Local legislators responsible for several laws

SPRINGFIELD — Among the state laws going into effect Sunday are several sponsored or cosponsored by area state legislators.

— SB 850, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and in the House by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, will make it easier for "cottage food" vendors to sell their home-produced items at farmers' markets. Previously such items had to be prepared in commercial kitchens.

The new law still requires that home-made products be labeled with the name and address of the preparer, the date it was prepared and all ingredients in the product.

"We had people who made cookies or pies, or beekeepers who sell honey, and recently they had been restricted in where they could sell," Frerichs said. "Many constituents told us that this was a good thing to do."

— Another Jakobsson-Frerichs bill (HB 2066) adds the names of people filing for unemployment insurance to other lists used to create jury pools.

"This had been brought to our attention by a local jury commission," Jakobsson said.

"You've got people who are receiving benefits from the state, but we know we would not be taking time away from their employers," Frerichs said. "It just seems to make sense."

— A third Jakobsson-Frerichs bill (HB 78) makes it a misdemeanor for certain people to enter a "safe school zone." The idea was brought to the lawmakers by a school resource officer in Champaign, Frerichs said. It establishes a zone of 1,000 feet around a school where employees or a student who has been suspended, expelled or dismissed is prohibited from entering and remaining.

— HB 2056, which developed as an initiative of a class at Pontiac High School, creates a Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Fund, financed with a new $20 assessment fee for certain drug arrests, that will offer grants for the collection, transportation and incineration of household pills and drugs.

"The students were concerned about the environmental impacts of these drugs going through our sewer and septic systems," said Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign. "They sought out a solution and worked with myself and Rep. Joanne Osmond. We came up with legislation that allows unused prescription medicine to be dropped off to certain locations. It doesn't cost the taxpayers a dollar and it helps the environment."

Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, said the legislation "is spreading throughout the country. They can take pride in starting something that will make a difference."

— A public aid fraud bill sponsored by Reps. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet; Chad Hays, R-Catlin; and Frerichs, extends the time that the Department of Healthcare and Family Services has to collect data on fraud cases.

"We have got to get very serious about what we're going to do with the Medicaid program because pretty soon it will start to squeeze out lots of other things that people are passionate about, like education and roads and bridges," Hays said. "The very large hole we have in Medicaid dollars owed now is going to get larger, from about $2.5 billion at the end of this fiscal year to perhaps as much as $5.5 billion at the end of fiscal year 2013."

— Another Hays-Frerichs bill finally makes legal the 1,100-acre Harry "Babe" Woodyard State Natural Area in Vermilion County. Through an oversight it was discovered that the land had never been formally or statutorily named for the former state legislator who died in 1997.

— HB 2362, a Frerichs-Barickman effort, allows mental health records to be disclosed to a court-appointed provider to help determine fitness to stand trial provided they are no more than 180 days old. Barickman said the legislation had been suggested to him by Dr. Larry Jeckel, a Champaign psychiatrist.

— HB 1503, sponsored by Rose, requires the Illinois Board of Higher Education to develop a method of funding public universities and community colleges based on how well they meet certain metrics, such as graduation rates and the time spent to complete a degree. "We can't keep doing what we've been doing the last 30 years, which is to not have a plan," Rose said.

— HB 2860, cosponsored in the Senate by Cultra, allows a motorcyclist to proceed through "a steady red signal which fails to change to a green signal within a reasonable period of time," according to wording in the bill.

"Some traffic signals don't pick up a motorcyclist. They may have the electric eye there and when a car pulls up it triggers it. But a motorcycle a lot of times won't trigger that electric eye and you just have to sit there forever," Cultra said. "This allows them to proceed with caution after a certain amount of time."

— SB 1602, sponsored by Frerichs, imposes stricter requirements on operators of portable dental units.

"We have a great service here in Champaign County with Healthy Smiles, and they have a portable dental unit to help in underserved areas. That's not what we're looking to stop," Frerichs said. "We're looking to stop for-profit outfits that come in and take the easiest, cheapest, highest rate of return work. They come to a school and they do dental cleanings or checkups and collect their money off that and then they roll out of town and don't actually fix the problems that they have identified. That's the important work and the most expensive work."

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