Legislation requiring menstrual products in school bathrooms advances to governor’s desk

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Illinois State Capitol
Monday was the last day of the legislative session in Springfield. | State Journal-Register, distributed by the Associated Press

An ethics reform proposal approved by the Illinois House and sent to the state Senate would ban constitutional officeholders from lobbying the state until six months after leaving office or for the rest of their term, whichever is sooner.

SPRINGFIELD — State lawmakers on Monday advanced legislation requiring menstrual products in school bathrooms, enhancing the powers of the legislative inspector general and creating a new judicial circuit.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker now can sign the menstrual products bill into law; the other two measures need Illinois Senate approval.

The ethics proposal passed by legislators in the House Monday night — their last day in session — would allow the legislative inspector general to initiate investigations without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission, composed largely of lawmakers.

Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Highland Park, said the bill is “a real opportunity to make meaningful change” and takes the first steps in “addressing some of the most egregious scandals in our state’s history.”

The bill sets a revolving-door prohibition, barring constitutional officeholders from lobbying the state until six months after they leave office or for the remainder of their term, whichever is sooner.

It would also bar public officials in the state’s various units of government from lobbying their own unit of government. The city of Chicago, which has its own ethics rules, would not have to follow suit.

Asked why that “revolving door” ban isn’t longer than six months, Gillespie said the bill is a “first step” and the focus was on getting a bill legislators could agree on and pass.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted … but we got a good solid bill that addresses many of the issues that we’ve seen over the last couple of years,” Gillespie said.

A separate one-year ban for state employees who’ve worked with contracts or regulatory licensing, or hold managerial positions, such as chief of staff, including deputies, also was expanded.

“I’m really disappointed with this piece of legislation … we have seen time after time after time, members of this body — elected officials in Illinois — who have gone against the public’s trust and who, in some cases, have gone to trial for it,” said Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.

“If we are going to show the public that they can have a renewed sense of trust in state government, we’ve got to do something a whole heck of a lot better than this watered-down, diluted — and I think, in some instances, really deceptive — ethics reform.”

Despite the division, the bill advanced out of the House, 113-to-5.

The menstrual hygiene products measure passed despite GOP complaints about the products being made available in male bathrooms.

House Bill 156 makes tampons and sanitary napkins available during school hours in “bathrooms of every school building that are open for student use” from 4th through 12th grades, according to a description of the bill.

Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Moline, said requiring schools to provide these products in male bathrooms was “dumb,” and legislators should “be talking about things like the budget, not talking about putting female hygiene products in a boy’s bathroom.”

Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, declared “men and boys don’t menstruate and we sure as heck don’t need tampons in our bathrooms.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, said transgender students may use the male bathroom but also menstruate.

She added that “41% of folks who are transgender have thought of or attempted suicide. … I don’t want to keep speaking around the subjects that you all are wanting me to talk about because it wouldn’t be fair … to the kids that I’m standing here to help normalize life for. A student or child needs a product in the bathroom. They should be able to go in the bathroom and get the product. That’s it.”

The bill passed the Senate Friday in a partisan 39 to 17 vote.

The House also passed Senate Bill 2406 which, as amended, would make St. Clair County its own judicial circuit and create the state’s 24th judicial circuit, which would include Monroe, Randolph, Washington and Perry and expand the subcircuits in the 19th Circuit, in Lake County, from six to 10.

“A fact: St. Clair County has 262,000 people, 64% are white, 30% are African American, yet they only have one African American judge,” said sponsor Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea. “This is not acceptable. By changing the makeup of this circuit we will make sure that minorities have fair representation as circuit judges.”

Rep. Charles Meier, R-Highland, said there are larger counties that don’t have their own circuit and creating this would burden residents since the administrative costs of more workers likely would be passed to them.

The bill passed 71 to 45 and heads to the Senate.

House members also passed what’s been dubbed the Illinois Way Forward Act, or Senate Bill 667, sending it to the governor’s desk.

That bill prohibits law enforcement from participating in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and sharing information with ICE. It also bars them from inquiring about or investigating “the citizenship or immigration status or place of birth of any individual in the agency or official’s custody,” according to a description of the bill.

Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, shared the story of his cousin who was sexually abused by her stepfather, an Italian national and urged his colleagues to vote “no” so more work could be done on the bill with the hope of passing it during veto session later in the year.

“We should not rush in something so important, and I am empathetic and sympathetic with the issues that we have with ICE and our detention centers and the cooperation that’s occurred,” Keicher said. “But I implore you … to not open this gate, because we will not be able to close it and there is a better way to do it, and I offered to be a co-sponsor on a tightened up version of this. But please, think about our children.”

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May 31, 2021 at 10:01PM

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