Capitol Briefs: Bill creating new early childhood agency among 244 to advance

Capitol Briefs: Bill creating new early childhood agency among 244 to advance

By ALEX ABBEDUTO
HANNAH MEISEL
& COLE LONGCOR
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to create a new state agency to oversee Illinois’ various early childhood programs moved forward on Friday after the state Senate’s unanimous approval.

It was one of 244 bills that cleared the Senate this week.

Early childhood services – including preschool funding, early intervention and day care licensing – are currently overseen by three different state agencies: the State Board of Education, Department of Human Services and Department of Children and Family Services. If also passed in the Illinois House and sent to the governor for his signature, Senate Bill 1 would consolidate programs into a new Early Childhood department over the course of two years.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the goal of the merger is to improve access to early childhood services.

She described it as “a big puzzle that has to come together” and said the process is intentionally slow to “make sure the transfer works well.”

Lightford also said that while details like job titles and collective bargaining rights still need to be worked out, “no employees will lose their job.”

Social workers carry naloxone

A bill that would give social workers and their employers the legal scope to carry and administer medications like Narcan to clients in crisis moved from the Senate to the House on Friday.

More than 3,000 Illinoisans died from opioid overdoses in 2022, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But naloxone, the generic form of Narcan, can quickly reverse an overdose and allow a patient time to seek further care.

Kyle Hillman, director of legislative affairs for the National Association of Social Workers said social workers are sometimes part of crisis response teams and “are frequently the first point of contact for individuals experiencing an overdose.”

Because of this, proponents of Senate Bill 3779 said allowing social workers to carry and administer naloxone could save lives.

The measure would expand legal protections already in place for civilians and other first responders to social workers and their employers so they can administer naloxone without fear of legal retribution.

Institutions, such as schools and hospitals, can choose to equip their social workers with naloxone. They would need to train eligible employees on how to properly use the medication and develop procurement and storage policies to do so.

Insurance coverage for infertility, wigs

The Senate also unanimously approved a pair of bills requiring health insurance plans in Illinois to cover infertility treatments and wigs for those with hair loss caused by a medical condition.

Under Senate Bill 2639, insurance plans sponsored by companies with 25 or more employees that already provide pregnancy-related benefits must cover the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. That treatment can include in vitro fertilization, or IVF, embryo transfer and artificial insemination, among other methods for impregnation.

Before Friday’s vote, State Sen. Mike Hastings, D-Frankfort, cited his daughter, who was conceived after fertility intervention, as “living proof of the transformative power of IVF and the profound impact that it can have on the lives of families.”

In a statement after the vote, Hastings pointed to a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation study that found an estimated 10 percent of American women surveyed reported that they or their partners have received medical help to become pregnant. That study also found that most patients pay out of pocket for fertility treatment.

“All too often, insurance companies will wield their disproportionate power over the reproductive choices of individuals and families dictating what treatments are deemed medically necessary and which are deemed optional luxuries,” he said.

Senators also OK’d legislation to require insurance plans regardless of size to cover an annual cranial prosthesis – generally referred to as a wig – to those with alopecia or who are otherwise losing their hair for medical reasons, like undergoing chemotherapy.

In a statement after the passage of Senate Bill 2573, state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, said his legislation would “provide hope” for those going through hair loss and “help them feel more like themselves.”

Warning signs for alcoholic products

Two bills that would regulate signage and display of alcoholic products passed the Senate unanimously Friday.

The bills, also sponsored Lightford, will head to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 2625 would regulate the display of alcohol-infused products or co-branded alcoholic beverages. An alcohol-infused product is any solid product that contains more than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, such as ice creams and whipped creams. A co-branded alcoholic beverage is a beverage that has the same or similar brand name or packaging as a nonalcoholic version, such as hard SunnyD or AriZona teas.

Under the bill, stores larger than 2,500 square feet would not be allowed to display the alcoholic products next to their nonalcoholic counterparts. If the store is 2,500 square feet or less and the products are adjacent to each other, then a state-provided sign must be displayed to notify the customer of the alcohol content.

Lightford said the goal of the bill is to have alcoholic products “not get confused” for nonalcoholic products by children.

The second bill, Senate Bill 2745, would update birth defect warning signs that bars and liquor stores are mandated to display. The bill updates the phone number listed for the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and adds a 24-hour helpline phone number to the signage.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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