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Bush, Attorney General: Victims of rape shouldn’t pay fees

bush-021015Legislation protects federal funding for sexual assault investigations

SPRINGFIELD — Federal funding from the Violence Against Women Act is a critical part of combating domestic violence and rape at the local level, says Pat Davenport, executive director of A Safe Place, a Lake County-based domestic violence relief agency.

“Eighty percent of the clients we work with have been sexually assaulted,” Davenport said. “We like to say domestic violence is separate from sexual assault, but they go hand in hand.”

Under current Illinois law, survivors of rape may need to pay fees for their own rape investigations, something disallowed under the VAWA, and a fact Davenport called unethical. To remove financial responsibility for their own rape investigations and ensure federal funding for sexual assault investigations is not jeopardized, State Sen. Melinda Bush cooperated with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pass legislation out of the Illinois Senate today.

“With this proposal, we’re simply saying that victims of sexual assault should not be the ones to pay for things like testing rape kits, or other administrative fees,” Bush said. “This legislation ensures we remain compliant with the federal Violence Against Women Act and I’m proud to work with Attorney General Madigan to sponsor it in the Senate.

The legislation is House Bill 3848. Having passed the Senate without opposition, the amended version returns to the House for concurrence.

Bush helps add Lake County to Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority

bush-econ-develSPRINGFIELD — Lake County will join an economic development group that provides low-interest loans to business owners and housing developers without any burden on taxpayers after legislative efforts by State Sen. Melinda Bush.

Following talks in the General Assembly, Bush, D-Grayslake, successfully pushed for Lake County’s inclusion in the Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority (UIRVDA), one of the state’s regional development authorities. Such groups issue bonds to fund loans to businesses and housing developer projects. Local developers pay off the bonds directly to investors.

“Membership in the Upper Illinois River Valley Development Authority will open doors for small business owners and property developers in Lake County,” Bush said. “This is an economic development effort that encourages investment in local concerns and doesn’t put taxpayer money at risk.”

Regional development authorities like the UIRVDA operate on the fees they charge borrowers, with no state funding. It’s a mechanism that allows RDAs to help local businesses without any burden on taxpayers, said David Northern, executive director of the Lake County Housing Authority.

“They are operationally self-supporting,” Northern said. “In short, it doesn't cost anything to have access to UIRVDA's financing powers.”

The legislation is House Bill 417. Having passed the Senate today, it will return to the House for concurrence.

Bush, anti-heroin coalition urge greater access to overdose antidote

melbnarcanpresserARLINGTON HEIGHTS — At 24, Chris Reed runs The Other Side, a sober bar and support group that gives recovering addicts a place to socialize and have fun while they abstain. He vividly remembers the day he survived a heroin overdose.

“It felt like somebody was sitting on my chest,” he said. “I was in a panic.”

Reed’s friends rushed him to a drug treatment facility, where doctors came out to the parking lot and gave him a dose of naloxone hydrochloride, a heroin antidote that quickly and safely interrupts the chemical effects of an overdose.

“Before naloxone was readily available, it was only available to first responders in an ambulance or at a medical facility,” Reed said. “I was fortunate enough to have been with people who made the decision to take me to a place like that, but often times that’s not the case. You hear stories all the time of people not being taken to a facility like that and passing away.”

To ensure greater access to that antidote, Reed joined State Sen. Melinda Bush and a group of activists and professionals gathered at the headquarters of a local nonprofit today to call on the Illinois House to swiftly pass new legislation.

Naloxone hydrochloride, often sold under the brand name Narcan, is already in use by police and ambulance personnel, who have used it several times in the past few months to save lives in the suburban Chicago area.

“The tireless and courageous advocacy of the Live4Lali organization has caused law enforcement and the anti-drug community here in Illinois take notice,” Bush said at the organization’s Arlington Heights offices. “Police and EMTs continue to save lives with Narcan, but it’s friends and family members who are the first to know when somebody has an overdose. Let’s give more families the power to avert tragedy.”

Senate Bill 1466 has been dubbed “Lali’s Law” in honor of Alex “Lali” Laliberte, a Buffalo Grove man who died of a heroin overdose in 2008. His sister, Chelsea, helped found the Arlington Heights-based Live4Lali group, which promotes awareness of heroin addiction issues and has advocated for greater availability of Narcan.

The legislation specifies regulations on the provision and sale of Narcan at pharmacies, and would establish a program to help pharmacists train people in the use of the antidote. The antidote counteracts the effects of all opioid drug overdoses, including ones as a result of taking prescription narcotics, which Laliberte said are at the heart of more overdoses than illegal drugs like heroin. The antidote carries virtually no risky side effects if used in error.

Dr. Adam Rubenstein, a physician at Opioid Addiction Recovery Services in Vernon Hills, spoke on the antidote’s relative safety. He said greater availability of Narcan is important in the face of high heroin use among suburban youth.

“Police and first responders carrying the safe antidote Naloxone are saving lives,” Rubenstein said. “Granting access to families directly is one more essential tool to prevent more deaths during this opioid overdose epidemic.”

George Filenko, Chief of the Round Lake Park Police Department and head of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said having Narcan available to officers has already prevented needless deaths.

“Effectively since Christmas, there have been 10 lives that were saved countywide by law enforcement officers with Narcan,” Filenko said. “The last two saves were within five days of each other, by the same officer. We didn’t have that ability before this.”

The plan passed the Illinois Senate with no opposition April 23 and must be passed in the Illinois House and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner to become law.

Bush pushes for fees on nuclear waste disposal

bush-zion-passesSPRINGFIELD — Cities would have the power to issue fees to companies that store nuclear waste in their communities under a proposal by State Sen. Melinda Bush that passed the Illinois Senate today.

“This is about responsibility, and giving power to our local communities, rather than companies who occupy their land for a few years and then leave it unusable,” Bush said.

Local leaders in Zion have called for the legislation. The community has struggled in the wake of the 1998 closure of the Zion Nuclear Power Station. Now owned by Exelon, the facility is undergoing a years-long decommissioning process, and in the meantime stores spent nuclear fuel from the plant.

Due to the nature of the plant’s security and environmental concerns, the lakefront land it sits upon is largely unavailable for redevelopment, a fact that has cut deeply into property tax revenues for Zion. In the wake of the plant’s closures, Zion lost an estimated 55 percent of property tax revenue, and has had to make up the difference through regular rate increases.

“Zion was a partner in welcoming a nuclear plant, but now that the plant and it’s jobs are gone, the utility company needs to be a good neighbor and remain a positive part of the community,” Bush said. “I want to give local governments the power to hold nuclear plants accountable for leaving something like that behind.”

David Knabel, Chief Financial Officer for the City of Zion, said the closure of the facility lowered local property tax revenues by nearly $20 million while the city needed to provide the same level of services to the surrounding community.

“[A nuclear disposal impact fee] will help to offset the impact to the residents and businesses and help to repair the damage done to the area,” Knabel said in a statement by the city.

The legislation is Senate Bill 544. It proceeds to the House for consideration.

Sen. Melinda Bush

bush 150

31st Senate District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations II; Education; Environment and Conservation (Chairperson); Government Accountability/Pensions; Revenue; Transportation; Subcommittee on Capital (AP); Sub. on Tax Exemptions and Credits; Sub. on Interscholastic Athletics; Opioid Crisis Abatement Spec. Com..

Biography: Born March 18, 1956; former member of the Lake County Board, Forest Preserve Board and former Grayslake village trustee; married (Andy) with one adult son (Chris).

Associated Representatives:
Joyce Mason
Sam Yingling