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  • harmon 020718SPRINGFIELD – Legislation giving patients access to medical alternatives to prescription painkillers passed the Senate Executive Committee today.

    Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced the Alternatives to Opioids Act to tackle the opioid crisis, an epidemic that killed more than 60,000 people nationwide last year.

    The measure would allow people who have been prescribed opioids for a medical condition to apply for a temporary medical cannabis card instead.

  • harmon 053118SPRINGFIELD – Legislation providing access to medical alternatives to opioids as a means to combat the opioid crisis is headed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk.

    Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) passed the Alternatives to Opioids Act out of the Senate in April and worked closely with the Department of Public Health and the House sponsor to address any concerns before bringing it for a final vote today.

    The measure creates a pilot program allowing individuals over the age of 21 with any condition for which opioids might be prescribed to apply for temporary access to the state’s medical cannabis program.

    “Opioid addiction takes the lives of thousands of Illinoisans every year,” Harmon said. “We should be open to any reasonable alternative treatment – and no one has ever died of a cannabis overdose.”

    Under the program, patients will obtain a physician’s certification that they have a condition for which an opioid could be prescribed. They may then take that to a dispensary to receive medical cannabis for a fixed period of time.

    To help clean up the backlog of applications for the full medical cannabis program at the Department of Public Health, the measure also allows anyone with a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program to take physician certification to a dispensary to receive cannabis on a provisional basis while their application is processed.

    A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control last year found that a patient can become addicted to opioids within a week or even a few days of use.

    “It’s imperative that we give people the immediate option to pursue an alternative treatment to opioids,” Harmon said. “Opioid dependence can develop quickly and has devastating effects.”

    Senate Bill 336 passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits the governor’s signature. 

  • harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – The controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois would come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 1578 would require more accountability of law enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.

  • harmon 041018SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) passed a measure out of committee today that would create safe zones from immigration enforcement in Illinois.

    The legislation prohibits state and local law enforcement from carrying out federal immigration efforts at locations including state-funded schools, state-funded medical treatment and health care facilities, public libraries, facilities operated by the Secretary of State, and state courts.

    These safe zones were in the original version of the Trust Act that passed the Senate but were amended in the House and not in the final version signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last year.

    “Immigrants in Illinois are hardworking people who contribute to our communities,” Harmon said. “They have built their homes here. They are raising their families here. They should be treated like human beings, not taken away like criminals when they drop their children off at school.”

    According to a 2014 study by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, roughly 68 percent of undocumented immigrants participate in the labor force in Illinois, a higher rate than that of the general public (66 percent).

    Harmon’s measure also prohibit applications for state benefits from asking for information related to citizenship or immigration status unless otherwise required by law.

    Senate Bill 35 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-4 today and moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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  • harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – Illinois taxpayers, public universities and state agencies would benefit from a bipartisan plan to streamline the state’s purchasing rules that was negotiated by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    The legislation, Senate Bill 8, was approved in the Senate on Tuesday.

    Harmon said it became clear to lawmakers that the state’s procurement rules are ready for an overhaul. The legislature enacted a series of strict procurement reforms in the aftermath of the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich administrations because of questions over how they handled contracting, bid-letting and transparency for state business.

    But the rules may have gone too far, sacrificing some efficiency and savings in an effort to deter corruption, Harmon said.

    “We heard from universities, in particular, that the state’s purchasing rules have caused real headaches for them,” Harmon said. “Rather than save money for the state, the rules frequently have caused them to waste more money and time than an average business would.”

    Harmon sponsored the legislation with Republican Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry.

    The measure is a key part of the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” compromise deal that Gov. Bruce Rauner is relying upon to achieve a balanced budget for the state. Rauner has pressed for procurement reform as one cost-savings measure.

    Among other things, Senate Bill 8 does the following:

    • removes inappropriate restrictions on the procurement of specialized purchases, including database licenses and food for resale on campuses;
    • creates a pilot program modeled after one in California for the efficient purchase of heavy fleet vehicles, special equipment and off-road construction equipment;
    • requires state agencies to respond promptly in writing to inquiries and comments of the Procurement Policy Board;
    • streamlines the procurement code and protects lowest bids from disqualification for minor or technical issues;
    • permits informational communication between vendors and the state, while still requiring that the inspector general be notified of any collusion or anticompetitive procurement practices; and
    • creates a special committee on procurement efficiency in purchasing that will study ways to further streamline the process; study procurement laws about contracting with minority-owned, women-owned, disabled-owned, and veteran-owned businesses; and study ways to purchase additional goods and services from Illinois companies.
  • Harmon03032016Scholarships for the children of Illinois firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty would be funded again under legislation that passed in the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

    Senate Bill 2051, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would appropriate $975,000 for college scholarships for children of deceased police officers, firefighters and correctional officers, as well as $5 million for payment of line-of-duty awards.

