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I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and is enjoying the new year thus far. I had a wonderful time seeing my family together again and hope you found a similar joy.

A number of new laws will take effect beginning with the new year. Some of the major pieces of legislation include:

Providing for taxpayer-funding of elective abortions for state employees and Medicaid recipients
Provides that taxpayer funds may be used to cover abortion costs through the state insurance program and through Medicaid for any reason, including elective abortions. Federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortion procedures beyond issues involving rape, incest or health risks to the mother. Due to the federal Hyde amendment, Illinois will not be eligible for the 50 cents-on-the-dollar federal reimbursement for elective abortion procedures done through Medicaid.


Law Enforcement Sexual Assault Investigation Act
The Law Enforcement Sexual Assault Investigation Act requires each law enforcement agency to have a written policy regarding the investigation of an officer-involved sexual assault. Any investigations must be conducted by at least two investigators with specialized sexual assault investigation training from either the Law Enforcement Training Standards Board or the State Police. If a
complaint is made against a member of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority will conduct the investigation.

Research Dogs and Cats Adoption act
A research facility, after the completion of its research, must assess the health of the dog or cat, and determine whether or not the animal is suitable for adoption. For the animals determined to be fit, the research facility must make a reasonable effort to have them adopted. Facilities that provide the animals to adoption agencies are immune from liability except when willful or wanton misconduct takes place. Research facilities must also post their animal policies online.

Barack Obama Day
Designates August 4th each year as Barack Obama Day. This is not an official state holiday, state government does not shut down.

Police officers PTSD training
Amends the Illinois Police Training Act for probationary police officers to receive training on effective recognition of and responses to stress, trauma, and post-traumatic stress experienced by police officers. 

Outlaws hospital “no admit” lists
The law prohibits hospitals from maintaining a list of individuals that may not be admitted for treatment. It does not prohibit a hospital from recommending an alternate provider, coordinating an appropriate transfer, or arranging access to care services that best meet the needs of an individual patient. 

Free access to feminine hygiene products in Illinois schools
Feminine hygiene products will now be available, at no cost to students, in the bathrooms of school buildings under this new mandate to Illinois school districts. “Feminine hygiene products” means tampons and sanitary napkins for use in connection with the menstrual cycle.

Cybersecurity training for state employees
Requires state employees to annually undergo training by the Department of Innovation and Technology concerning cybersecurity. The Department will be able to make the training an online course, and it will include information on detecting phishing scams, preventing spyware infections and identity theft, and preventing and responding to data breaches. 

Illegal electronic monitoring
This act creates the offense of illegal electronic monitoring, to protect citizens’ privacy and safety from spyware and tracking software being unknowingly installed or downloaded onto cell phones.

State Grain
Designates corn as the official state grain of the state of Illinois.

Read the rest of the 200 bills becoming law on January 1st here
A statewide helpline has been launched to provide immediate assistance for those impacted by addiction to opioids and other substances. The telephone service line, 1-833-2-FINDHELP (1-833-234-6343), will be operated through the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances is funded by federal grant dollars secured by the State of Illinois and can be accessed free of charge. 
The helpline is the latest step in Illinois lawmakers’ commitment to tackle the opioid crisis and combat the growing number of overdose deaths related to heroin, other opioids, and synthetics like fentanyl. Earlier this year the Governor unveiled the Opioid Action Plan and signed an executive order creating the Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti and IDPH Director Nirav Shah, was charged with building strategies that would help reduce projected opioid overdose-related deaths by one-third within the next three years. It has been holding hearings and gathering testimony from public-health professionals and law enforcement leaders on the dimensions of the crisis.  

Another policy established under Executive Order 2017-05 was a Standing Order to make the overdose reversal drug Naloxone (Narcan) available to first responders and members of communities across Illinois, without a prescription. 

Data shows that opioid overdoses are dramatically increasing, with 1,946 people killed in Illinois in 2016 up from 1,382 in 2015. In Will County there were 103 opioid deaths in 2016, up from 79 in 2015. Opioids are killing more people every year than homicides or motor vehicle accidents. In addition, data from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) estimates that approximately 248,000 Illinois residents need, but do not receive, treatment for illicit drug use.

The helpline will provide a confidential outlet for individuals experiencing opioid use disorders, their families and anyone affected by the disease. It will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by specialists trained in evidence-based approaches to help connect callers with treatment and recovery-support services. 
When the Chicago River was reversed in 1900, the city's sewage was directed away from Lake Michigan, the city and surrounding suburbs' main drinking water source. However severe flooding leads to sewage tainted storm water being put in the lake. Raw sewage can be harmful to the lake and local rivers and has led to the severe pollution of the Chicago River.

State Representative Margo McDermed recently toured the McCook Reservoir, a new addition to Cook County's reservoir system that will have a significant impact on flood control. The reservoir is 3,000 feet long, 310 feet deep, and has the capacity to hold 3.5 billion gallons of storm water. By 2029 it will be able to hold an addition 6.5 billion gallons. 

The tour also included a look at Chicago's 'Deep Tunnel', the largest public works project ever undertaken by the city of Chicago and one of the largest civil engineering feats in modern history. The tunnel connects sewers to reservoirs that hold storm water until it can be pumped to sewage treatment plants for cleanup before being put into local water sources. 

The new reservoir and tunnel are part of a much larger project that began in the late 1970's and is expected to be completed in 2029. Once the project is completed, water management agencies will no longer have to pump excess wastewater in to Lake Michigan and the river during severe weather events to prevent flooding. 

The McCook and Thornton reservoirs, connected via the Deep Tunnel, were built out of large rock quarries recommissioned for public use. Rep. McDermed has pushed for greater regulation of private rock quarries and their impact on local drinking water. These debris and quarry sites are often high in toxins, which can seep in to the groundwater. You can read more here.

Image result for chicago deep tunnel

Image result for small business saturdayThis Saturday, November 25th is Small Business Saturday. The weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest shopping time of the year and this new, unofficial holiday encourages people to shop small and support their local economy. At 99%, small businesses make up an overwhelming majority of the businesses in Illinois and employ an estimated 2.4 million people. Of the roughly 1.2 million small businesses, 311,609 are minority owned. 

Local small businesses can get social media marketing tools here.
Today State Representative Margo McDermed received an appointment to the House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment. She was appointed by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. The task force is in charge of conducting a comprehensive review of the legal and social consequences of sexual discrimination and harassment, in both the public and private sectors.

"I am glad that legislators have taken swift and strong action in recent weeks to condemn and help fix the culture of sexual harassment in Springfield. It is long overdue," Rep. McDermed said. "As a woman who worked in a male dominated field my entire career, I appreciate the opportunity to be at the forefront of the effort to substantially address this issue."

The task force was created by House Resolution 687, which passed unanimously last week in Springfield. During the final week of veto session the House acted on several measures to address the culture of sexual harassment in Illinois government. The House also unanimously passed a comprehensive measure to amend Illinois' ethics law to include sexual harassment. The task force must submit a report on the best practices to improve procedures for accepting complaints and the prevention of sexual discrimination and harassment in the public and private sector to the General Assembly by the end of next year.