Senate Week in Review: August 12-16, 2019

McHenry, IL – Landmark anti-sexual harassment and discrimination reforms, and a measure aimed at reducing property taxes by allowing for some government consolidation have recently been signed into law. Also during the week, I was appointed to two state task forces to look at issues affecting veterans and seniors. 

Landmark Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation Signed into Law
A newly-signed law now puts a more robust set of sexual harassment and discrimination protections on the books. 

Senate Bill 75 will provide victims of sexual harassment and discrimination with better legal protections. The Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention played a leadership role in crafting the new law. It includes a number of provisions recommended by the Task Force, as well as ideas proposed by lawmakers during the legislative session. 

Provisions include:

  • Prohibits unions from assigning the same union representative to victim and alleged harasser in disciplinary proceedings. This component of the legislation was initially filed by my Republican colleague State Sen. John Curran and passed in the Senate before being added to the larger encompassing legislation.
  • Puts limits on the use of non-disclosure clauses, which could restrict an employee’s ability to report sexual discrimination or harassment.
  • Expands the Victims Economic Safety Act to offer protections for victims of gender violence.
  • Creates new protections for hotel and casino employees.
  • Requires state officials, employees, and lobbyists to take sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training.
  • Creates a Complainants ‘Bill of Rights’ for investigation in the Executive and Legislative branches.
  • Requires local governmental units to update ordinances for sexual harassment complaints between elected officials.

Legislation Aimed at Reducing Property Taxes Becomes Law
A newly signed law that provides a reasonable way for drainage districts to be absorbed by municipalities could help lead to lower tax bills for property owners. 

Senate Bill 90, recently signed into law and sponsored by my Republican colleague Dan McConchie, outlines a public petition process to dissolve a drainage district and allows the drainage district to be taken over by a municipality if that municipality accounts for at least 75 percent of a drainage district’s territory. The new law also requires both the municipality and the county in which the drainage district lies to pass an ordinance with specific criteria for carrying out the dissolution. 

Current law allows drainage districts to dissolve, but there is no process in place for another unit of government to take over legal responsibility for drainage. 

Illinois Task Force to Examine State Response to Elder Abuse Cases
In 2017, there were more than 16,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation received by
Illinois’ Adult Protective Services within the Illinois Dept. on Aging

The new Elder Abuse Task Force on which I will serve with 21 others, including legislators and representatives of state and local-level organizations, will soon begin looking at how Illinois handles cases of elder abuse. 

If the 16,000 cases figure wasn’t a big enough fact to indicate the seriousness of this issue, here are a few more from 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available:

  • One in five victims is age 86 or older; more than half of the victims suffer from barriers to independent living such as being functionally impaired.
  • The majority of elder abuse reports were for Financial Exploitation, (8,604), followed by Emotional Abuse (6,476); Passive Neglect (6,679); Physical Abuse (3,782); Willful Deprivation (2,268); Confinement (1,381), and Sexual Abuse (765).
  • 67% of the victims were female; 33% were male.

Our task force must report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Jan. 1, 2021.

New State Task Force Seeks to Help Veterans
Getting Illinois veterans the help they need for service-related ailments by ensuring they are properly compensated is the aim of the newly-created Veterans’ Service-Related Ailments Task Force. I am one of 14 members of this task force that will examine the well-known disparity that exists between the average level of disability compensation at the national level and the amount of compensation Illinois veterans are receiving. 

Illinois consistently ranks at the bottom of the list of states for compensation claims. Why? That is one of the primary issues we will explore. Additionally, we will study why certain service-related ailments are not recognized for compensation and what may be done to have them recognized. 

As a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I am looking to get to the bottom of this issue as quickly as possible. The Task Force must present a report on its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor by Dec. 31, 2020. 

Honoring Our “Greatest Generation”
A special thank you to the City of McHenry and the Combined Veterans of McHenry for their 10th annual salute to the Greatest Generation during the “Keep the Spirit of ‘45 Alive” event on Sunday, August 11.

I was honored to present the State of Illinois Proclamation proclaiming August 11, 2019 as “Keep the Spirit of ‘45 Alive” Day in McHenry. 

The Spirit of ’45 Day is an annual national day of honor recognizing America’s “Greatest Generation.” 

According to the “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive” organization, the special day is observed on the second weekend in August, coinciding with the anniversary of August 14, 1945, the day President Truman announced the end to World War II.

The national designation was passed unanimously by the U.S. Congress in 2010. 


Craig Wilcox

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