It was another busy summer in Springfield this session. With the budget impasse looming, our legislative efforts at times felt insurmountable. Luckily, to the benefit of our great state and all of its residents, we were able to advance critical measures that set new precedents for civil liberties and human rights in Illinois. Here is a brief roundup of some of the bills we worked on, and the progress we made:
Putting Patients First (Senate Bill 1564)
In a soaring victory for patients’ rights, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1564 in late July, which amends the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). The HCRCA, enacted in 1977, was one of the broadest and most radical religious health care refusal law in the country because it permitted health care providers to deny both information and health care based on their religion or conscience. This victory reflects the culmination of years of advocacy on this particular legislative effort, and decades of advocacy to guarantee that the health care needs of patients in Illinois are not compromised by the religious or conscience beliefs of health care providers.
Cell Site Simulator (Stingray) Regulation (Senate Bill 2343)
Illinois will now have statewide guidelines on the use of cell site simulators by law enforcement, thanks to Senate Bill 2343 signed by the governor. Cell site simulators known as “Stingrays” are devices that simulate cell phone network towers, tricking nearby mobile devices into connecting, and are used by law enforcement throughout the country. The most notable change in the law will be that a court order based on probable cause will be required before the technology can be used, and a prohibition on the use of the devices for purposes beyond identifying or locating an electronic device.
Civil Enforcement of Cannabis (Senate Bill 2228)
Governor Rauner also signed into law a bill to change possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis from a criminal conviction to a civil violation punishable by a fine, like a traffic ticket, of no more than $200. This measure can bring Illinois one step closer to reforming our broken criminal justice system by reducing the number of people who enter.
Contraceptive Coverage (House Bill 5576)
Another bill signed into law guarantees that people who have health insurance will be able to receive FDA-approved birth control prescribed by a health care provider without a co-pay in addition to an accessible and timely waiver process to access birth control methods not covered by a plan. Finally, insurance companies must cover birth control prescriptions for up to 12 months at a time.
Gender Marker on Birth Certificates (House Bill 6073)
We plan to continue working on behalf of transgender and intersex Illinoisians to amend the Vital Records Act (House Bill 6073), to replace an outdated 54 year-old requirement for surgery to correct a gender marker on a birth certificate. This summer, our legislative team will be making visits with legislators to ensure we will have the votes to bring us closer to being able to call the bill in the fall veto session.