Cunningham-cmteSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to promote school safety, State Senator Bill Cunningham is sponsoring legislation to require all non-public schools to annually meet with local police and fire departments to update their safety plans.

“Children in private schools need to be just as safe as those in public schools. Even in the safest neighborhoods, crisis scenarios can happen. This is not just about planning for a school shooter, but also for fires, tornados and other natural disasters,” Cunningham said.

In 2005, the School Safety Drill Act established minimum safety plan requirements for all public schools in Illinois. This legislation would extend the same requirements to all non-public schools.

Senate Bill 2710, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee February 18 with a 14-0 vote, will now be heard by the full Senate.

Category: Press Releases

cunningham-911State Senator Bill Cunningham is proposing legislation aimed at protecting the privacy of ordinary citizens who call 911 in emergency situations. Under current state law emergency phone calls are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, which can results in audio recordings of the calls being broadcast on television, radio and the Internet without the consent of the caller. Cunningham wants to change that. 

 Freedom of Information laws are primarily intended to prevent government secrecy, not violate personal privacy. Unfortunately, we've seen that sense of privacy violated repeatedly over the years, often during tragic episodes in the 911 caller's life," Cunningham said.

Cunningham pointed to the recent airing of the 911 phone calls made during the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Conn. Local officials initially refused media requests to release the recordings, citing the privacy rights of the victims and callers.  But a judge ruled the recordings were considered public records under the state's Freedom of Information Act and ordered the tapes released. 

 “The thousands of media outlets that aired those recordings weren't acting as government watchdogs trying to shed light on the conduct of law enforcement," Cunningham said. "They were simply looking to create shocking program content in order to boost ratings and drive visits to their websites."

 Before being elected to the General Assembly, Cunningham spent 16 years as the press secretary for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. In that capacity, he was forced to balance the public's right to access information with the privacy rights of average citizens who performed their civic duty and called the authorities for help in emergency situations.  

"Freedom of Information laws need to strike a balance. Consideration of the victim's rights and the privacy of the individuals making the 911 calls have to be part of the equation," Cunningham said. "Right now, they are not.”

 Senate Bill 3072 is currently in the Senate Assignments Committee. If passed, Illinois will join more than a dozen other states in restricting some level of access to 911 calls.

Category: Press Releases

In his first year as a state senator, Bill Cunningham made cracking down on crime in Cook County one of his top priorities.

“Thanks to the nearly 20 years I spent in the Cook County Sheriff’s office, I have seen first-hand the lingering effects of crime in our communities,” Cunningham said. “While in Springfield, I will continue to push policies that keep criminals off the streets and away from our families.”

After speaking with constituents from local communities, Cunningham worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s office to create and sponsor three bills to combat local crime:

  • Senate Bill 2154 cuts down on dangerous “gang funerals” by making it easier for police to impound vehicles driving recklessly in funeral processions of noted gang members.
  • House Bill 3023 bans registered sex offenders from publicly accessible play areas in privately owned buildings, such as a McDonald’s PlayPlace. 
  • House Bill 3388 creates a training program for law enforcement officials to better recognize and respond to dangerous dog fighting.

All three bills were signed into law last summer and have taken effect as of January 1.

Category: Press Releases

SPRINGFIELD Illinois State Senator Bill Cunningham is reminding his constituents that with the New Year holiday comes a host of new laws for Illinois residents. Laws affecting everything from social media privacy, to tanning bed regulation, to cell phone usage while driving will take effect on January 1st.  A few of the most notable changes are listed below.

  1. Talking on a cell phone while driving is now banned, unless it is completely hands free. Blue Tooth headsets and speakerphone are still allowed as long as they can be activated by a voice-command or single-button touch.
  2. Use of commercial tanning beds is banned for children under the age of 18. Countless studies link tanning to an increased risk of skin cancer, especially at a younger age.
  3. 17 year olds that will turn 18 before the day of the general election can now vote in primary elections.
  4. New pet owners that purchase sick cats and dogs can be reimbursed for the cost of veterinary visits for up to 21 days after the purchase. They also have the option to exchange the pet for a refund.
  5. Those caught littering in Illinois will now face a $50 fine. Cigarette butts are included as litter.
  6. Schools are banned from checking students’ Facebook pages without permission.
  7. The state speed limit increases from 65 mph to 70 mph. Counties near Chicago and St. Louis have the ability to opt out.
  8. Fines for speeding in construction zones while workers are not present were lowered. Additionally, fines were increased for speeding in construction zones if workers are present.
  9. To help protect schoolchildren, cameras will be placed on school buses to watch for drivers that pass stopped buses.
  10. If a divorced couple has joint custody of children, one parent must ask the other if he or she would like to take care of the children before hiring someone else.
  11. Instead of being forced to throw extra wine away at a restaurant or winery, they can now cork an unfinished bottle to send home with you. The wine must be re-corked and placed in a tamper-evident bag.
  12. The Illinois Tollway will begin posting names of people with the highest outstanding tolls on its website to help crack down on people skipping tolls.

Learn about these and other new laws

Category: Press Releases

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