Illinois lawmakers passed bills on book bans, abortion rights and other issues

The Democratic-controlled legislature sent a slew of bills to the governor showing their priorities for the state, in addition to the $50.4 billion spending plan. Here are some highlights.

Illinois legislature floor
The Illinois House prepares to debate the state budget on Friday evening, May 26, 2023. Alex Degman / WBEZ
Illinois legislature floor
The Illinois House prepares to debate the state budget on Friday evening, May 26, 2023. Alex Degman / WBEZ

Illinois lawmakers passed bills on book bans, abortion rights and other issues

The Democratic-controlled legislature sent a slew of bills to the governor showing their priorities for the state, in addition to the $50.4 billion spending plan. Here are some highlights.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

It took more than a week longer than expected, but Illinois lawmakers wrapped up their spring legislative session early Saturday with a budget and hundreds of measures that passed. The spending plan and bills now go to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Other important measures need more work over the summer in preparation for the fall veto session, when lawmakers return to address bills the governor vetoed, or to resume work on legislation from the spring.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the session that will affect Illinois residents if they’re signed into law by Pritzker.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria)
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), the House Democrats’ lead budget negotiator, presents her closing argument during the budget debate Saturday May 27, 2023 Alex Degman / WBEZ

The Budget: Lawmakers approved a $50.4 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It took some time to craft because revenue estimates started trending down soon after the governor gave his budget address, and a program offering Medicaid-style healthcare to undocumented immigrants 42 and older blew past cost expectations. Here are more details on the final budget. 

All-gender bathrooms: Sets standards for all-gender, multi-occupancy restrooms should a business choose to build them. Right now, state law requires single-use restrooms to be all-gender, but parameters don’t exist for multi-occupancy. The bill does not require a business to create all-gender restrooms, nor does it require them to alter existing bathrooms. HB1286

Full-day kindergarten: School districts in Illinois would have to establish a full-day kindergarten program by the 2027-2028 school year, but they’re eligible for an extension if they fall within certain evidence-based funding parameters. Districts could also offer half-day programs as long as they offer a full-day option. HB2396

Ban on book bans: A measure spearheaded by Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias withholds state grants from school or public libraries that run afoul of the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, which says “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” HB2789

Elected Chicago school board map: Lawmakers gave themselves more time to draw the new 20-district Chicago Board of Education map, extending the deadline from July 1, 2023 to April 1, 2024. Opponents of the first proposals want the board maps to reflect CPS student demographics, which is 11 percent white, instead of overall city of Chicago demographics. This was included in a wide ranging “election omnibus” bill, which will also allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote and makes Election Day 2024 a state holiday for public schools. SB2123

Cracking down on “crisis pregnancy centers”: People could sue these facilities run by anti-abortion rights nonprofits if they feel they were given deceptive information about abortion care. The bill would also allow the Illinois attorney general’s office to investigate. SB1909

Punitive damages in wrongful death cases: Illinois would join 34 other states that allow victims’ families or descendants to recover punitive damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Punitive damages are typically added to actual damages and are awarded when a defendant’s crime was especially harmful to the victim. HB0219

Treating Uber and Lyft as “common carriers”: Rideshare companies, not just drivers, could be held liable for assaults and accidents. The bill aims to treat Uber and Lyft like buses, taxis and other forms of public transportation. HB2231

Anti-bullying in schools: Districts would be required to notify parents within 24 hours if their child was a target of bullying or if their child shows signs of harming themselves due to bullying. It also expands the definition of bullying to include attacks on physical appearance, socioeconomic status, academic status, pregnancy, parenting status and homelessness. The Illinois State Board of Education would create an anti-bullying policy model for districts to use in creating their own programs. HB3425

Red-light cameras: Bars contractors who provide equipment and services for red-light camera companies from making campaign contributions. Also allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to remove red-light cameras that have been linked to a bribery or corruption scandal. HB3903

Job openings and pay: Requires businesses with 15 or more workers to show salary information with job postings. If the business uses a third-party recruiter to fill vacancies, then they must post salary information. HB3129