    The payments have been held up because of the state budget stalemate.

  • harmon 050516Businesses will find it easier to operate in Illinois under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Thursday.

    House Bill 4361 is a broad, comprehensive modernization of Illinois’ Limited Liability Company Act, which last was rewritten in 1994. The law had been updated in a piecemeal fashion since then, but it was due for a sweeping update.

    The measure, which had bipartisan support in the legislature, is another effort to make Illinois a more business friendly state.

    “This update to Illinois’ LLC Act not only modernizes some of our laws, it also eliminates unclear or contradictory rules that can be frustrating for companies to navigate,” Harmon said. “It makes our laws more consistent with those of other states and enables Illinois to be a more attractive and inviting place for businesses to set up shop.”

    The legislation was the result of a six-year project by the Institute of Illinois Business Law to update the state’s LLC Act. The project was prompted by the 2006 publication of the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

    Joliet attorney Michael Hansen is past chairman of the Institute of Illinois Business Law, a group of about 40 corporate lawyers in Illinois who oversee the state’s business and corporate laws.

    “Limited liability companies are now the favored business entity,” he said. “The changes to the Act will mean the formation in Illinois of more LLCs, while still providing necessary protections to the members of the LLC.”

    Representatives Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) sponsored the measure in the Illinois House.

  • harmon bobcatSaying the state lacks adequate information about Illinois’ recovering bobcat population, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has proposed a prohibition on trapping the animals and selling their pelts.

    Senate Bill 2143, which passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday, does not repeal recently enacted state law that allows hunting of bobcats.

    “If it was up to me, I would take bobcats off the list of animals that can be hunted in Illinois,” Harmon said. “But under this legislation, folks still can hunt bobcats in an effort to manage the population in a responsible and humane way. They just can’t trap them.”

    Currently, bobcat pelts have a market price of about $35 in Illinois. Harmon said he is concerned that Illinois is creating a market for the pelts of an animal that not long ago was a threatened species here.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation in July 2015 allowing licensed hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The practice had been banned in Illinois for about 40 years because the population had dwindled. Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 1999.

    The Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 3,000 bobcats in southern Illinois, 2,000 in western Illinois and 1,500 in other parts of the state. More precise figures and other data about the state’s bobcat population are unknown, though. The animals are nocturnal and reclusive.

    “We don’t have the numbers, and we don’t have all the facts. Let’s slow down and not create a market for pelts of an animal whose population is still coming back,” Harmon said.

    “If we’re going to kill animals, I would like for people to use all of the resources those animals provide. That’s the responsible thing to do. But it troubles me that bobcat hunting rules are rushed and without the benefit of having all the facts.

    “Let’s not inadvertently create the incentives to hunt for sport only animals that were recently endangered and may still well be threatened.”

     

  • harmon bkfstFewer Illinois schoolchildren would start the school day hungry under legislation sponsored by Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 2393 would require every public elementary, middle and high school with a student low-income rate of at least 70 percent to offer breakfast to students after the instructional day has begun. The legislation had unanimous support in the Senate Education Committee Tuesday and will head to the Senate floor for a vote.

  • Harmon082216Breakfast will be available to more Illinois schoolchildren under a measure sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Friday.

    Senate Bill 2393 will require public elementary, middle and high schools with a student low-income rate of at least 70 percent to offer breakfast to students after the instructional day has begun.

    Each school will be able to determine the Breakfast After the Bell model that suits its students, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast and second-chance breakfast. Schools that participate in the program are able to capture federal money to pay for the cost of offering these meals.

  • harmon 031517SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.

    That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.

    Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.

    “Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.

    Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.

    “These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.

    Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.

    “I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.

    Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.

    Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

    Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when they bill becomes law.

  • Harmon02082017SPRINGFIELD – As the Trump administration rolls back important environmental oversight, such as a ban on the use of lead-based ammunition on federal lands, it will be up to state and local leaders to ensure wildlife, public lands and people continue to be protected, Senator Don Harmon said Thursday.

    Harmon is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1985, which would bar the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting in state parks and natural areas in Illinois to curb the accidental poisoning of wildlife.

    “I am pleased to help Illinois lead the way on this reasonable and very important public health initiative,” Harmon said. “Research indicates that bans on lead-based ammunition have a positive impact on wildlife and human health.” 

    In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration outlawed the use of lead ammunition and fishing sinkers on 150 million acres of federal lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges and other public property.

    However, the Trump administration overturned the ban last week.

    Research shows that a single shotgun pellet can cause organ failure and brain damage that affect an animal’s neuromuscular, auditory and visual responses. Furthermore, there is evidence that lead poisoning causes lethargy, blindness, paralysis of the lungs and intestinal tracts, seizure and death in animals.

