Limits placed on protests; sex offender law altered

By Diane S.W. Lee  and Mary J. Cristobal
               Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD - 5/24/2011 - The Illinois Senate on May 23 approved legislation to toughen existing laws for funeral protesters and registered sex offenders, while the Illinois House loosened laws for small craft breweries.
   Regarding funeral conduct, state lawmakers want protesters to move an extra 100 feet away from grieving families at funeral services.
    Senators unanimously approved House Bill 180 to keep protesters at a distance of 300 feet away from the funeral site. Protesters are not permitted to engage in "disorderly conduct," such as loud singing, playing music and chanting, 30 minutes before and after the funeral or memorial service.
    “I think the 300 feet will …expand the zone slightly so that families who are grieving will be less disrupted and will have the ability to mourn the loss of their loved ones, without this bill failing in court,” said chief sponsor state Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Joilet, who added that the bill still protects freedom of speech.  
    State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, said the legislation helps provide respect to military families.
   “It is certainly within the interest of this state to establish peace and order at a funeral site,”said Haine, a co-sponsor.
    Senators unanimously approved the plan and sent it back to the House for concurrence. In March, House lawmakers approved the proposal with an increased distance of 1,000 feet and an hour time limit. House lawmakers will need to approve the shorter distance and time changes, before sending it to governor for consideration.
   Legislation, backed by the Cook County Sheriff's Office, would give law enforcement an extra tool to prevent registered sex offenders from harassing victims and their family members.
   House Bill 277 would make harassment of victims and their families by sex offenders a felony, which carries a two- to five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $25,000.
    The legislation was inspired by a convicted child sex offender in Harvey who harassed a victim and the victim's family at home with repeated phone calls to prevent them from testifying in court.
    “This will allow courts to go after people who victimize people, and then victimize their family,” said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, a co-sponsor.
    The state Senate voted 57-0 to approve the measure, which returns to the House for approval. 
   The state House unanimously passed a measure that would allow craft brewers to distribute their own beer.
   “(The measure) grants a limited option to Illinois and out-of-state start up breweries, defined in the bill as craft brewers, to self-distribute beer products pursuant to a permit issued by the Liquor Control Commission,” said state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, who sponsored the measure.
Senate Bill 754 would allow craft brewers that manufacture up to 465,000 gallons of beer per year to distribute not more than 232,500 gallons of their own beer in that same year.
   Although the measure had all of the representatives’ support, state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said this proposal is a Pyrrhic victory for craft brewers.
   “We have several of these small businesses throughout the state, in particular in my area, and I support their growth and their attempts to do business within the state,” Bradley said. “However I don’t think that this is going to settle the litigation, which is taking place throughout the state.”
Anheuser-Busch has taken Illinois to court for interfering with the beer company’s distributor licenses.
   The measure is on its way to the governor’s desk.
   Story published courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.