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New Morrison law will help human trafficking victims find help

morrison-dcfs-022015SPRINGFIELD – A plan that could help people escape the horrors of human trafficking became law today.

Starting January 1, Illinois state government will 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.

“Human trafficking victims are normally kept very tightly controlled,” said state Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield). “Transit hubs are among the few places they are allowed out in public. A woman at a train station or truck stop might have the opportunity to seek help.”

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. For example, in 2005, federal authorities busted seven brothels in Rockford that exploited human trafficking victims. In addition, some victims are forced to perform labor rather than sex, essentially making them modern-day slaves.

The idea for the law came from 2014 media reports about failures at the Department of Children and Family Services.

“Some of the girls from DCFS residential treatment centers who ended up victims of prostitution talked about traveling through truck stops and bus stations,” Morrison said. “The state absolutely failed these young women. We need to fix the problems at DCFS and help anyone else who finds themselves in these girls’ situations.”

Morrison’s plan was 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 was Senate Bill 43.

Van Pelt sponsored measure to fight human trafficking signed into law

pvp-traffickingCHICAGO – A national organization whose mission is to help put a stop to modern day slavery in the United States will get help from the state as it works to fight human trafficking. A measure sponsored in the Illinois Senate by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) was recently signed into law that will help promote the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline, designed to directly help victims of this horrible crime.

Senate Bill 43 will require the Illinois Department of Human Services and Illinois Department of Transportation to promote public awareness of the national human trafficking hotline, including displaying signs in high risk areas, such as truck stops, bus stations, train stations, airports and rest stops. The initiative will ensure more individuals have access to the hotline number and are also able to receive the help and resources they most need.

"I came to the Legislature to help restore lives and create a more just society. Senate Bill 43 helps move us toward that goal,” Van Pelt said. “By providing the victims of human trafficking this vital resource, we are helping to stop modern day slavery in our nation and working to rebuild shattered lives."

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the hotline has fielded over 85,000 calls since 2007, resulting in uncovering over 39,000 victims of human trafficking. Many of those cases are related to the underground sex trade but also include forced labor. A vast majority of the victims of human trafficking are women. Since beginning of 2015, the hotline has received over 5,200 calls.

Victims of human trafficking are encouraged to call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. Online resources are also available at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s website, traffickingresourcecenter.org.

Bush’s legislation to properly dispose of medical waste becomes law

sharpsSPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a measure to require the proper separation of sharp medical waste Monday.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, was chief co-sponsor of the legislation. The new law would require “sharp” medical waste, such as syringes, to be properly separated from regular waste. It also requires the state to provide collection services for such waste.

“This is an important safety measure, not just for our sanitation workers, who can be put at risk when people wrongly dispose of dangerous material in their regular recyclables, but for everyone,” Bush said. “This makes it harder for accidental injuries and infections to occur. I’m glad to see the governor sign a common sense safety regulation into law.”

For proper disposal, syringes and other “sharps” should be collected in an appropriate sharps disposal container and can be disposed of in your regular trash. Even when placed in the appropriate plastic container, sharps should never be disposed of with recyclables.

Under the new law, disposing of sharp waste like syringes in recycling would be prohibited. It would also permit local governments to establish sharps collection points at medical centers and police or fire stations and to create a U.S. Postal Service-approved sharp waste mail-back program.

The legislation was Senate Bill 793. It will take effect Jan. 1.

Holmes helps add more plants to state’s list of exotic weeds

holmes-weedsSPRINGFIELD — In an effort to curb the spread of invasive species and protect the environment, State Sen. Linda Holmes supported legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner this week that adds more plants to the state's list of exotic weeds.

The Exotic Weeds Act prohibits the sale of invasive flora that threaten the ecosystem in Illinois.

“One of our most important duties as a government is the protection and preservation of our environment for future generations,” said Holmes, D-Aurora. “I'm pleased the governor has affirmed the expansion of this list.”

The updated Exotic Weeds Act adds a variety of new plant species to the list, including varieties of exotic bush honeysuckles, olives, salt cedar, poison hemlock, giant hogweed, Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), Japanese, giant and Bohemian knotweed, among numerous others.

The legislation was Senate Bill 681. It becomes effective Jan. 1.

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