COVID-19 stymies legislative harvest

New year sees only three new state laws instituted, plus scheduled hike in minimum wage

A new year typically ushers in hundreds of additions and/or revisions to Illinois’ legal landscape.

But not 2021. Due to a Illinois General Assembly legislative spring 2020 session stunted by COVID-19 and a fall veto session scrapped altogether, only three acts went into effect Jan. 1. Here’s a look at them, as well as the next increase in the minimum wage.

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi (R-47, Elmhurst), expressed disappointed at the light output.

“The legislature did not do nearly enough to help our families, seniors, business owners and the many others who are suffering because of COVID,” Mazzochi commented in an email.

Survivors of sexual assault will be able to keep their home addresses confidential under the Address Confidentiality for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault or Stalking Act. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-24, Western Springs) and garnering bi-partisan support, expanded and renamed the former Address Confidentiality for Victims of Domestic Violence Act. Glowiak Hilton said the law empowers the Illinois Attorney General’s office to help keep survivors’ home addresses private from their attackers and stalkers.

“Investigations of sexual assault can be long, grueling and emotionally devastating for survivors,” she said. “It’s critical for survivors to feel safe at home during and after the conclusion of the investigation.”

The attorney general’s office can be used by survivors of abuse as their contact address instead of revealing their actual address, avoiding any risk that their abuser might locate them. House Bill 2818 expands its availability to all survivors of sexual abuse and stalking.

Illinois has become the second state to cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription insulin. Glowiak Hilton expressed support for the legislation.

“Pharmaceutical corporations have profited off the lives of residents with diabetes for too long,” she said. “By capping the cost of life-saving insulin at $100 for a 30-day supply, Illinois is standing firmly on the side of hardworking families. Families should not be forced to choose between food or prescriptions.”

The new law also requires the departments of insurance, human services, and health care and family services to issue a joint “insulin pricing report” to the public that details findings on insulin pricing practices and recommendations to control and prevent overpricing of prescription insulin drugs.

Thirdly, lawmakers amended the Missing Persons Identification Act to allow law enforcement agencies to obtain a DNA sample of a missing person or a DNA reference sample from family members’ DNA, once a missing person report is made.

The law also provides that law enforcement cannot retain DNA samples from family members or the missing person after the person has been located and adds the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a national information clearinghouse for missing persons, to the list of laboratories that law enforcement agencies can work with when trying to find a missing person.

One other change to note occurring in 2021 is an increase of the minimum wage from $10 to $11. In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation that raises the minimum wage $1 every year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. Last year workers saw their hourly wage increase from $8.25 to $9.25 in January and $9.25 to $10 in July.

“We want to make sure that workers earning minimum wage are aware that the $1 increase should be reflected in their paychecks for any time they work after the first of the year,” Michael Kleinik, director of the Illinois Department of Labor, said in a news release. “While we fully expect employers will pay the new wage, we also want workers to be aware of the change.”

Mazzochi said she hopes the next session results in greater productivity.

“There is no reason why we can’t do our jobs and legislate for the people in the 102nd General Assembly,” she said. “There is too much work to be done for us not to.”

— Sarah Mansur of Capitol News Illinois contributed to this story