Tuesday, March 02, 2010
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Senate week in review

Feb. 22-26

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[March 02, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- Senate lawmakers were busy in committee hearings all last week, approving legislation that state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said would target the growing social issue of "sexting" and advancing measures to the House of Representatives that would change Illinois’ legislative scholarship program and push back the state’s February primary election date.

The Senate Criminal Law Committee tackled the issue of "sexting," a growing social trend where explicit photos or videos are sent via cell phone or e-mail to someone else. The bill is aimed at people younger than 18, as sexting has become increasingly prevalent among young people in recent years.

Currently, there is little that could be done to address sexting aside from pursuing felony child pornography charges -- which prosecutors are reluctant to do. Senate Bill 2513 seeks to create a middle ground.


Under the legislation, minors who electronically send indecent images of themselves can be brought into juvenile court for proceedings to determine if they are in need of supervision. If the young person is found to be in need of supervision, he or she could be ordered into counseling or other supportive services. The minor may also be ordered to complete community service.

Senate Bill 2513 also makes it a misdemeanor crime for any person, regardless of their age, to possess an explicit visual image transmitted to them by a minor. This controversial provision sparked concern that the creator and sender of the image could be found to have committed a lesser offense, while the person who received the unsolicited image would be guilty of a higher penalty. However, there would be no possession offense if the person receiving the image takes reasonable steps to eliminate the image within a reasonable time.

Questions were raised about whether the issue of sexting is a topic best handled by the parents and educators. There are also ways for a minor to get around the legislation simply by having friends take the picture and then having them send it to someone else. Nonetheless, the bill was passed by the Senate Criminal Law Committee and now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

On Feb. 24, the Senate approved legislation targeting the state’s controversial legislative scholarship program. The program came under fire after media reports revealed that General Assembly scholarships had been awarded to students who are family of campaign contributors or influential acquaintances.

Senate Bill 365 would allow a legislator to opt out of the legislative scholarship program. The measure also prohibits a legislator from nominating a person for a scholarship if that person or an immediate family member has made a campaign contribution at any time during the last five years to the lawmaker who would award the scholarship. The bill also requires the individual nominated to have already been admitted to a state-supported university.

A number of lawmakers argued that the program should be eliminated completely to avoid future improprieties, though many noted that Senate Bill 365 is an adequate first step. Opponents of the legislation contend that the scholarships provide a much-needed opportunity for students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college.

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Finally, members of the Senate passed Senate Bill 355, a bill that will move the general primary election from February to the third Tuesday of March in even-numbered years.

Currently Illinois boasts the nation’s earliest primary. The primary date was moved to February a couple of years ago to benefit Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential bid. Lawmakers voted Feb. 24 to return the primary date to mid-March, saying that reinstating the March primary date will help increase voter turnout and improve the overall process.

Other bills passed by Senate committees during the week of Feb. 22-26:


Alternative school program (SB 2489) -- States that a school district must allow a suspended or expelled student to attend an alternative school program, if available, for the duration of the suspension or expulsion.

School mandate waiver (SB 2980) -- Allows a school board to waive some curricular mandates for which it does not receive state funding.

Educational mandates (SB 3000) -- Creates the Instructional Mandates Task Force to study instructional mandates governing public schools and to make recommendations to the General Assembly on existing and future mandates and the waivers of said mandates.

Race factors in school discipline (SR 560) -- Creates the Task Force on Eliminating Racial Bias in Suspensions and Expulsions to examine the causes of the racial gap in suspension and expulsion rates and to submit a report to the General Assembly by April 15.

High-speed rail (SB 2571): Creates the High-Speed Rail Authority to address issues relating to the creation of a high-speed railroad system in Illinois.

Property taxes (SB 2950): Protects people with developmental disabilities from losing homes due to nonpayment of property taxes

[Text from file sent on behalf of Sen. Larry Bomke by Illinois Senate Republican staff]

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