Illinois improving its information technology systems
The nonpartisan Center for Digital Government recently surveyed all 50 states and rated their status on digital technology issues. In this year’s survey, Illinois improved from a C+ in 2014 to a B+ in 2016. The Center’s publication, Government Technology, gave the new Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (IDIT) credit for sparking much of the improvement.  In the past, each department of state government had its own information technology division, which sometimes used non-compatible or even unique software. In some cases, the software programs were decades old. The new IDIT, which was created this year, is working on changing all that.

Illinois expands employee leave for certain family situations
The Child Bereavement Leave Act was signed into law earlier this summer. Under the Act, Illinois employers who have at least 50 employees must grant up to ten days of unpaid leave to eligible full-time employees who have suffered the loss of a child. Except in emergency situations, there must be 48 hours of notice. The employee will have 60 days during which to take the leave time. Some Illinois employers already have bereavement policies under which they voluntarily pay workers who take this kind of leave.

The legislation was Senate Bill 2613. It passed the House 108-1.

New hunting laws take effect
Some pieces of legislation affecting Illinois hunting and fishing opportunities were signed over the summer. The new laws include legislation centered on youth trapping; bow hunting for catfish; and simplified landowner hunting permit procedures for deer and wild turkey.

The landowner bill, SB 3003, applies to owners and resident tenants who have at least 40 acres of Illinois land. Under the new law, which amends the Wildlife Code, these hunters will be able to apply for and receive a deer permit, a turkey permit, or a new combination deer/turkey permit that will cover both types of game. In the past, the separate landowner deer and landowner turkey permits were issued without fee, and this will still be the case. If a hunting club, hunting partnership or hunting cooperative owns its land they can be eligible for the permits under the new law as well.  The bill passed the Illinois House unanimously.

New concussion guidelines are in effect for contact sports
As awareness of the dangers of concussions in youth sports have grown, so too has the need to take action to better protect student-athletes from these injuries. New guidelines, adopted this season by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), are intended to reduce the number of concussions in contact sports. Student-athletes will be required to be tested and monitored during contact-sports activities.  The goal is to diagnose concussions as quickly as possible.

Legislation, executive order, aims to help kids in DCFS system
There are approximately 16,000 children in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Ideally, when a child needs a guardian, an adult relative or friend from the child’s background is selected, but this is not always possible. In some cases, the guardianship over a young person is assigned to the state. These young people were traditionally called “wards of the state,” but a new executive order will request that people in this standing now be called “youth in care.”