funded with state dollars and that researchers should try to develop hemp with no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ron Lawfer, a Stockton Republican, says the new bill was Grafted to meet the governor's concerns.
The two chambers exchanged bills to phase out over three years MTBE, a petroleum-based fuel additive. Either of the bills, if enacted into law, would mean a slight boost for the state's corn farmers. Corn-based ethanol, which currently holds about 90 percent of the state's fuel additive market, would presumably take the entire market.
A "deadbeats most wanted list" could be published on the Internet by the state Department of Public Aid under legislation that passed the Senate. The list would include the names of up to 200 parents who owe more than $5,000 in child support.
The Senate passed legislation designed to quash a lien against the state's expected $9.1 billion tobacco settlement filed by law firms that handled the settlement. The attorneys were awarded $121 million by a national arbitration panel, but they claim they're entitled to 10 percent of the state's recovery - some $910 million - under their contract with Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan. The bill would expressly preclude the former outside counsel from using the Attorneys Lien Act as a basis for their claim. The Senate passed similar legislation last year but it died in the House.
Cell phone-using motorists could legally talk with single-sided headsets, or earpieces, under legislation that passed the House. The bill is designed to close what some say is a loophole in state law.
Drivers would be responsible for knowing whether a vehicle is insured under a successful House measure. The bill was prompted by an Illinois Appellate Court decision that claiming ignorance about coverage could be used to defend against a charge of operating an uninsured vehicle.
Illinois lawmakers are considering an increasingly popular response to the horror of newborn babies left in alleys and trash bins. They want to give mothers a way to desert their babies without endangering them.
Each chamber approved legislation that would grant mothers immunity from prosecution for abandonment if they drop their infants off in a safe place, generally a hospital or fire station. The mothers would be urged to provide medical histories, get counseling and place their names in an adoption registry, but they would not have to follow any of that advice. The one requirement would be to hand the baby over alive and unharmed.
Fifteen states approved similar plans last year, and several babies have been turned over safely, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A handful of abandoned babies are found each year in Illinois, but no one tracks how many.
Some critics might see the legislation as sanctioning irresponsible behavior. Others complain that it ignores the fathers' rights. But for supporters, it's a pragmatic response to a hard reality. "The real issue for us is to look at how we can save those babies' lives, how we can make sure a mother in a crisis would be comfortable turning the baby in to someone," says Rep. Beth Coulson, the Glenview Republican who sponsored the House version. Sen. Doris Karpiel, a Carol Stream Republican, is handling the Senate version. The two are cooperating and hope to agree on one version to send to the governor.
Statehouse bureau chief
The Associated Press
Endangered status may save historic farm
It's usually not a plus to be "endangered." But being on the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois' top 10 endangered list may save one downstate farm.
The Manske-Niemann Farm south of Litchfield in Montgomery County made this year's list. The property has some of the region's most complete examples of 19th- and early 20th-century farm architecture, including several barns, a granary, a brick smokehouse and a windmill that has been part of an Oklahoma State University study on the subject. One farmhouse dates back to the 1850s. There is concern, though, the farm will not be maintained intact after the current owner's death.
Still in robust health in her late 60s, Ophelia Niemann is the fifth generation of her family to live and work on the property. Her great great grandfather, Michael Manske, settled the land after immigrating to the United States from Prussia. Ophelia is the last of her family born on the farm and the last to have an interest in saving it. Her 25-year preservation effort has been a labor of love, she says.
An estate auction was held at the farm in 1974, following the death of Emma Brandt Niemann, Ophelia's mother. To this day, she says, the remaining family members have shown no interest in keeping the farm intact.
She purchased as much as she could at the auction, but the farm "lost a lot of history" that day, she says.
In addition to her watch over the homestead, Ophelia Niemann has been working with the preservation council to ensure protection. Julia Evans, the group's advocacy coordinator, hopes to develop a partnership trust to keep the farm fully active and perhaps educational. Parties showing tentative interest are the American Farmland Trust, the National Trust for Historical Preservation, the National Park Service and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The landmarks council also is working on the farm's application for the National Register of Historic Places.
The first step, says Evans, was making the top 10 list in order to "gain statewide recognition of the property." The council will use the newfound attention to focus on "getting all the interested parties together," which may take some time, says Evans. "I hope to see something definite happen within the next two years. It's really up to what Ophelia wants to do."
But Ophelia Niemann can state her goal in absolute terms: "A trust will be set up to keep it as a farm and maintain it as a farm. I know what's going to happen."
High court expands anti-bias rules
When Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Chiola joined the bench six years ago, he set his sights on changing the rules that govern the conduct of every judge and attorney in the state. In late March, he succeeded.
That's when the Illinois Supreme Court added provisions to its judicial canons and rules for attorneys that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, age, disability or socioeconomic status. Provisions already were in place that prohibited discrimination based on race, sex, religion or national origin.
Chiola and Sebastian Patti, who supervises Cook County's housing cases, made several attempts to persuade the high court to make the changes. The two openly gay judges asked the court's rule-drafting committee to consider the amendments as early as 1995. Two years later, they wrote then-Chief Justice Charles Freeman directly. In that attempt, they were backed by Cook County Chief Judge Donald O'Connell, who explained to the justices that the additions would bring Illinois courts in line with the American Bar Association's model rules and the practice of the state's executive branch.
Four new justices have joined the court since December, so Chiola, Patti and two other judges decided to try again. They sent a letter to Chief Justice Moses Harrison II. This time the justices approved the suggestions.
Disciplinary authorities already considered discrimination on any of the four newly added factors illegal, but the high court's action sends a message to the legal community, Chiola and Patti say.
