Signed into law: harsher penalties for selling heroin; mandated evaluation of bilingual programs

At the end of each session in Springfield, a pile of bills that pass the legislature end up on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk awaiting his signature. We'll keep track of those that make it into law.

Mandating evaluation of bilingual programs in public schools at the state level - HB 3819 requires the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education to evaluate the success of bilingual programs. The council will also take into consideration ways to increase the participation of parents of bilingual children. Illinois was the first state to require bilingual education in public preschools. The majority of bilingual students live in Chicago, but the nearby cities of Elgin, Cicero and Waukegan have seen an increasing influx of non-native-English speakers.

Lower threshold for mandatory imprisonment for selling heroin - HB 3801 stiffens penalties for the sale of heroin, making imprisonment mandatory for someone caught selling a minimum of three grams, instead of five grams. The bill also bans flavored rolling papers which Gov. Quinn's office says helps target the drug to young people. The legislation was spurred by a "dramatic increase in heroin overdoses throughout Illinois," according to the governor's office.

Farmers in 50 Illinois counties will see drought relief funds soon - The declaration by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that a majority of Illinois counties are officially considered disaster areas opened the door for Gov. Quinn to secure more federal disaster assistance funding. The money would go to help farmers whose crops have been ruined through increased access to low-interest loans. It will come from $30 million set aside by the Obama administration to deal with the effects of widespread droughts around the country.

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