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Morrison: Illinois to create business licensing website

morrison-biz-license-webSPRINGFIELD – A new state law should make it easier to open a business in Illinois. It requires the state to put all permit and license applications on one centralized website.

“We should be making it easier to open small businesses in Illinois,” said Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), the measure’s sponsor.  “The practice of requiring entrepreneurs to navigate dozens of websites has to stop.”

Right now, business owners who need more than one license or permit normally have to visit several different state and local government websites and fill out forms. To see if they qualify for any economic development programs, they have to contact even more state agencies.

Many other states do better, putting all of these forms and information in one place.

Illinois' new business licensing website will be operated by the state’s Department of Commerce and Opportunity. The agency will update the site at least once every year. Under the current system, potential business owners are often forced to struggle with broken links and hard-to-navigate, out-of-date state websites.

Morrison’s plan was inspired in part by the state of New York’s business license website. Under New York’s system, entrepreneurs start by selecting the type of business they would like to open. They then answer a series of questions. When they finish, they are provided with links to all of the forms they need to fill out and any additional information they requested.

The law was Senate Bill 659. The new website should be online by July 2017.

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.

Morrison guides drone law to governor’s desk

morrison-dcfs-042915SPRINGFIELD – When the state’s Department of Natural Resources came to Senator Julie Morrison and asked her to sponsor a ban on using drones for hunting, she agreed, thinking it was a simple idea that would be supported by both hunters and environmentalists as it had in other states.

As far as it went, that much was true: Hunters see using drones as cheating, and environmentalists like that animals get a more sporting chance to escape. What neither Morrison nor the department anticipated is that every group interested in using drones would see the legislation as the first move toward state regulation of the new technology.

“I was honestly shocked by how many people called and wrote to me about drones,” Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, said. “Most of them weren’t interested in or concerned about the hunting ban. They wanted to have a wider conversation about the role of drones in our society.”

Instead of banning drones for hunting, Morrison began working with Representative Brandon Phelps, from Harrisburg in far southern Illinois, to put together a commission to write comprehensive rules for the use of drones in Illinois.

By the time Morrison and Phelps finished negotiating the composition of the task force, the legislation called for a dizzying and diverse array of stakeholders from across the state and from almost every industry and interest imaginable. Should the measure become law, the group will include obvious members, like representatives of law enforcement, the aviation industry and economic development authorities. However, it will also have some more surprising members, including farmers, utility company executives and railroad company representatives.

“This is a new technology that could be abused in ways that would endanger people’s health and privacy. It needs some commonsense regulations to keep people safe,” Morrison said. “This task force should craft a comprehensive law that will answer all questions about drones for both the public and drone operators.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 44. It has passed both the Illinois House and Senate and now goes to the governor for his consideration. The task force would be required to submit its recommendations by July 1, 2016.

DCFS reform plan passes General Assembly

morrison-dcfs-52915SPRINGFIELD – After a series of media reports last fall revealed that hundreds of children under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services were abused and assaulted at residential treatment centers, state Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) introduced a plan to fix the problem.

This proposed law would require DCFS to force child care facilities to take immediate action when an employee commits an act of abuse or neglect. That plan is now on its way to the governor.

The key point is that employees who endanger kids or fail to report abuse would face immediate discipline. The law would also apply when employees fail to report abuse and neglect.

“Any employees of a child care organization who aren’t keeping abused and neglected children safe should be disciplined – up to and including losing their jobs,” Morrison said. “These are kids who have already experienced horrors many of us can’t even imagine. It’s our responsibility to help them rebuild their lives.”

These children are in residential treatment centers, created to provide homes to some of the most troubled children in the state’s care. They are largely private organizations with state contracts, and they receive more than $200 million in taxpayer funding each year to provide around-the-clock care to about 1,400 children.

The newspaper reports exposed shocking stories to both the public and legislators. Between 2011 and 2013, children in these centers experienced more than 400 incidents of sexual abuse. They also experienced more than 1,000 physical attacks – sometimes from staff. Perhaps most shockingly, there were nearly 30,000 reports of children attempting to run away or going missing.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1763, also creates a task force to write new rules for the care of DCFS wards who are the victims of sex trafficking and creates a pilot program to recruit more qualified foster parents to care for children who have severe physical, emotional or developmental disabilities.

“DCFS has experienced so much turmoil over the past decade that we’re not going to fix all of its problems right away,” Morrison said. “But I’ve had conversations with the new director, and I’m hopeful that we are finally starting to move in the right direction.”

The measure now goes to the governor for his consideration.

Sen. Julie Morrison

morrison 150

29th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Environment and Conservation; Human Services (Vice-Chairperson); Education; Committee of the Whole; Commerce and Economic Development; Transportation.

Biography: Born in Beardstown; received a bachelor's degree from Knox College; served as supervisor of West Deerfield Township, married to husband Joe with three grown children.

Associated Representative(s): Elaine Nekritz, Scott Drury