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Bush legislation seeks to address limited options on rape kit testing during COVID-19 crisis

Published: Sunday, May 24, 2020 12:43 PM
bush floor 052320

CHICAGO – Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) have passed emergency legislation to address concerns related to ensuring that survivors of sexual assault have access to care and evidence collection during the COVID-19 crisis. Under current law sexual assault survivors’ only option for a forensic exam and evidence collection is to go to an emergency department. Many survivors seeking treatment at alternative sites have expressed fear of being exposed to COVID-19 at hospital emergency rooms.

Senate Bill 557 seeks to allow approved federally qualified health centers (FQHC) to perform rape kit examinations and collection during public health emergencies such as COVID-19.

“We know sexual assaults are not stopping during this time. Survivors should not have the added worry of being exposed to the virus, they deserve better,” Representative Cassidy said. 

Advocacy groups and experts in the industry know that sexual violence is not decreasing during this time. Resilience, Chicago’s largest comprehensive rape crisis center has reported a 49% decrease in call volume from hospitals since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile Howard Brown Health Center a federally qualified health center, has seen its volume of sexual assault cases double.

"Currently, the only place a survivor of sexual assault can get a rape kit or medical help is a hospital. With survivors citing COVID-19 and the health risks associated with going to a crowded hospital as a reason to stay away, it's more important than ever to allow federally qualified health centers to perform rape kits and give survivors additional options to seek help," Bush said. "The need for alternative options has never been more important than right now." 
 

In order to provide these exams FQHCs would need to apply to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Facilities must also abide by strict guidelines including working with emergency departments, rape crisis centers and offer wrap around services to survivors.

"With many survivors uncomfortable going to a hospital during the pandemic, it's critical to provide other places where they can access safe treatment and compassionate care," said Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx. "Expanding these options will also allow for evidence collection, which is vital to bringing survivors justice. I'm grateful to the sponsors and advocates who share our trauma-informed, victim-centered approach and moved quickly to advance this important legislation."

This legislation represents an initiative by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Chicago Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Office of the Attorney General and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The bill passed the House by a vote of 107-1 and the Senate 56-0. 

Bennett outlines plan to reopen child care in Illinois

Published: Saturday, May 23, 2020 07:45 PM

bennett floor 052220CHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is confident in the state’s cautious approach to reopen child care centers when the Central Region enters phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan, likely next week.

“As businesses begin reopening and Illinoisans prepare to return to work, child care is a top priority for many families,” Bennett said. “The availability of child care that enables them to go to work is crucial. New guidelines have been put in place for child care centers to plan and prepare for a safe reopening.”

The Stay at Home Order issued on March 20 and amended on April 20 closed all child care programs, later establishing an emergency childcare structure to provide care for essential workers.

Under phase 3 and 4 of the governor’s reopening plan, all child care facilities will be able to open, as long as they create their own reopening plan that keeps both children and staff safe and healthy, and adhere to the guidelines set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

That plan must include what to do if a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, daily symptom checks and a face covering requirement, among other things.

Under the governor’s plan, no more than 10 children will be allowed in a classroom at a time for four weeks. After that, if the center has met proper health, social distancing and sanitation requirements, it will be able to expand to larger group sizes.

Additionally, child care programs that have been open since the start of the Stay at Home Order will be allowed expand capacity as their region enters phase three.

“Reopening child care centers will not only relieve parents when they return to work, but it will also give children access to educational resources in a safe learning environment,” Bennett said.

 

All regions of the state are on track to move to the next phase as early as May 29.

Sims supports plan allowing voters to cast ballot safely by mail

Published: Saturday, May 23, 2020 05:39 PM

sims floor 052220SPRINGFIELD—State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) offered his full support of a plan expanding vote by mail for the upcoming general election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This proposal allows the state to act reasonably to protect its citizens,” Sims said. “We are facing an unprecedented pandemic. This measured approach will ensure that voters can safely cast their ballots from the safety of their homes.”

Individuals who have voted in the past two years — either in the 2018 General Election, 2019 Consolidated Election or 2020 Primary Election — will be mailed an application for a vote-by-mail ballot.

Those who registered to vote after the 2020 Primary Election will also receive an application.

Under the plan, individuals who aren’t automatically sent an application will still be able to apply for a ballot via the State Board of Elections’ website. Applications will open the day the law takes effect.

This legislation does not prevent in-person voting opportunities on and before Election Day.

“Many have fought, bled and died for our right to vote, and we need to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to exercise that right,” Sims said. “I am confident this plan will help voters throughout Illinois do so without risking their health.”

Senate Bill 1863 now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.

Villanueva votes to give essential workers more benefits, protect retail workers who enforce mask etiquette

Published: Saturday, May 23, 2020 05:11 PM

villanueva 052320SPRINGFIELD – With essential workers facing more risks on the job, State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) voted to pass a labor package that increases public employee benefits, protects retail workers and expands collective bargaining rights.

“Working people deserve dignity on the job,” Villanueva said. “Expanding paid disability leave, legal protections and the right to negotiate a fair wage will ensure that they have a safety net.”

Senate Bill 471 would expand paid disability leave for first responders by 60 days due to decreased access to rehabilitative services. The legislation would also elevate a charge of battery of a retail employee to aggravated battery if the incident took place during or up to six months after a declared public health emergency. Aggravated battery would also apply to incidents that occur while an employee is performing duties that include relaying directions for health and safety precautions.

“Retail employees are facing harassment and worse for enforcing face mask requirements,” Villanueva said. “We need to proactively expand legal protections to working people who put themselves at risk every day to provide essential services.”

In addition to those provisions, the legislation would also require existing racetracks with 10 or more employees to engage in collective bargaining if the track wishes to expand to include a casino. While the horse racing industry is excluded from federal collective bargaining laws, Illinois has extended similar protections to most businesses.

“As these facilities expand operations, they will also be expanding their workforce with janitorial, food service and other backstretch employees,” Villanueva said. “This measure will create a huge opportunity for those workers to improve their lives and receive the wages they deserve through the opportunity to collectively bargain.”

 Not all backstretch employees would be covered under this bill. Villanueva plans to introduce legislation to expand coverage during veto session.

Senate Bill 471 passed the Illinois Senate 47-3.

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News Releases

IMAGE Bush legislation seeks to address limited options on rape kit testing during COVID-19 crisis
Sunday, 24 May 2020
CHICAGO – Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) have passed emergency legislation to address...

Read More...
IMAGE Bennett outlines plan to reopen child care in Illinois
Saturday, 23 May 2020
CHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is confident in the state’s cautious approach to reopen child care centers when the...

Read More...
IMAGE Sims supports plan allowing voters to cast ballot safely by mail
Saturday, 23 May 2020
SPRINGFIELD—State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) offered his full support of a plan expanding vote by mail for the upcoming general...

Read More...
IMAGE Villanueva votes to give essential workers more benefits, protect retail workers who enforce mask etiquette
Saturday, 23 May 2020
SPRINGFIELD – With essential workers facing more risks on the job, State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) voted to pass a labor package that...

Read More...
IMAGE Crowe votes to expand protections for Fairmount Park Racetrack employees
Saturday, 23 May 2020
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon) supported legislation expanding coverage to horse racing industry workers while adding...

Read More...