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Cunningham passes measure to deter threats of school violence on social media

cunningham 051619SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that would help deter false threats from being made against schools on social media.

“These false threats are terrifying for students, faculty and parents and they divert emergency response resources away from where they’re needed,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “There needs to be a mechanism that punishes bad actors and deters these scares from happening.”

Under Illinois law, a person commits the offense of disorderly conduct when he or she calls 911 for the purpose of making a false complaint or providing false information, including a threat against a school.

House Bill 1579 expands the offense to include threats made on any platform, including social media. Current law only covers threats made by telephone or threats that specifically mention the use a bomb.

If an individual is convicted of transmitting a false threat, he or she must also pay for the costs of the emergency response the threat triggered.

In drafting the legislation, Cunningham worked closely with Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan, whose department heightened security measures at local schools several times last year due to threats on social media.

“According to law enforcement in my district, threats of violence against schools are increasingly coming through social media rather than the phone and make no mention of a bomb,” Cunningham said. “We’re in the social media age right now and this trend is only going to continue. We need to update our laws to reflect modern concerns.”

The measure further allows the court to order a mental health evaluation for a minor charged with disorderly conduct for transmitting a threat to a school.

“Threats to schools are often linked to mental health issues that need to be treated for the well-being of both the individual making the threat and those around them,” Cunningham said. “This provision will empower law enforcement and mental health professionals to work together to find the best course of action in dealing with a school threat.”

The measure passed the Senate unanimously.

Cunningham advances measure improving access to benefits for Chicago police

cunningham 030719SPRINGFIELD – The Senate State Government Committee passed a bill sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham Tuesday that would ease the financial burden on Chicago police officers who litigate to receive certain benefits.

House Bill 2470 would require the Policeman’s Annuity Benefit Fund of Chicago (PABF) to pay court costs, litigation expenses and reasonable attorney fees for members who were unfairly denied duty or occupational disability benefits.

“Chicago police officers work hard to earn their benefits and they should not have to risk financial ruin to access them,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “These men and women spend their careers protecting us and we need to do the same for them.”

Under current law, the board of trustees for the PABF can issue a denial of the continuance of a duty or occupational disability benefit for a member. Members can appeal the denial, but the cost of litigating the appeal can be a heavy burden.

House Bill 2470 passed the State Government Committee on a bipartisan 7-2 vote. It will now go before the entire Senate.

Cunningham advances measure to crack down on school violence threats made on social media

cunningham 050919SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that seeks to deter threats from being made against schools on social media was approved by the Senate Criminal Law Committee Tuesday.

“False threats against our schools not only cause a panic, but also trigger costly emergency responses that divert first responders’ attention away from situations where they’re really needed,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “School safety is a serious issue and we need to do all we can to deter false threats from being made.”

Under Illinois law, a person commits the offense of disorderly conduct when he or she calls 911 for the purpose of making a false complaint or providing false information, including a threat against a school.

House Bill 1579 expands the offense to include threats made on any platform, including social media. Current law only covers threats made by telephone or threats that specifically mention the use a bomb.

If an individual is convicted of transmitting a false threat, he or she must also pay for the costs of the emergency response the threat triggered.

In drafting the legislation, Cunningham worked closely with Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan, whose department heightened security measures at local schools several times last year due to threats on social media.

“According to law enforcement in my district, threats of violence against schools are increasingly coming through social media rather than the phone and make no mention of a bomb,” Cunningham said. “We’re in the social media age right now and this trend is only going to continue. We need to update our laws to reflect modern concerns.”

The measure further allows the court to order a mental health evaluation for a minor charged with disorderly conduct for transmitting a threat to a school.

“Police and health care providers need to work together to determine whether or not a threat is legitimate,” Cunningham said. “We need to use every tool available to make sure our students aren’t at risk.”

The measure will now go before the entire Senate.

Cunningham passes bill to protect correctional officers from assault, public indecency

cunningham 041219SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a measure Thursday introduced by State Senator Bill Cunningham that would crack down on assault and public indecency in prisons and jails.

Senate Bill 416 would allow a prison warden to revoke up to 90 days of pre-trial credit or good behavior credit from an individual if the prison disciplinary board sustains charges of public indecency, assault or battery on a peace officer.

The legislation would further allow prison wardens to revoke up to 365 days of credit for each subsequent charge that has been sustained by the prison disciplinary board.

“Peace officers have dangerous jobs and it’s imperative that we protect these men and women just as well as they protect us,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “These penalties will be an effective deterrent against inappropriate behavior in our prisons and make them safer for both the guards and the inmates, themselves.”

The Senate approved the measure in a 57-0 vote. The bill will now go before the House of Representatives.

Senator Bill Cunningham

 Cunningham2014

18th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Energy and Public Utilities (Chairperson); Executive Appointments; Higher Education; Insurance; State Government.

Biography: Served in the House from 2011-13; full-time state legislator and lifelong resident of the southwest Chicago area; born July 21, 1967; graduate of Saint Barnabas Grammar School (1981), Mount Carmel High School (1985) and the University of Illinois Chicago (1990); former advisor to Cook CountySheriff Mike Sheahan and former chief of staff to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; youth soccer coach; parent representative on the Sutherland Local School Council; lives in Beverly with wife, Juliana, and two daughters, Madeline and Olivia.

Associated Representatives:
Kelly M. Burke
Frances Ann Hurley