    An estimated 10 million to 20 million animals are killed every year by ingesting lead shot.

    In addition, experts say lead-based ammunition causes elevated lead exposure in gun users and can be incorporated into processed meat for human consumption.

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  • harmon 033117CHICAGO – Immigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws.

    That’s the thrust of a proposal co-sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that could be heard in the Senate Executive Committee next week.

    “This legislation sends an important message about Illinois – about who we are and the principles we hold dear in this state of 12.8 million diverse people,” said Harmon, who is among the state lawmakers and supporters who will appear at a news conference Monday morning at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights office in Chicago to promote the measure.

    Senate Bill 31 creates the Illinois Trust Act, which would:

    • clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
    • prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
    • prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
    • establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.

    The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.

    The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor does it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid warrants.

    Harmon noted that many of his constituents support policies to protect immigrants and local authorities from overreach by the federal government. For example, the Oak Park village board in February unanimously passed a “welcoming ordinance” that bars Oak Park authorities from collaborating with federal immigration officials to identify and apprehend undocumented citizens without a criminal warrant.

    “It is important that undocumented immigrants are able to talk with local police officers to report and help solve crimes without fear of being deported. We want all people to be able to pick up their children from school or seek medical help without being terrified that someone will ask them their immigration status and turn them over to government officials,” Harmon said. “That’s what this bill helps to accomplish, and that’s why it has broad support, including from law enforcement groups.

    “Fearful immigrants are withdrawing into the shadows because of the Trump administration’s dangerous policies,” he continued. “State lawmakers can help to restore trust between immigrants and the local authorities who are there to help and protect them, not round them up and detain them on behalf of the president of the United States.”

  •  Harmon statement from regarding death of Abner MikvaSenator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today regarding the death of Abner Mikva, a former congressman, federal judge, presidential adviser, lawyer, mentor and public servant from Chicago:

    “For a man with perhaps the most impressive resume in politics, Abner Mikva was the kindest, most gracious and generous politician I’ve ever met.

    “When I took his seminar on legislative process at the University of Chicago Law School, even at the end of his storied career, Ab’s enthusiasm for government and politics was contagious. He loved the process and he loved engaging young people in it.

    “When I confessed my quiet interest in running for office, he said, “Do it. Don’t wait!” He was a great mentor and a wise counsel.

    “Even in the last few months, he was pushing us hard to move forward on juvenile justice reform — all with a heart set on good policy and a keen appreciation for the evolving politics. He was a gentle giant and he will be missed by all he touched.”

    Mikva died Monday in Chicago. He was 90.

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  • harmon hb580Children and adults with autism would benefit from two measures that passed out of the Illinois Senate with the support of Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 345, which Harmon sponsored, acknowledges that autism is a whole-body disorder that affects more than simply a person’s neurology and behavior. The legislation would empower physicians to approach their diagnoses more effectively and would prohibit health insurance companies from restricting covered treatments for patients who have autism.

    Studies have shown that medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and immunodeficiency problems, commonly occur in people on the autism spectrum. When properly diagnosed and treated, not only do these medical conditions improve, so, too, do the autism symptoms.

    “It is not uncommon for medical providers to dismiss underlying medical symptoms simply as autism and miss the opportunity to adequately evaluate and treat patients,” Harmon said. “Senate Bill 345 eliminates a bureaucratic barrier and encourages providers to be more thorough with their medical evaluations and recommendations for treatment.”

    The legislation creates the Autism and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the Senate and in the House. It now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner to be signed into law.

    Laura Cellini, a parent advocate from Springfield, supports the legislation. She noted that people with autism have a mortality rate that is 10 times that of their peers of the same age.

    “Often this is due to their inability to receive accurate diagnoses and treatment for their underlying health issues,” she said. “That is why this legislation is so critical to improving health outcomes for people with autism.”

    In addition, Harmon supported House Bill 4257, which would allow people on the autism spectrum to be issued state-issued wallet cards that identify them as autistic. The cards can be shown to police officers, firefighters and others during high-stress encounters in which the cardholder is unable to communicate effectively.

    Individuals with developmental disabilities, autism and mental illness can have difficulty communicating with other people, especially during heightened situations, prompting law enforcement professionals and others to mistake them as simply being difficult or defiant. The wallet card would be a signal for authorities to de-escalate the situation.

    The cards would be issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

    The legislation was sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego). Harmon was a co-sponsor in the Senate.

    “As we continue to learn about the causes and symptoms of autism – a disorder that affects thousands of Illinois families and individuals every day – it is critical that we do whatever we can to offer people the kinds of resources they need to thrive,” Harmon said. “Ensuring they are not denied needed medical treatment and giving them the ability to communicate effectively when the stakes are high are just two ways we can help.”

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