An Update on Illinois SB 376, The Protecting Innocent Families Act
Just after the 103rd Illinois Legislative Assembly convened in January, the Family Justice Resource Center proposed the Protecting Innocent Families Act to Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford and she eagerly agreed to be the sponsor. We quickly assembled a dream team of proponents, including the Office of the Cook County Public Defender, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Legal Action Chicago, Ascend Justice, the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences, the Chicago Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and the Parental Rights Foundation. The bill was assigned to the Senate Executive Committee and was co-sponsored by two Assistant Senate Majority Leaders, Sen. Mattie Hunter and Sen. Laura Murphy, and Senate Majority Whip Napoleon Harris III.
The legislative process created unprecedented opportunities to bring important stakeholders to the table. In early May, Senator Lightford held a meeting involving the FJRC, the Office of the Cook County Public Defender, the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences, DCFS, the American Academy of Pediatrics, a number of child abuse pediatricians, and several parents who have been personally impacted by medically-based wrongful allegations. Later in May, the Senate Executive Committee held a subject matter hearing that included testimony from proponents and opponents of the bill. Based on these discussions, the bill was successfully amended in a way that neutralized DCFS opposition.
Despite strong indications this bill would be passed, it was not called for a vote before the body adjourned due to the overwhelming volume of legislation currently facing the Senate. The great news is that in Illinois, each General Assembly lasts two years, which means the bill is ready for passage in the Senate in the fall veto session or can move during the regularly scheduled session next year. We will take these next few months to increase support for the bill—both within the General Assembly and in the public—to ultimately pass the Protecting Innocent Families Act into law in Illinois.
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