Harmon05312016Children and adults with autism would benefit from two measures that passed out of the Illinois Senate with the support of Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

Senate Bill 345, which Harmon sponsored, acknowledges that autism is a whole-body disorder that affects more than simply a person’s neurology and behavior. The legislation would empower physicians to approach their diagnoses more effectively and would prohibit health insurance companies from restricting covered treatments for patients who have autism.

Studies have shown that medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and immunodeficiency problems, commonly occur in people on the autism spectrum. When properly diagnosed and treated, not only do these medical conditions improve, so, too, do the autism symptoms.

“It is not uncommon for medical providers to dismiss underlying medical symptoms simply as 'autism' and miss the opportunity to adequately evaluate and treat patients,” Harmon said. “Senate Bill 345 eliminates a bureaucratic barrier and encourages providers to be more thorough with their medical evaluations and recommendations for treatment.”

The legislation creates the Autism and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the Senate and in the House. It now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner to be signed into law.

Laura Cellini, a parent advocate from Springfield, supports the legislation. She noted that people with autism have a mortality rate that is 10 times that of their peers of the same age.

“Often this is due to their inability to receive accurate diagnoses and treatment for their underlying health issues,” she said. “That is why this legislation is so critical to improving health outcomes for people with autism.”

In addition, Harmon supported House Bill 4257, which would allow people on the autism spectrum to be issued state-issued wallet cards that identify them as autistic. The cards can be shown to police officers, firefighters and others during high-stress encounters in which the cardholder is unable to communicate effectively.

Individuals with developmental disabilities, autism and mental illness can have difficulty communicating with other people, especially during heightened situations, prompting law enforcement professionals and others to mistake them as simply being difficult or defiant. The wallet card would be a signal for authorities to de-escalate the situation.

The cards would be issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego). Harmon was a co-sponsor in the Senate.

“As we continue to learn about the causes and symptoms of autism – a disorder that affects thousands of Illinois families and individuals every day – it is critical that we do whatever we can to offer people the kinds of resources they need to thrive,” Harmon said. “Ensuring they are not denied needed medical treatment and giving them the ability to communicate effectively when the stakes are high are just two ways we can help.”

Category: News

FarmersMarketFresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables could make their way to more kitchens and family dinner tables under a measure overwhelmingly approved by the Illinois Senate on Monday.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) would enable low-income Illinoisans to purchase fresh, healthy food at more local farmers markets using their government nutrition assistance benefits.

“People all over Illinois are trying to achieve healthier lifestyles and discovering the value of farmers markets as a resource for fresh, locally grown food. Means should not be a barrier to this alternative,” Harmon said.

“This change will encourage more people who must stretch their food dollars as far as possible each month to look to the local farmers market as an option for discovering affordable, healthy food for themselves and for their families.”

House Bill 6027 would create the Healthy Local Food Incentive Program and would enable SNAP benefits to be accepted more widely at farmers markets across Illinois. It also would enable the state to leverage matching federal dollars for the program.

The legislation has the support of numerous advocacy organizations that promote healthy lifestyles, including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Illinois State Alliance of YMCAs, the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity and more.

Several well-known Chicago chefs, including Rick Bayless, Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan and Matthias Merges – each of whom showcase local produce on their menus and encourage home cooks to do the same – have expressed support for the initiative, too.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory, Illinois ranks fifth for the number of farmers markets that can be found in communities around the state.

The Illinois Senate passed the measure 51-0 Monday. The House unanimously approved it in April. It now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner to be signed into law.

Category: News

Harmon05262016Scholarships for the children of Illinois firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty would be funded again under legislation that passed in the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 2051, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would appropriate $975,000 for college scholarships for children of deceased police officers, firefighters and correctional officers, as well as $5 million for payment of line-of-duty awards.

The payments have been held up because of the state budget stalemate.

“The least we can do for the survivors of frontline public safety workers who put their lives on the line in service to their communities and to taxpayers is to pay them what we promised to pay them,” Harmon said. “These awards offer some comfort and financial stability to families who face a great deal of uncertainty and hardship when their loved ones die in the line of duty.”

Among those who could benefit because of the legislation is the family of deceased Oak Park firefighter Kenneth K. Harris.

A 28-year veteran of the Oak Park Fire Department, Harris, 56, died Jan. 11, 2016, of cardiac arrest at his Berwyn home after working a 24-hour shift and an additional six hours of fire prevention work. He is survived by his wife, five children and several grandchildren.

“These scholarships and awards for the survivors are important. When a first responder dies in the line of duty, it’s comforting to know that their family is going to be taken care of financially,” said Mike Henkelman, one of Harris’ colleagues at the fire department and president of the Oak Park Fire Fighters Association, Local 95. “We certainly appreciate Senator Harmon’s efforts with this legislation.”

The Senate honored Harris this month with memorial resolution, SR 1881, acknowledging his service to the village of Oak Park and offering condolences to those who knew him.

Category: News

YogaA measure prohibiting new state regulation of training for yoga teachers will head to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 2743, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), garnered bipartisan support as a pro-business measure that curbs government regulation where it’s unneeded.

“There’s simply no reason for Illinois to regulate something that, for most people, is a personal pursuit, not a profession or a career,” Harmon said. “It makes no sense from a business standpoint, from a government standpoint or from a practical standpoint.”

Harmon’s legislation exempts yoga instruction and yoga teacher training from state oversight as a trade, occupation, vocation or professional school.

Several yoga teacher training programs in Illinois were notified earlier this year by the Illinois Board of Higher Education that they were subject to state regulation as vocational schools and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.

The measure passed unanimously in the Illinois House on Wednesday. It passed unanimously in the Senate in April.

Category: News

Legislation that would modernize and streamline the voter registration process for residents of Oak Park, Austin, Addison and elsewhere in Illinois passed out of the state Senate Thursday with the support of Senator Don Harmon.

Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is an enthusiastic co-sponsor of Senate Bill 250, which would clear the way for the automatic registration of eligible voters in Illinois.

“This is another important step in expanding access to the polls and ensuring Illinois’ voter registration process continues to improve,” Harmon said.

“Automatic registration would enable government to save money by bringing efficiency to the process and eliminating duplicative paperwork that government has to process. It also would encourage more people to participate at the polls and make government more reflective of the people it serves.”

Harmon was a champion of recent efforts to bring online voter registration and same-day voter registration to Illinois.

Senate Bill 250 would enable eligible Illinois residents to automatically register to vote when they apply for, update or renew a driver’s license or state ID. Under current state law, residents who wish to register to vote while they renew their licenses at the DMV must fill out separate, duplicative paperwork.

In addition to expanding access to the polls and streamlining the registration process, automatic voter registration would allow Illinois to improve the accuracy of its voter rolls. Oregon and California enacted similar automatic voter registration laws.

The legislation passed in the Senate by a vote of 42-16.

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday publicly expressed his support for simplifying Illinois’ voter registration process. Newspaper editorial boards have come out in support of the effort, as well, including the Chicago Sun-Times. Cook County Clerk David Orr is a champion of the effort, too.

Category: News

Contact Me

Email Senator Harmon

Springfield Office:
329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(p) 217.782.8176
(f) 217.558.6013

Oak Park Office:
6941-B W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(p) 708.848.2002
(f) 708.848.2022

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