Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement today regarding his vote in support of House Bill 40, legislation that ensures women in Illinois continue to have access to important reproductive health care:

“Consider what we know about how President Trump sees America. We know he has objectionable views on women’s autonomy, and we know his administration has been surprisingly eager to scale back laws supporting groups of people who fought hard to earn basic civil rights in the first place.

“With Trump in the White House and a bull’s eye on Roe v. Wade, it is incumbent upon Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner to act today to protect women’s ability to access safe reproductive medical care, free of government intrusion or interference.

“We cannot allow Illinois to return to the days when women had so few options for reproductive care that they desperately resorted to back-alley quacks, poison, knitting needles, disappearing from public sight or suicide to deal with unwanted pregnancies. That’s not who we are as a state, and that’s not how women should be treated.

“I urge Gov. Rauner to keep his campaign promises to do the right thing where House Bill 40 is concerned and sign it into law immediately.”

House Bill 40 passed in the Illinois Senate 33 to 22 on Wednesday. It previously was approved in the House and will be sent to the governor for consideration.

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BissTrust665An effort to foster trust between Illinois police agencies and immigrants who live in the state passed out of the state Senate Thursday.

Local police should have to do the federal government’s job, and immigrants should not have to live in fear of local police, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said regarding Senate Bill 31, which would create the Illinois Trust Act. The measure passed in a vote of 31-21 and will move to the House for consideration.

“In these uncertain times, we should do everything we can to assure people that we want them to feel welcome and safe in their surroundings and secure in going to the police when they have information about criminal activity,” Biss said. “And we want our local police to do what they do best – to be our local police, not federal agents.”

The Illinois Trust Act is based on the premise that immigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws. The act would:

  • clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
  • prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
  • prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
  • establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.

The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.

The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor would it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid warrants.
Evanston has been a sanctuary city where all people are welcome since 2008.

“I am proud to live in a diverse community and a diverse state,” Biss said. “Voting for this measure was a no-brainer. We have to take a stand against hateful, divisive rhetoric and defend those who are too scared or weak to defend themselves.”

 

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Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding the passage of automatic voter registration legislation in the Illinois Senate today:

“Today I was pleased to vote again for automatic voter registration, a system that makes sense for generations of voters who are accustomed to certain aspects of life happening automatically and with ease – from cell phone updates to grocery stores knowing our buying habits. There’s simply no reason to require people to jump through hoops to register to vote every time they move, when it just as easily can be done automatically when they update their driver’s licenses. That’s good government.”

Senate Bill 1933, which passed in the Senate in a vote of 48-0, would establish an automatic voter registration system in Illinois by July 1, 2018. Biss is a chief co-sponsor of the measure.

Under the system, qualified voters would be automatically registered to vote when they visit the Illinois secretary of state and other state agencies for services. Voters would be able to opt out of the system if they wish. A series of checks would ensure no one is registered to vote that should not be.

Illinois currently has an opt-in voter registration system in which adults who are 18 or older must find, fill out and submit a voter registration form to an appropriate government agency. Voters frequently forget to update their voter registrations when they move, change marital status or go to college, causing confusion at the polls and inaccuracies on the state’s voter rolls.

Automatically registering voters when they do business with the state enables government to do away with redundant paperwork, streamline bureaucracy and be more cost effective for taxpayers.

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Biss 05042017Defendants would not be able to use a victim’s sexual orientation as an excuse for seeking a reduced murder charge under legislation that passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate Friday.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) sponsored Senate Bill 1761, which is commonly known as the “gay panic defense” bill. Under the legislation, panicking about the discovery, knowledge or disclosure of a victim’s sexual orientation cannot qualify as a mitigating factor for murder.

“Although these types of criminal defenses are rare, they still happen from time to time around the country,” Biss said. “As we continue to take steps to ensure equal rights for those in the gay, lesbian and transgender community, the government must send an unmistakable signal that sexual orientation should never be grounds for committing an act of violence.”

Under current state law, first-degree murder may be mitigated to second-degree murder if the defendant acted under sudden or intense passion resulting from serious provocation by a victim. “Serious provocation” is defined as conduct sufficient to excite an intense passion in a reasonable person.

The “gay panic” defense first was used in Illinois in 1972. More recently, the defense made headlines in August 2009 when a Cook County jury acquitted a man charged with first-degree murder after he argued “gay panic” in killing his neighbor. The defendant stabbed the victim 61 times for allegedly making an unwanted sexual advance toward the defendant, who said he felt he had to defend himself.

In 2013, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging governments to curtail the availability and effectiveness of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses. In 2014, California became the first state to legislatively ban the use of the “gay panic” defense.

Senate Bill 1761 passed 41-0 Friday. Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s civil rights organization for LGBTQ people, commended Biss and the Illinois Senate for its support of the legislation.

“At a time when one-fifth of hate crimes reported to the FBI are committed against LGBTQ people, Senator Biss and the Illinois Senate sent a powerful bipartisan message today that anti-LGBTQ stigma must not carry over to the court room. This bill ensures that LGBTQ people are not blamed for the violence perpetrated against them simply because of who they are,” Johnson said.

“After we first discussed this issue with Senator Biss, he immediately picked up the baton and ran with the bill, working with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build today's bipartisan majority. The lives of LGBTQ Illinoisans will be better because of this legislation."

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