Seth, Brandon and Jasmine

The Stories of Real People Who Help Us Make Law

With big challenges facing the State, the General Assembly is often focused on key issues like creating jobs, enacting overdue government reform and addressing the state budget.  These are important issues.  But periodically lawmakers take note of specific events that expose the need for legislative action.
 
The incredible strength of real people -- victims of circumstance, their families and friends -- has helped make changes to the law.  In some cases, boosting awareness is the goal.  In others, legislation is enacted to prevent tragic events from happening again.

Real people and their real experiences are behind these actions.  Here are their stories.  

 

Seth's Law: Increased Safety Measures for Hospital Patients

Seth Muehring was an active member in the military and was stationed overseas. He developed heart problems and returned to the United States for heart surgery. After a successful surgery, Seth was in his hospital room and needed to use the restroom. While in the restroom, he collapsed and the hospital was alerted but it took nearly 10 minutes to gain access into the bathroom because the staff did not have a key. Due to the lag in response time, Seth unfortunately passed away.

In spite of their family’s tragic loss, Seth’s parents vowed to take action to try and prevent other patients who may fall ill in a hospital restroom from being deprived of emergency attention.  They contacted their Senator, Gary Forby, and created legislation requiring hospitals in Illinois to have policies and procedures in place for gaining access into a locked bathroom in a patient’s room.

Their efforts were successful: Governor Quinn signed House Bill 5764, “Seth’s Law,” on June 14, 2010.

 

Brandon's Law: Awareness Raised for Testicular Cancer

Brandon Ballard was an active 19-year-old man with a bright future ahead of him.  However, for two years he unknowingly lived with testicular cancer. It abruptly ended his life.  He had been active in sports and had annual physical exams, but a lack of awareness among young men provided Brandon with little knowledge of his disease.

After losing their son at such a young age, Brandon’s parents decided to take action.  They contacted their Senator, Mike Jacobs, and began the process of changing the law and boosting awareness.

Jacobs introduced Senate Bill 1665, “Brandon’s Law,” to require exams and testicular cancer education to high school males. The cancer education program will include information on risk factors, symptoms of the disease, and resources for assistance. In addition, the Illinois High School Association will include questions on family histories of cancer and may require testicular examinations as a part of sports physicals.

The Ballards hope that, through awareness, more young men will identify the disease early and seek the lifesaving treatment available. Brandon's law was signed last year.

For more information, visit the Brandon M. Ballard Foundation’s Facebook page.

 

Jasmine's Law: Greater Penalties for Sexually-Violent Persons

In 2001, an 11-year-old girl named Jasmine became a victim of sexual assault after an adult predator provided her alcohol and assaulted her after she was incapacitated.  Though hard to believe, at that time Illinois had no legal standing to add alcohol as a factor in aggravation to predatory criminal sexual assault. Her abuser received a plea deal and received the minimum sentence of only six years.
 
Since the crime, Jasmine’s mother has become a vocal community activist and awareness advocate for sexual assault victims and survivors.  She worked with her State Senator, Michael Bond, to pass Senate Bill 1020, known as Jasmine’s Law.  The legislation adds alcohol as a “factor in aggravation” to the state’s law.  
 
The legislation is specifically targeted to crimes where the victim was a minor and was offered or under the influence of alcohol at the time the offense was committed. The use of alcohol to “groom” children to eventually engage them in sexual activities is a common practice among sexually-violent persons.

Jasmine’s Law is the result of incredible courage and strength of a crime victim and her family. The law awaits the Governor's signature.

 

Senator Kim Lightford, Assistant Majority Leader

Laws protecting the most vulnerable members of the community have been a focus of Senator Kim Lightford’s work since she joined the Illinois Senate in 1998. Just last week, the Governor signed House Bill 5790, Senator Lightford’s bill to increase the penalties for an adult who brings a child to a dog fighting exhibition.

HB 5790 amends Illinois’ Criminal Code to raise this crime from a Class 4 to a Class 3 felony for a first violation and from Class 3 to Class 2 for a second or subsequent violation for any adult bringing someone under 13 to a dog fight. It further applies these penalties if a person conducts such a show within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, day care or other child care facility.

The new law also adds protection for the animals involved by providing penalties and fines for tying or attaching a live animal for the purpose of causing the animal to be pursued by a dog or dogs.

Senator Lightford represents the 4th District and serves as Assistant Majority Leader in the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus. She sits on six Senate committees and four subcommittees. Born in Chicago, Senator Lightford earned her bachelors degree at Western Illinois University in public communications and human relations, and her masters in public administration at the University of Illinois, Springfield. Prior to her election to the Senate, she was a trustee with the Village of Maywood, and worked for the Illinois Secretary of State, Department of Corrections and Central Management Services.

Senator Lightford resides in Maywood with her son, Isaiah.

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