030514 js 0078SPRINGFIELD — Legislation proposed by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) to put additional limits on the use of drones by law enforcement became law today. The measure expands on the privacy protections of the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, which Biss sponsored last year.

"It's important we continue to develop and refine our regulations on these types of technologies as they advance," Biss said. "This new law expands on our approach of balancing the basic right to privacy with the potential to use technological advances to improve public safety."

Last year's drone law, which was one of the first of its kind, prohibits police from using an unmanned aerial vehicle without a search warrant except in certain clearly defined emergency situations. The new law, which was introduced as Senate Bill 2937, clarifies that in the absence of a warrant, individuals and businesses cannot be obligated to give information collected by privately owned drones over to the authorities. Drones are best known for their military capabilities, but law enforcement agencies, corporations and private individuals have begun purchasing smaller, unarmed versions for a variety of purposes.

The law signed today allows law enforcement to acquire information from a privately owned drone without a warrant if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack, imminent harm to a person or the escape of a suspect; to collect images of a crime scene or traffic accident scene or to locate a missing person. It also states that law enforcement agencies may use their own drones to survey damage and help coordinate relief efforts in a natural disaster or public health emergency.

Category: Press Releases

Gives Metropolitan Water Reclamation District additional options on local projects

mwrd-150x150SPRINGFIELD — Cook County flooding legislation sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) became law today, giving the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District greater flexibility to address local problems. The MWRD, which operates in suburban Cook County, administers regional stormwater projects along major waterways; the district is now authorized to work on localized flooding problems and even purchase and remediate flood-prone properties in cooperation with their current owners.

"Flooding and related damage are on the rise in Cook County, and the MWRD's capabilities must keep pace with the problem," Biss said. "This law is now on the books because of the perseverance of some of my constituents who came to me seeking a better way for government to intervene on behalf of property owners when floodwaters threaten."

Current law allows the MWRD to use suburban Cook County's stormwater management levy for regional stormwater facilities. The new law, which was introduced as House Bill 3912, allows this revenue to be utilized for local stormwater projects, including voluntary buy-outs of properties whose flooding issues cannot be resolved except through returning the land to an open, permeable state.

The measure takes effect immediately.

Category: Press Releases


052714CM0293SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) was pleased today with the Senate's passage of his legislation removing unnecessary barriers to working as an engineer or architect in Illinois.

"These professionals help build safe, high-quality infrastructure and are a key part of the highly-educated workforce that consistently attracts businesses to the state," Biss said. "Doing away with redundant requirements and unnecessary delays in the licensure process will improve our business climate and show we are a state that welcomes global talent."

Current Illinois law requires applicants for architecture, engineering and structural engineering licenses who are native speakers of languages other than English and obtained their degrees outside the United States to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Biss' legislation allows this requirement to be waived when the applicant has earned a subsequent advanced degree in the United States. Such students must pass the TOEFL in order to be admitted to U.S. graduate programs in the first place and, by successfully completing advanced courses taught in English, have already proven their English language competence. Requiring these architects and engineers to pay to retake the TOEFL or order and wait for proof of their scores presents a hardship that serves no public purpose and may cause some to accept employment elsewhere.

Biss is grateful for the support of numerous architects and engineers who currently live and work in Illinois, as well as the South Asian Research and Policy Institute, the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, the Asian American Coalition of Chicago, the Association of Chinese American Scientists and Engineers, the Philippine Engineers and Scientists Organization and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

The legislation, House Bill 4535, will now go to the governor, whose office is also supportive of the measure.

Category: Press Releases

Legislation would give 2.5 million workers new retirement savings option

052114 js 0440 350SPRINGFIELD — The Secure Choice Savings Program Act, an innovative private sector retirement savings initiative sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), met with the approval of a House committee this morning.

"The need to address our looming retirement crisis is urgent; there are 2.5 million Illinois workers likely to retire into poverty because they lack access to retirement accounts through their employers," Biss said. "The good news is that this solution costs government and employers nothing and actually gives small businesses a boost by letting them compete for the best hires with larger companies that can afford retirement benefits. I'm grateful to Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie for her leadership in the House on this critical issue."

The Secure Choice Savings Program would give employees access to portable savings accounts if their employer is a business with 25 or more workers that has been in existence for at least two years and doesn't already offer retirement plans to their workers. Other businesses could participate voluntarily. Automatic withdrawals would invest three percent of workers' paychecks in their accounts each pay period, but an employee could change their contribution rate or opt out at any time. Participants would also be able to select from higher-risk and lower-risk investment options.

Neither the state nor employers would contribute to Secure Choice retirement accounts; pooling the individual accounts would simply allow for lower fees and diversified, professionally managed investments. All administrative costs would be covered by participant contributions. Businesses would not be responsible for running or funding the program, nor would they be liable for the performance of their employees' investments.

"In the 21st century economy, people increasingly change jobs and careers many times during their working lives," Biss said. "Illinois workers need a 21st century option for their retirement plans that's portable and follows them as they change jobs. Most importantly, we have a responsibility to provide this option to Illinoisans so they can save their own money and retire in dignity."

The Secure Choice Act, Senate Bill 2758, can now be considered by the full House.

Category: Press Releases

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