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The Majority Report 01/05/18 - Lawmakers want answers about Legionnaires' outbreaks at veterans home


Senate to probe deadly disease outbreak at veterans home

Sen. Tom CullertonPersistent outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease at a state-run home for veterans in Quincy and the Rauner administration’s response will be the focus of a special legislative hearing next week.

Thirteen people have died of the disease at the 132-year-old Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the water system at the home may never be completely rid of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' and cautioned that more cases could occur.

Senator Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, toured the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy in December. Nearly 400 people live there. He told The Associated Press he is concerned about continued outbreaks of disease but wants the facility to remain open and to thrive.

“The flagship of our veterans facilities needs to stay open, needs to serve residents as best it can,” Cullerton said, noting that the Rauner administration has responsibility for solving the issue. “Obviously, if the governor is not going to be able to fix it, the Legislature has to step in and do his job for him.”

The joint Senate and House hearing is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Chicago. Invited to testify are representatives of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Rauner administration.

Members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee include Democratic Senators Michael Hastings of Tinley Park, Bill Haine of Alton, and Tony Munoz and Martin Sandoval of Chicago.


Veterans benefit from new laws in 2018

Soldier And Dog

Every year the General Assembly looks for opportunities to help military veterans, and 2017 was no exception. Several new laws taking effect Jan. 1 will improve benefits and services for veterans in Illinois.

Among them are a measure sponsored by Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) that requires the state public health department to promote cancer-screening programs and awareness for veterans.

Another measure, sponsored by Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), permits coroners to include military service information on death certificates.

And Illinois now will offer a Coast Guard decal for military service license plates under an initiative sponsored by Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

Learn more about new laws affecting Illinois veterans.


Holmes’ pet custody law takes effect

Sen. Linda HolmesIllinois judges will be able to consider a pet’s best interest, rather than treat it as little more than property, when determining custody in divorce cases under a new Illinois law that went into effect Jan. 1.

“It sort of starts treating your animal more like children” instead of property, Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) told the Chicago Tribune recently. Holmes sponsored the legislation. “If you’re going before a judge, they’re allowed to take the best interest of the animal into consideration.”

Pet custody cases rarely reach court – most couples decide custody on their own – but when they do, the new state law will help offer guidance to judges on how to proceed with their decision.





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