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Harmon calls on gun lobby, governor to do more to protect Illinois children

Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon is calling on the gun-rights advocates and Gov. Bruce Rauner to do more to help state lawmakers and local communities curb gun violence and protect the children of Illinois.

Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee on firearms, which heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would restore local governments’ right to control the types of weapons and ammunition allowed in their communities. Local control over such matters was taken away in 2013 when the state passed its concealed carry law.

As with so many other proposals designed to target gun violence and the illegal gun trade, gun-rights advocates are opposed to the measure.

“Kids are dying, and these products are causing it,” Harmon said. “It’s a crisis. Find a way to help us protect everyone, including law-abiding gun owners.”

Harmon, who favors greater accountability standards for gun dealers to stem the tide of illegal firearms flowing into Illinois, said that in the absence of Congressional action to deter gun violence and restrict access to weapons nationally, it’s up to state officials and local communities to protect residents themselves.

It’s not about taking rights away from law-abiding citizens who own and enjoy firearms, he added, acknowledging the state’s regional diversity when it comes to opinions about guns.

“In my time in Springfield I’ve evolved from someone who grew up in a house without guns to understanding my colleagues across the state who represent communities where guns are common and used responsibly. I respect them and the cultural differences more than I did when I started this job,” Harmon said.

“But kids are dying on our streets because there are too many guns, and we get no help from the gun lobby. I’m begging them to find a way to work with us rather than block our efforts and pay lip service to what we’re trying to do. We’ll protect law-abiding gun owners in the process, but we need them to help us put the bad guys out of business.”

Rauner this week signed Republican-backed legislation that increases criminal penalties for gun trafficking in Illinois. Harmon said the measure does not go far enough to curb gun violence, nor does it offer the local oversight that communities want.

He called on the governor – an ardent proponent of local control of government – to express support for local gun laws and statewide violence-prevention measures, and to do more to bring attention to the public health crisis that guns are causing in Illinois.

Harmon also appealed to gun-rights advocates to stop standing in the way of sensible restrictions that will protect people and that polling consistently shows the majority of Americans want.

In Illinois, since 2013 the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association have objected to a host of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and protect potential victims. Proposals they’ve opposed include state licensing of gun and ammunition dealers, barring people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining FOID cards, creating a firearms registry, banning imitation and replica firearms, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, creating a gun violence restraining order, strengthening the FOID card revocation process and barring the use of three-dimensional printers to create guns.

Meanwhile, just over halfway through 2016, gun violence in Chicago is on pace to eclipse last year’s statistics. More than 2,700 people have been shot in the city so far this year; in all of 2015 just under 3,000 people were shot.

Among the more than 50 victims of gunfire during the past weekend was an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the wrist as she attended a vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed early Sunday in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is in Harmon’s legislative district.

“Meet us in the middle, for God’s sake,” Harmon said in a plea to gun-rights advocates. “How many children are going to have to die while the gun lobby stands by and watches?”

Continuing care facilities to see licensure streamline

Mulroe on the floor

SPRINGFIELD –The mentally and physically disabled individuals who receive care from Misericordia Home are unique as many receive services from the time they are born to their final breath. Thanks to Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) the facility’s licensing will be as unique and streamlined as the service it provides.

“Misericordia is unique in that it provides exceptional care for its vulnerable residents over lifetimes,” Mulroe said. “It makes sense to me that the state should recognize facilities like it under a new, streamlined licensure process to ensure the patients continue receiving the best care they can without experiencing any delays.”

Currently, facilities like Misericordia are required by the state to hold multiple licenses for the various services it offers. It can get especially tricky when trying to transfer a patient from one part of the facility to another: An individual may show up on a transfer, but the paperwork placing them there has been held up, causing a delay of care.

The measure would create a continuum of care license for large-scale facilities like Misericorida, removing the necessity for multiple licenses. The facility currently works under five differently issued licenses.

The proposal passed both houses and today was signed by the governor.

Illinois will provide new wallet card for autism spectrum disorders

holmes 071916

Aug. 30: Corrected version of an Aug. 19 press release below. The earlier version improperly stated the cost of the wallet card created by this legislation. There will be no charge. We regret the error.

SPRINGFIELD - To provide more protection for persons with autism spectrum disorders and greater ability for medical personnel to quickly assess patients who have them, the governor signed legislation last week by Aurora-area lawmakers State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit and State Sen. Linda Holmes that would issue informational wallet cards.

“This is good legislation that will be beneficial for first responders as they engage with individuals who may have developmental disabilities such as autism,” said Kifowit, D-Aurora. “It came from a concerned parent who was able to foresee how we can avoid some of these concerns. The main goal is to reduce conflicts and bring awareness of individuals with the special needs that came with autism.”

“This is another means of using a little forethought and preparation to help people (and help the people that help people),” said Holmes, D-Aurora. “I thank the governor for signing it into law and want to remind family members of those with disorders on the autism spectrum that you, too can get a card to have handy to provide to medical personnel in an emergency.”

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White commended Holmes and Kifowit’s efforts to raise autism awareness in a statement Monday.

“Providing these new cards to eligible drivers is a service that can help both emergency responders and law enforcement officials when they must be able to quickly assess a situation and the individuals involved,” White said. “It is my hope that by doing so we can avoid some unpleasant and unfortunate misunderstandings.”

Much like medical bracelets, the wallet cards are designed to convey crucial personal medical information to first responders and hospital personnel in situations when a person may be incapacitated or otherwise incapable of communicating to the people treating him or her. Cards will be available from the Department of Human Services.

The legislation was House Bill 4257. It becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Hunter: Lower rates for prison phone calls signed into law

prison phonesSPRINGFIELD – Families will be able to communicate with incarcerated loved ones at lower costs because of legislation backed by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) that was signed into law Monday.

House Bill 6200 limits the rates charged for telephone usage by prison inmates and prohibits additional service fees. It would cap rates at 7 cents per minute and remove excess charges.

The law aims to address the legal and social injustice of the extreme costs families face when communicating with their children, family and friends.

“Our prison system should be a place for growth and rehabilitation, not profit,” said Hunter, who co-sponsored the measure in the Senate. “It’s a shame families are faced with a costly burden while maintaining communication with their loved ones. The expense keeps inmates away from their families when I feel they need them most.”

Previously, the state of Illinois and the prison’s telecommunications providers split millions in profits from collect calls prisoners made to family members at a rate of 11.8 cents per minute.

“This legislation will give inmates and families the opportunity to maintain vital human relationships while they are in prison,” Hunter said. “Prisoners should not have to feel alone due to the high costs of a single phone call.”

So far New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, and now Illinois have taken steps to make these costs more affordable for families

The legislation becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017.

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