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SENATE RECAP: Personal robots and horses among subjects of bills sent to governor

SENATE RECAP: Personal robots and horses among subjects of bills sent to governor

Bills dealing with criminal justice and fuel tax money also get final legislative OK

By PETER HANCOCK

Capitol News Illinois

phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate on Tuesday passed and sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker a bill that would pave the way for people to use robotic “personal carrying devices” in Illinois.

Those are robotic devices designed to follow their owner around, carrying items that might be too heavy or bulky for the person to carry themselves. One, known as the Gita (pronounced “jee-ta”) is produced by the Italian automotive company Piaggio, which is best known for its Vespa brand of scooters.

Gitas, however, have been slow to enter some markets where laws dealing with traffic and pedestrians haven’t caught up with the new technology.

House Bill 245, which passed the House March 11, would establish a legal framework for using such devices in Illinois. It would provide that the devices be designed to stay within 10 feet of their owners and that the owners or operators have the same rights and obligations of pedestrians, except that they would have to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on a sidewalk or crosswalk. It also provides that the devices cannot be used to transport a person.

In addition, the bill would give local governments authority to enact their own regulations for how the devices are used within their jurisdictions. It also contains a number of provisions protecting the legal rights of purchasers and people who are injured by the devices.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 47-to-6.

That bill was just one of dozens the Senate passed and sent to the governor Tuesday as both chambers worked through piles of legislation in advance of the May 31 adjournment date. Among the other notable bills passing the Senate on Tuesday were:

State Fair horse racing: House Bill 3667 which authorizes the Illinois State Fair to hold fewer than five days of horse racing each year.

Current law requires the State Fair to provide five days of horse racing, but the fair has been out of compliance with that law due to a shortage of horses in the state. A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture said in a phone interview that thoroughbred horse breeding in Illinois has been in a steady decline for about the past 20 years and there are no longer enough Illinois-bred horses to sustain the traditional five-day schedule.

Criminal justice reform: Current Illinois law prohibits people who have been convicted of certain crimes from obtaining professional health care worker licenses, unless they can show certain mitigating factors to justify issuing a license, certificate or registration.

House Bill 2670 would expand the definition of mitigating factors to include, “any information, evidence, conduct, or circumstances before, during, or after the offense or offenses.” It also provides that the mitigating factors are intended to be used as guidance for the agency issuing the credentials.

As under current law, however, the mitigating factors could not be considered in cases of people convicted of certain sex crimes that require them to register as a sex offender.

The bill passed the House on April 11 by a vote of 69-to-42. It passed the Senate Tuesday, 36-to-18.

Motor fuel taxes: Federal law requires states to conduct vehicle emissions testing in large urban areas such as Chicago that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. In Illinois, the program is operated by the state Environmental Protection Agency.

House Bill 2943 would shift the cost of that program to the state’s Motor Fuel Tax Fund. That sparked debate on the floor of the Senate, where Republican Sen. Dale Righter, of Mattoon, said it was arguably unconstitutional under the state’s 2016 so-called “lockbox amendment.”

That amendment provides that transportation taxes and fees collected by the state can be used only for their stated purpose, which typically involves the construction and maintenance of road and bridge projects or other transportation infrastructure.

But Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and chief Senate sponsor of the bill, argued that vehicle emissions testing is an allowable use of motor fuel taxes.

The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 31-to-16, just one vote more than the constitutional majority needed for passage.

 

 

© Copyright 2019 Capitol News Illinois

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Peter Hancock

Peter HancockPeter Hancock

Peter was one of the founding reporters with Capitol News Illinois. A native of the Kansas City area, he has degrees in political science and education from the University of Kansas.

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