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Capitol Briefs: Expansion of postpartum coverage, ban on kangaroos among hundreds of measures to pass House

Capitol Briefs: Expansion of postpartum coverage, ban on kangaroos among hundreds of measures to pass House

Lawmakers also outlaw AI-generated child porn, fine-tune prisoner medical release law

By ALEX ABBEDUTO
& COLE LONGCOR
Capitol News Illinois
news@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois kangaroo owners are one step closer to being forced to surrender their marsupials this week after the House passed a bill criminalizing their possession.

That was one of more than 300 bills to pass the House ahead of a Friday procedural deadline.  

If it becomes law, House Bill 4446 would expand the list of outlawed animals to include two species of wild cats –  servals and caracals – along with wallabies and kangaroos. Animals, like lions, tigers and bears are already banned from being pets under current law. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove, assured Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, his district’s petting zoo would be allowed to keep its kangaroo, assuming it is under the care of a licensed handler. 

“We are not closing petting zoos in Illinois,” Didech said during debate. “This is actually a very serious bill that was brought to me by law enforcement.”

He said it was in response to aggressive animal encounters in Vernon Hills, Decatur and Bloomington.

The bill currently grants exemptions for films produced in Illinois to use outlawed animals. It also prevents veterinarians who administer emergency medicine to banned animals from being sued unless it’s a case of malpractice. 

The penalty for illegally owning one of the illegal animals remains a Class C misdemeanor. The measure passed the House 67-34 and heads to the Senate.

 

AI-generated child porn

A bill that would outlaw the creation and sharing of child pornography made using artificial intelligence unanimously advanced to the Senate this week. 

House Bill 4623, which was backed by Attorney General Kwame Raoul, would expand current child pornography laws to also cover AI-generated child pornography.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, said if AI-generated child pornography rapidly increases, law enforcement’s ability to identify real cases would be more difficult. She also said “while no real child may be harmed with AI-generated content, the harm is that it normalizes abusive behavior” by depicting the crime. 

 

Pregnancy and postpartum care

A bill expanding insurance coverage of pregnancy, postpartum and newborn care advanced to the Senate Thursday as well.

Under House Bill 5142, which is backed by Gov. JB Pritzker, insurance coverage through certain state-regulated plans would be extended to include doulas, midwives, home births, lactation consultants, breastfeeding supplies and more. Other insurance plans, like those federally regulated under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, would be excluded. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, said she thinks increasing coverage of this type of care will save women’s and babies’ lives. 

Financial experts estimate implementing these changes would cost the Department of Insurance $260,000. 

The bill passed out of the House 72-37. During debate, a few Republicans expressed concerns with this coverage also being extended to people undergoing abortion services. 


Robyn Gabel

State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, (right) is pictured on the House floor on Thursday, April 18. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)



Junk Fees Ban

 A proposal to bar companies that aren’t already subject to price regulations from imposing “junk fees” on consumers passed the House Thursday in a 71-35 vote.

House Bill 4629, called the Junk Fee Ban Act, would require companies to provide consumers with the full price of the provided goods or services thereby removing back-end, hidden fees. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, said when he was recently at a restaurant, the receipt listed a surcharge to cover the increased cost of food rather than increasing the prices on the menu. His bill would ban such practices and increase transparency, he said.

“Junk fees are exactly what they sound like. They're hidden, deceptive, predatory fees. They're added by businesses without you knowing,” Morgan said Thursday. “And they exploit each and every one of us for their extra profit.”

 

Climate Change Curriculum

The House passed a measure that requires the Illinois State Board of Education – if funding is appropriated by lawmakers – to provide professional development to teachers regarding climate change curriculum.

Bill sponsor Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, said teaching the topic of climate change is already required within the state’s school code due to its adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards have been adopted by 44 states around the country, she added. 

The proposal would give ISBE the authority to provide training materials to teachers based on that curriculum.

House Bill 4895 passed the House in a 70-37 vote Thursday with only Democratic support. 

The proposal would require a one-time $300,000 expense, which would need to be approved separately, according to Yang Rohr. 


Janet Yang Rohr

State Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, (right) is pictured on the House floor on Thursday, April 18. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)



Prisoner Medical Release Hearings

A bill to add transparency and reporting measures to prisoner medical release hearings passed in a 72-34 vote Wednesday.

House Bill 5396 would amend the Joe Coleman Medical Release Act, which took effect in 2022. That law established the process for an inmate to petition the Prisoner Review Board for an early release due to terminal illness or medical disability. 

Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said the bill aims “to make sure PRB complies with the letter and the spirit of the original law.”

“It's my view that there are individuals who are perhaps eligible for release under this Act who haven't been able to take advantage of it yet,” Guzzardi said. “But in order for us to really make sure that that happens, we have to have these hearings working right.”

Read more: INJUSTICE WATCH/WBEZ: Dying and disabled Illinois prisoners kept behind bars, despite new medical release law

The bill clarifies that hearings concerning a prisoner’s potential release are public by default unless requested to be closed by the petitioning inmate. The petitioner has the right to attend the hearing to speak on their own behalf. 

The bill would also require the PRB to provide public notice including the petitioner’s name and attorney, the docket number, and the hearing date. Voting would take place during the public hearing. If the petition is denied, the PRB must publish a decision letter outlining the statutory reason for denial and an estimated cost, including medical expenses, of keeping the inmate incarcerated. 

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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