Even though it became clear this week that the General Assembly’s spring legislative session would go longer than scheduled as lawmakers finalize a budget, several measures cleared the legislature by its original Friday adjournment date.
Those include a requirement that schools teach a unit of Native American history and a bill allowing individuals convicted of a felony to serve as estate executors. Another measure would classify ride-share companies as “common carriers,” which would subject them to liability in cases of accident or injury, like other forms of public transportation.
All three of those measures will now head to the governor for consideration, the final step before they can become law.
Native American history
House Bill 1633 would require public elementary and high schools to include a unit of Native American history in their social studies curriculum beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.
It passed the House 81-31 on Thursday after clearing the Senate on a 44-8 vote earlier this month.
The bill says the existing State Education Equity Committee, which provides recommendations for advancing equity in education, must include a representative from an organization that works for “economic, educational, and social progress for Native Americans.”
It was most recently amended to also require the committee to include an individual with a disability or representative of a statewide organization representing individuals with disabilities.
“Teaching our children true Native American history would not only teach them of the things we are ashamed of but also the contributions of Native Americans that have benefited from our state,” bill sponsor Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said. “This bill is giving a voice to the very first of us.”
While the bill does not actually create a curriculum for the course, the Illinois State Board of Education would provide instructional materials and guidelines for the development of the curriculum and each school district would have to create their own.
Additionally, the bill specifies the unit should include instruction on Native American events and history within the Midwest. This would cover their contributions to the U.S. and their own nations in a variety of subjects, including government, arts and sciences.
It also says the unit should include descriptions of large urban Native American populations in Illinois and, for grades 6 through 12, a section on the genocide of and discrimination against Native Americans.
House Bill 2231 would classify ride-share companies as “common carriers,” removing an exemption from 2014 that allowed them to avoid liability in cases of accident or injury. Currently in Illinois, “common carriers” include taxicabs, railways and elevators, among others.
The 2014 Transportation Network Providers Act created the exemption, stating ride-shares and their drivers “are not common carriers, contract carriers or motor carriers, as defined by applicable State law, nor do they provide taxicab or for-hire vehicle service.”
The amended measure would deem that common carrier exemption “inoperative” as of Jan. 1, 2024. The amended version cleared the House 74-38 on partisan lines Wednesday after passing the Senate, also on partisan lines, earlier this month.
Permitting convicted felons to be executors
Another measure would allow individuals convicted of a felony to serve as an estate executor, allowing those not currently incarcerated to carry out the terms of a family member’s will.
House Bill 1268 passed the House 80-34 Thursday after clearing the Senate on a 43-8 vote.
The measure would allow a person convicted of a felony to act as an executor if the testator names them as an executor and acknowledges that they’re aware of the person’s conviction before the will was written. They also can’t qualify if they’re prohibited from receiving part of the testator’s estate under current law.
“The main goal of this important piece of legislation was to make sure that our loved ones choose who they wanted to carry our their last and final wishes,” Rep. Lakesia Collins, D-Chicago, said in a news conference.
Under the bill, individuals couldn’t be executors if they’ve been convicted of financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability, financial identity theft, or a similar crime.
Opponents said they were worried the bill originally didn’t have enough safeguards to protect people from those convicted of financial crimes. But the exceptions included in the amendment helped alleviate some of those concerns.
“The exposure of vulnerable seniors to those who have been convicted at a felony level of financial crimes is perhaps one of the most dangerous places we could put this state” Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said before voting against the measure. “So I’m glad to see the Senate made the changes they did.
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