Cat declawing, indoor vaping could be banned

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate passed 68 bills this week while the House had advanced 284 as of Friday morning with hundreds more to go before their adjournment for the week.

It was the first in a two-week stretch of legislative deadlines for bills to move from one chamber to the other. While there are many procedural ways to revive a bill's language after the deadlines' passage, the deadlines mark an annual milestone in the session's final stretch.

Among the hundreds of bills that passed this week:

Cat declawing ban

House Bill 1533 would make it illegal to declaw a cat if the procedure is not medically necessary.

The measure would also ban any other surgical process that would "alter a cat's toes, claws, or paws to prevent or impair the normal function of the cat's toes, claws, or paws."

Rep. Barbara Hernandez, an Aurora Democrat, said that as a cat owner, she knows the sting of its claws. But she backed the measure along with the Illinois Humane Society.

"The science is clear: Cat declawing can cause serious enduring discomfort and loss of quality of life for cats," Hernandez said in a statement. "While this used to be common practice, science has shown us that this is a procedure that should only be done if medically vital, and it's time our laws reflect reality."

A person performing such a procedure would be subject to a $500 fine from the Department of Agriculture for a first violation, $1,000 for a second and $2,500 subsequent violations.

Vaping ban

A measure banning e-cigarette use in public places passed the Senate on a 48-5 vote.

It would add e-cigarettes and vapes to the Smoke Free Illinois Act of 2007, which prohibited smoking in public and within 15 feet of entrances.

Senate Bill 1561 was sponsored by Rep. Julie Morrison, a Lake Forest Democrat who in 2019 was the lead sponsor on a law that increased the age to legally purchase tobacco to 21.

Morrison said while the state has made progress against what she called a "tobacco epidemic," but a recent "surge" in vaping "has threatened that progress and lured more people toward a deadly addiction."

Sen. Steve McClure, a Springfield Republican, supported the bill and called it a "bipartisan health issue."

"I'm sick of walking around in bars and having somebody blow something right in my face," McClure said. "You don't even know what's in the vaping device."

New state flag?

The Senate on Thursday also advanced a bill to create a commission that would consider designs for a new state flag. The measure sponsored by Sen. Doris Turner, a Springfield Democrat, passed on a 39-16 vote with Republicans' main concern being that lawmakers could be using their time on more important issues.

"History is living, breathing and ever evolving," Turner said. "We need to ensure government is evolving with the times so that people are engaged and a part of what is going on across the state."

She said the measure spurred many calls from constituents that were excited about the prospect of a redesign.

Senate Bill 1818 - a number that coincides with the year in which Illinois became a state - would create the Illinois Flag Commission to develop flag designs and make recommendations to the General Assembly for alternate designs and whether the state should keep its current flag.

The commission would be required report its findings to the General Assembly by Dec. 3, 2024.

The current flag design depicts an eagle perched on a rock and holding a banner with the words of the state motto: "State Sovereignty, National Union." In 1969, the word Illinois was added to the bottom of it.

The measure heads to the House for consideration.

Felons as executors

People with previous felony convictions would still be allowed to act as executor of someone else's estate under a bill that passed through the Illinois House on Thursday.

Rep. Lakesia Collins, a Chicago Democrat, said she sponsored House Bill 1268 in part because when her sister died, her father, who had a felony record, was not allowed to serve as her executor despite her sister's wishes.

"It restores the dignity and honor to families throughout Illinois to carry out the last wishes and affairs of loved ones," she said. "Family should be free to choose who takes on this sacred duty."

The bill would allow felons to serve as executors if the deceased person expressly names that person in a will and acknowledges the person is a felon. The executor could still be disqualified if he or she has been convicted of financial crimes or has been held civilly liable for offenses against elderly or disabled individuals, or if he or she is not legally qualified to act as an executor.

Several Republicans, however, argued that those protections were not sufficient. Rep. Jeff Keicher, a Sycamore Republican said elderly people are frequent targets for manipulation and financial abuse, often at the hands of their own children.

"My fear is that those unscrupulous children who are potentially convicted of financial crimes are now able to give their mother a guilt trip and be allowed to be an executor at the unfortunate result of leaving other siblings out," he said.

Collins, however, said the bill would protect against that kind of abuse. The bill passed 81-26 and now moves to the Senate.

Rent control

One bill that did not pass Thursday would have allowed municipalities to impose rent control on mobile home lots.

Freshman Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, a Justice Democrat, sponsored House Bill 3104 which would have carved out manufactured homes and manufactured home communities from the state's general ban on local rent control measures.

He said many people who live in manufactured homes own the structure but rent the lot on which it sits.

"News stories left and right (are) showing that many of these homeowners are now paying $800, $900, $1,000 a month," he said. "In my own district, homeowners who were paying $300 to $400 a month just a few a few years ago are now paying $879. Many of these are seniors on fixed incomes, and this is driving them out of their homes and they're losing their homes as a result."

More general rent control measures have been proposed in recent years, mainly by Chicago-area lawmakers concerned about the skyrocketing cost of housing there. But they have all met fierce opposition from groups representing property owners and real estate developers.

Rep. Ryan Spain, a Peoria Republican, said he feared that carving out an exemption for the mobile home industry would become a "slippery slope" to broader rent control statewide.

"And if it starts now in this limited area of isolation, it will continue to build and grow in the state of Illinois," he said. "And we have seen and learned from other states and we've debated again and again in this chamber about how rent control is an ineffective public policy."

The bill received only 53 "yes" votes, seven fewer than the minimum number needed for passage. But before that vote was officially recorded, Rashid asked that consideration of the bill be postponed. That way it can remain on the calendar and Rashid can continue trying to gather more support.

Barbara Hernandez
State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Lake Forest, has sponsored a measure to ban vaping in public places. Capitol News Illinois file photo
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