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Koehler's new medical licensing plan passes Illinois Senate

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 03:30 PM

koehler-medlicensSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to help Illinois communities retain and recruit qualified doctors, the Illinois Senate voted to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. A doctor licensed in one member state of the compact would be able to practice medicine in every member state without taking additional tests or applying for additional licenses.

“This is about streamlining government and improving access to health care service,” said the plan’s sponsor, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “We want talented doctors to be able to practice in Illinois without navigating bureaucratic red tape.”

The compact would go into effect once seven states adopt it. If the measure becomes law, Illinois would be in the vanguard of early adopters. Several other states are also considering legislation this year.

Once seven states join, an Interstate Commission with two members from each participating state will set licensing requirements for all doctors who want to practice in those states.

Once the compact is in place, doctors who already have Illinois medical licenses will be able to apply for expedited licenses under the new system. They will qualify if they meet several basic requirements, such as already being licensed by Illinois, having graduated from an accredited medical school and having clean records without any medical-related criminal convictions or official disciplinary action.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1229. It now goes to the Illinois House.

Anti-human trafficking measure passes Senate

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 03:13 PM

morrison-sx-traffickSPRINGFIELD – A proposal to help people escape the horrors of human trafficking passed the Illinois Senate today.

The measure requires the state government to post signs warning about the dangers of human trafficking and display the phone number of the national human trafficking hotline in high-traffic areas, such as truck stops, bus stations, train stations, airports and rest stops.

The sponsor of the legislation, state Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), explained that the idea for the bill came from 2014 media reports about failures at the Department of Children and Family Services.

“When I learned that DCFS wards at residential treatment centers were essentially selling themselves into prostitution, I was furious,” said the Deerfield Democrat. “Some of the girls who told their stories talked about traveling through truck stops and bus stations, which made me think these transportation hubs are the perfect place to post the human trafficking hotline number.”

More than one study has identified Chicago as a national hub of human trafficking, but exact numbers are hard to pinpoint. A 2007 study estimated that 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade in the Chicago metropolitan area, and at least some of them are likely victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking isn’t limited to Chicago or the sex trade. In 2005, federal authorities busted seven brothels in Rockford that exploited human trafficking victims. And some victims are forced to perform labor rather than sex, essentially making them modern day slaves.

Morrison’s legislation is supported by a broad coalition of human service groups, including the Illinois chapters of the National Association of Social Workers, the Catholic Conference and Foster Care Alumni of America.

The legislation is Senate Bill 43. It now goes to the Illinois House of Representatives, where it will be sponsored by Representative Camille Lilly.

Oak Park resident travels to Capitol to discuss juvenile justice reforms with Harmon

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 02:54 PM

harmon-juvjusticeSPRINGFIELD – One of the key themes at the state Capitol in Springfield this year has been criminal justice reform. Too many people are in jail, Illinois’ prisons are overcrowded, guards are overworked and incarceration costs are a growing drag on the already-precarious state budget.

State Senator Don Harmon is one of the legislators who has been working diligently to address these problems since before they made it into the public eye. This week, he was joined at the Capitol by Sara Spivy a Cook County public defender who was recently elected to the Oak Park-River Forest High School Board.

Spivy testified before the Senate’s bipartisan Committee on Restorative Justice. She believes that restorative justice reform needs to start with our education system.

“The discipline system in our public high schools needs to give students – both accused rule-breakers and victims – a voice. Without discussion, there is no room for growth,” Spivy said. “Reforming the system at the school level may prevent some children from ever becoming criminal defendants. Restorative justice is humane, efficient and, in the end, simple common sense.”

The purpose of the Senate committee is to come up with common-sense reforms to Illinois’ criminal justice system that will reduce the number of people going to prison, save the state money and improve working conditions for prison guards, all while continuing to protect the public’s safety.

The governor has also created a task force with similar goals, and many, including Harmon, are hopeful that the General Assembly will pass meaningful reform within the next two years.

Drug offenders given cheaper, more effective second chance: Stadelman

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 02:42 PM

stadelman-drugcourtSPRINGFIELD–Drug courts, first introduced to Illinois in 2001, allow non-violent drug offenders to attend highly structured and closely monitored drug treatment programs in exchange for having their sentences reduced or dropped.

The benefits of these courts are well documented.  A study by the Attorney General showed that offenders sent to drug court are between 20 and 40 percent less likely to become repeat offenders than those sent to a traditional court. The Office of National Drug Control Policy also estimates that a drug court program can save up to $20,000 per participant.

However, under current state law, drug offenders can only be sent to drug court once. State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) passed legislation today with a vote of 54-00 to give these non-violent drug offenders another chance.

“Drug addiction is a disease, and as such, we should treat it like one. These are people who are caught up in a life they don’t wish to live in, but can’t escape after one try. We owe it to them and the taxpayers to utilize this cheaper, more effective option,” said Stadelman.

Stadelman’s proposal places no limit on the number of times a defendant can be assigned to drug court as long as they admit their addiction to drugs and have not committed a violent offense in the last ten years.

The legislation will now go to the Illinois House of Representatives.

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