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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Senate passes bills creating affordable housing incentives, expanding telehealth services

House approves bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control starting in 2022

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed an omnibus bill Sunday aimed at creating additional affordable housing units in the state.

House Bill 2621 aims to create monetary incentives including a COVID-19 Affordable Housing Grant program to provide funding to support affordable housing in areas “disproportionately impacted” by COVID-19.

The program would supplement affordable housing developments which qualify for federal tax credits. Funds for the program, which are subject to appropriation, will be made available through federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act with statutory language to be repealed in April 2025.

The bill also aims to extend the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which offers incentives to developers which donate money or real estate to affordable housing developments.

The specific amount of funding to be made available under the programs is still being negotiated.

The bill passed the Senate 59-0 and will be sent back to the House for concurrence on an amendment before it can be sent to the governor.

Telehealth expansion

The Senate also passed a bill which would allow for the expansion of telehealth services and to be covered by a patient’s insurance.

House Bill 3308 would enact changes to state law pertaining to telehealth services, which were expanded through recurring executive orders issued by Gov. JB Pritzker during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Republican leader Dan McConchie, of Hawthorne Woods, praised the bill on the Senate floor Sunday for addressing “a lack of accessibility” in telehealth services, adding the bill allows for more residents in all parts of the state to access healthcare services from anywhere.

“There’s been a lot of terrible things that have happened in the past year with the pandemic, but one of the good things that’s come out of it has really been this test case that we have had in regards to telemedicine in a variety of ways,” McConchie said. “I’m very excited about what kinds of opportunities this is going to open up.” 

Chief Senate sponsor Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, said the bill will serve as “a starting point” for expanding the state’s telehealth infrastructure following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill passed 59-0 and will require action in the House before it can head to the governor.

Over-the-counter contraceptives

House Bill 135 also passed the House on Sunday after passing the Senate Friday. Under the bill’s provisions, qualified pharmacists, starting Jan. 2022, will be able to prescribe and dispense a 12-month supply of hormonal birth control.

A qualified pharmacist prescribing hormonal contraception must require an individual fill out a screening form identical to what is required of a physician prescribing birth control. The bill would cover hormonal contraceptive methods such as pills, rings and patches.

HB 135 passed in a partisan 70-44 vote, with Republicans opposing the legislation due the lack of age limit or requirement of parental consent for minors receiving birth control through a pharmacist.

It can become law upon signature from the governor.

Capitol News Illinois’ Raymon Troncoso contributed to this report.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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