CHICAGO — Less than a month before cannabis cultivation and sale become legal in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation finalizing certain parts of the new statute alongside the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Heather A. Steans, at a ceremony in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

“When we embarked on the long road to legalization of adult-use cannabis, we set out not just to end bad drug policy and lay the groundwork for opportunity in a new industry,” Steans said, “we also sought ways to make amends for how drug enforcement has ravaged communities. As we stand poised for legalization on Jan. 1, I want to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to make this legislation a reality, and I want to remind all of us that to ensure we see justice, we must listen to the community and respond to their concerns swiftly.”

Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1557, sponsored by Steans, which makes adjustments to her earlier legislation legalizing cannabis use by those 21 or older in Illinois. Among clarifications in the bill were provisions explicitly stating it is illegal to operate a snowmobile while under the influence of cannabis and that it no longer is illegal to possess “drug paraphernalia” associated with cannabis use.

“Legalization has become possible because members of the public are more informed and more willing to demand justice in drug policy,” Steans said. “I want to thank them for showing that Illinois is ready to leave behind punishment and embrace healing.”

Other provisions in the new legislation clarify:

  • that background search results exclude expunged cannabis convictions.
  • that outstanding fines cannot be a barrier to expunging past cannabis convictions.
  • that dispensaries or retail tobacco stores can have areas to use cannabis on-site, with restrictions similar to tobacco use.

The consumption and sale of cannabis by those over the age of 21 becomes legal in Illinois Jan. 1.

“Transparency is the first step we take to restoring the public’s trust.”

11142019HAO 0016SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans is pushing for new ethics reforms in the wake of scandals surrounding numerous Springfield lawmakers in recent months, passing legislation out of the Senate today.

“Today we took the first steps to reform the disturbing, unacceptable behavior that has rocked state government in recent months,” said Steans, (D-Chicago). “Raids, arrests and indictments are not what people expect of their elected officials. While they mean that the ethics laws we already passed are working and law enforcement is doing its job, it also means we need to change the culture in Springfield, close loopholes, and eliminate grey areas. We need to earn back your trust.”

Steans’ legislation takes aim at the practice of state lawmakers lobbying local units of government. The measure would require:

  • state lobbyists to disclose any units of local government they also lobby,
  • state lobbyists to disclose any elected or appointed offices they hold,
  • lobbying firms that contract out other lobbyists to disclose who is lobbying for each business or other client,
  • the Secretary of State’s Office to improve the lobbyist database, integrating these new provisions and making the entire system easier to search and navigate.

“Transparency is the first step we take to restoring the public’s trust,” Steans said. “That means we’ve still got much, much more to do. I urge the governor to sign this into law and I urge my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to continue working to make the state of Illinois a government worthy of its citizens’ trust.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 1639. Having passed the Senate without opposition, it awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

Rainbow flag and blue skies rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) is continuing her effort to introduce an inclusive curriculum to Illinois schools that celebrates the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Steans’ law requiring public schools to include the contributions of LGBTQ individuals in their history curricula became law today.

“One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints,” Steans said. “An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community.”

Currently, Illinois schools are required to teach students about the role and contributions of African-Americans and other ethnic groups, as well as about women’s history, the history of the labor movement and disability history. Steans also thanked the efforts of advocates like Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, the Legacy Project and Equality Illinois for helping to raise awareness of the need for LGBTQ historical figures to be recognized similarly.

“Thank you, Gov. Pritzker, for signing the Inclusive Curriculum Bill and ensuring that LGBTQ youth in Illinois will now see themselves in the history they are taught. We are excited this bill is now law in 2019 - the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of the modern LGBTQ equality movement,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. “Also, thank you to Rep. Moeller and Sen. Steans, our fierce champions in the General Assembly. Your bold and unrelenting leadership and advocacy will benefit our youth for decades to come. As a former first grade teacher, I know how an inclusive education system can create change within a community. With this law, we will get closer as a state to telling the whole story of our shared history.”

According to a 2015 survey conducted by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ students in Illinois have been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation.

“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to look to new role models who share life experiences with them.”

House Bill 246 takes effect July 1, 2020.

05242018CM0069 rSPRINGFIELD – A new law sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) that updates Illinois’ suicide prevention strategy was signed by the governor.

Steans’ measure requires the Department of Public Health to strengthen efforts to prevent suicide in Illinois. In 2016, suicide caused more deaths than homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and prevalent diseases like liver disease, hypertension, and HIV.

“When suicide takes a loved one from us, we’re left wondering ‘What could I have done?’” Steans said. “By partnering with advocates and devoting state resources in support of all our knowledge about how to prevent suicide, we’re doing what we can do right now.”

Steans’ law requires the department, working with the Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance, to develop recommendations to prevent suicide using evidence based practices and promote any coordinating activity needed to implement them.

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention thanks Senator Steans for guiding this bill through the General Assembly and Governor Pritzker for signing it into law,” said Steve Moore, the Co-Chair of the Illinois Chapter of the AFSP. “As the 11th leading cause of death in Illinois, suicide is a serious but preventable public health issue. By creating an effective state government structure for addressing suicide, the enactment of this law will save lives.”
Suicide caused nearly 1,500 deaths in Illinois in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.

In addition to lives lost, suicide has a significant economic impact on Illinois, with each suicide death resulting in more than $1 million in medical costs and work loss costs, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Senate Bill 1425 is effective immediately.

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