In fact, that's how Harrison framed the amendments. "We want to be sure that everyone understands there is no bias whatsoever in the Illinois court system," he said in announcing the court's action.
Daniel C. Vock
Statehouse bureau chief
The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
The numbers add up
Illinois grows more diverse
The 2000 U.S. Census shows Illinois' increasing ethnic diversity. The Hispanic population ballooned, and the number of Illinoisans of Asian descent is on the rise.
- The Hispanic population grew by 69 percent between 1990 and 2000 to 1.5 million. Hispanics now account for 12 percent of the population in Illinois. That growth mirrors a national trend, says Roy Treadway, director of Census and Data User Services at Illinois State University.
- The Illinois Asian population increased by 66 percent between 1990 and 2000 to 474,000 to account for about 3.4 percent of the state.
- At 1.9 million, African Americans account for 15 percent of the state's residents, up 14 percent. The exact increases are impossible to determine because in 2000 respondents were allowed to declare more than a single race for the first time. But most people - 98 percent - continued to check a single race.
See the history of airplanes in Illinois
Airplane museums are scattered across the state and cover all aspects of flight.
Not all museums have their own Web sites, but one Illinois-based site, www.yellowairplane.comlMuseumslilUnois_museums.htm, lists 11, giving location, visiting hours and a brief description of what aerospace buffs can see.
The Air National Guard Base at Springfield Airport has several fighter jets on display, and the Illinois National Guard museum at Camp Lincoln in Springfield has two buildings containing military exhibits, as well as a fighter jet and a Huey helicopter.
Another museum at the Springfield Airport, but not listed on the Yellow Airplane site, is the Air Combat Museum. It has more than a dozen airplanes, from World War II vintage to a modern two-seater jet. They're on display and open to the public.
The Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum in Rantoul has one of the rarest airplanes in any museum: the only remaining example of two prototypes of the Boeing XB-47 Stratojet. It was the world's first swept-wing bomber, built and flown in 1947. At Chanute, the planes share hanger space with silos once used for maintenance training on Minute Man Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.
Yellowairplane.com recommends the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but does not link to the museum's site. Go to www.msichicago.org/exhibit/transport/flight/727. html to preview a visit to the museum's Flight 727 exhibit. Web surfers can take a tour, take a simulated ride, learn about the forces of flight and sit in a virtual reality cockpit.
"In the old days, we just beat the kid up, right? You can't do that anymore, unfortunately."
State Senate President James "Pate" Philip's thoughts, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, on ways of handling schoolyard bullies. He was responding to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposal to require school boards to create policies for dealing early on with aggressive students, a strategy for preventing school shootings. Philip raised concerns about government intrusion onto playgrounds.
Census count thwarts congressional remap agreement
Congressional redistricting just got more complicated.
The Illinois delegation might not be able, as it had hoped, to pull off a plan based on the 2000 census that would protect all of the state's incumbents.
The key to the original deal, put together by U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Yorkville Republican, and Rep. William Lipinski, a Chicago Democrat, was a run for governor by Chicago Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich. Illinois lost a seat in reapportionment - from 20 to 19 House districts - and Blagojevich's expected departure gave the incumbents what seemed like an ideal solution for redrawing the congressional map: Blagojevich leaves on his own, his district is carved up and no one gets hurt.
The delegation is now evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The nine remaining Democrats, in exchange for "giving up" the Democratic Blagojevich seat, would have had the ability to map safe districts with all 10 incumbent Republicans agreeing to draw their district lines around them.
The glitch is this: The plan didn't anticipate a population gain in Chicago and a more-than-expected population loss downstate. That makes the incumbents' plan harder to justify. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is unlikely to let go of a city seat voluntarily. And Illinois legislators, some with congressional ambitions of their own, might balk at voting to give up a plum Chicago seat.
However, the prospect that a central or, more likely, southern Illinois seat must be eliminated jeopardizes the entire deal as it pits incumbents against each other or threatens the survival of a GOP district.
And that's exactly what Lipinski and Hastert wanted to avoid.
Indian land suit, tuition tax credits
- A U.S. district judge ruled the state has a right to intervene in the suit filed by the Miami Tribe against Illinois landowners because the state's sovereign powers, including the power to tax, are inseparable from those of landowners (see Illinois Issues, April, pages 6 and 20).
- The Fifth District Appellate Court ruled the state's tuition tax credit is constitutional because it does not involve appropriation of public funds. This is the second appellate court to uphold the law, which benefits primarily parents who have children enrolled in private schools (see Illinois Issues, November 1999, page 36).
DON'T ASK: It's tolls for theeGov. George Ryan's new plan for the state's toll highway system could have been called the "20-and-out blueprint" or "trust me now, I'm good for it later." Instead, he dubbed it "No More Tolls!" That would be a couple of decades down the road. In the short run, he wants toll hikes for rebuilding crumbling sections of the suburban system and for an extension in Will County. The plan would:
Lawmakers would have to sign on. Some are calling it "Dead On Arrival!" For more on the toll highway system, see Illinois Issues, May 1998, page 40.
Governor trims boards
Eighty-one state boards and commissions that replicate existing government services or are otherwise obsolete will be decommissioned if legislation backed by Gov. George Ryan passes the legislature.
In March, Ryan recommended elimination of 50 advisory boards immediately. Thirty-one others would be allowed to fade away in 2002, unless a review concludes that any should continue.
Most of the boards or commissions facing the ax are ones for which members have their expenses reimbursed but receive no salary. Last year, the governor's office did away with 26 other boards and commissions.