Tracking stolen SNAP benefits: The Illinois Department of Human Services would develop a system to track stolen Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits and report to lawmakers once a quarter. Supporters say thieves have been targeting the debit cards issued to SNAP recipients by using cloning methods like card skimmers, and victims lose their benefits. HB2214

Help for the CTA: Allows the Chicago Transit Authority to suspend riding privileges for “problematic” passengers and outlines how the CTA board can make that determination. The bill also includes an expansion of free or reduced fares to people 14 to 24 enrolled in career-oriented programs, and gives tens of thousands of $20 transit cards to domestic and sexual-assault support organizations. The legislation also suggests that CTA, Pace and Metra should only purchase electric vehicles starting in July 2026. HB1342

Third airport in Peotone: Revives the long-dormant idea of building a third Chicago-area airport in the south suburb. It would allow the state to start planning the airport with a report due in six months. The airport would handle commercial and cargo aircraft — an idea that has been around for decades. HB2531

“Venue shopping” for constitutional challenges: If someone wants to challenge the constitutionality of a state law, they would have to do it in Cook or Sangamon county courts. The measure surfaced after challenges to the state’s assault-style weapons bans were filed in courts in Kankakee, Macon and Effingham counties. Proponents of the bill say it would streamline things because there are appellate and Illinois Supreme Court offices in both Cook and Sangamon counties. Opponents say this would place an undue burden on people who may have to travel hundreds of miles to bring court action. HB3062

Healthcare for undocumented immigrants: The budget allocates $550 million dollars for the Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults (HBIA) program, which offers Medicaid-style healthcare coverage to undocumented residents 42 and older. Some estimates peg this program cost to be around $1.1 billion, but lawmakers also gave the governor wide latitude through rule-making powers to try bringing costs and enrollment under control. SB1298

Stevenson Expressway expansion: The Illinois Department of Transportation will be allowed to seek public private partnerships to add managed toll lanes to I-55 from the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) through the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355). The idea now calls for two managed lanes in each direction between 90/94 and the Tri State Tollway (I-294), then one lane each between 294 and 355. Lawmakers needed to declare their support before IDOT was allowed to move forward. HJR23

Lifting nuclear moratorium: Ends a ban on new nuclear power plant construction, which has been in place since 1987. The proposal received bipartisan support, with some saying nuclear energy is essential for Illinois to become a carbon free state. SB0076

State Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park)
State Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) debates the Illinois state budget Saturday May 27, 2023 Alex Degman / WBEZ

Bills punted to the fall veto session

Help for the Bears: The Bears are looking for some tax breaks as they consider a move from Soldier Field to a new stadium and entertainment complex they’d build in Arlington Heights. One proposal would freeze Arlington International Racecourse’s property assessment to give the Bears a consistent tax bill, but they’d need to appear before a board annually to determine how much to pay surrounding communities to offset property tax losses. It also includes various fees and taxes to pay for infrastructure surrounding the complex and debt related to Soldier Field renovations from 20 years ago. HB0610

Gun control: Under a bill passed by the House, judges could order people who are the subjects of orders of protection to immediately surrender their weapons to law enforcement. The Senate did not take up the measure. HB0676

Legal cannabis updates: More than a dozen proposed changes to the state’s recreational cannabis industry were proposed, but the measure encompassing them will likely need more work. One proposal would allow dispensaries to do drive-through and curbside sales, and allow state tax write offs for cannabis-related business expenses. It was presented in committee but didn’t advance due in part to concerns over Delta 8, a THC derivative sold at convenience stores and smoke shops that some wanted to ban outright. SB1559

Biometric privacy update: Currently, a business or other entity must get consent from someone before collecting or transmitting their biometric data, such as a fingerprint scan. If they don’t, the business could be liable for damages in each instance they broke the law. There was a movement in Springfield to change that liability after the Illinois Supreme Court issued a $17 billion judgment against White Castle earlier this year. A manager sued the fast food company for not gaining her consent before requiring her to use her fingerprint scan to access her paystubs. HB3199

Alex Degman covers the state legislature for WBEZ.