If you live in Illinois, you have likely seen in the past couple of days this vibrant blue commercial at least once or twice. The commercial encourages Illinois voters to “Vote Yes for Fairness” at the polls this November by voting their approval of an amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution. The proposed amendment would change the state’s current state income system from a flat tax to a graduated income tax. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker made the adoption of a progressive income tax a centerpiece of his policy agenda in a budget address back in February 2019, and it was geared up to be a focus of election-season debates before the COVID-19 pandemic took precedence. With the Illinois general election less than fifty days away, however, the ‘Vote Yes for Fairness’ campaign has bolstered its attempts at garnering voters’ approval of the proposed amendment.
By now most people are familiar with the #MeToo movement. The movement began in 2006 by women, specifically Tarana Burke and women of color from low wealth communities, to help survivors of sexual violence. Eleven years after the movement was founded, it exploded during the fall of 2017 when well-known women in the entertainment industry began to use the famous #MeToo hashtag and shared their stories of sexual, discrimination, abuse and harassment. Two and half years later, there has been some change, but not enough. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said the biggest impact of #MeToo is that it decreased the stigma associated with sexual abuse and harassment and increased awareness.
An article published on November 19, 2019 by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune has alerted Illinois lawmakers, parents, and school personnel of the widespread use of seclusion rooms for isolated timeouts. The use of these rooms, which has now been halted by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) and Governor J.B. Pritzker, has been legal in Illinois for over twenty years. The students who are most frequently placed in these rooms have an emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disability, and special education advocates are calling for an end to this practice. These rooms were introduced as a legally-sanctioned separation method to prevent students from harming themselves or others, but the investigative article found that students are often unlawfully placed in these rooms for minor behavioral infractions. The report also found that parents and school administrators did not have knowledge of the full scope of isolated time-out use for their students.
In 2008, the Illinois legislature introduced and passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which became the first law of its kind in the US. BIPA was passed to protect individuals against the unlawful collection and storing of biometric information. While many states have enacted similar laws, BIPA remains the most stringent among its contemporaries.
On July 31, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 834 into law amending the Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003. The law, which will go into effect on September 29, 2019, makes it unlawful for employers to ask applicants about their salary history. Governor Pritzker signed the Bill with the intention of eliminating the wage gap that exists between men and women in Illinois. In 2019, half of the Illinois workforce is women, but women working in Illinois earn 79 percent of what men earn. The wage gap is exacerbated for women of color. According to The American Association of University Women, Black women in the United States are paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. As a result of the amended law, Illinois employers will need to act quickly to make changes to their hiring procedures.
Cook County General Administrative Order 18-1 pertains to the Standard HIPAA Qualified Protective Orders (QPO) that will be permitted in Cook County. These orders will only be allowed for cases that are in litigation where the Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s counsel authorize disclosure of a litigants’ protected health information (PHI). It also requires all entities who received PHI to either return the documents to the Plaintiff or destroy them at the end of the case. These changes mean that Plaintiff’s attorneys will see a change in the handling of Plaintiff’s medical records and other documents covered under the QPO containing PHI.
Across the United States more and more women are choosing to give birth outside of hospitals. Currently, in Illinois, Certified Professional Midwives are not licensed to provide home birth services. However, over the last decade, advocates in Illinois have urged lawmakers to reconsider this restriction. The most recent attempt in 2017 was unsuccessful once again. While opponents argue that individuals with this level of training should not be providing care to women during delivery, the choice for women who are committed to home birth is not between home and the hospital. It is between home and an illegal or unassisted delivery.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has released over $300 million in Help America Vote Act funds to 48 states and territories intended to improve election security and administration. This comes after the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 appropriated $380 million into the Help America Vote Election Security Fund in March of this year.
Recently, Google added new functionality to the Google Arts & Culture app that allows users to snap a selfie and find artwork from around the world that resembles the user. The app very quickly rose to the top of the charts as users around the United States took plenty of photos. Almost everywhere around the United States at least. Illinois and a few other states have laws that prohibit the collection or use of biometric (iris, fingerprint, etc.) data by businesses except under certain circumstances. The Google Arts & Culture app uses biometric data to compare a user’s image to the Mona Lisa (or any other portrait).
Illinois Public Act 100-0538, commonly referred to as House Bill 40, was signed into law on September 28, 2017. The Act repeals provisions in existing Illinois laws that aim to make abortion illegal should there be any change to the federal standard. Additionally, the Act lifts a ban on insurance coverage for abortions for low-income individuals enrolled in Medicaid. While enacting House Bill 40 was a win for advocates of reproductive rights in Illinois, the state will still need to comply with federal anti-abortion laws, such as the Hyde Amendment.