Springfield, IL… Legislation spearheaded by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) intended to help reduce gun violence through better mental health reporting has been signed in to law.

Image result for foid renewalStatistically, two-thirds of gun deaths are attributed to suicide. Current Illinois law requires hospitals to report certain mental health admissions to ensure that people at risk of harming themselves or others do not have access to firearms. However, there is a lack of clarity in the reporting process that has led many hospitals and medical facilities to under-report required admissions to the Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Police (ISP). House Bill 4855 will serve to clear up the state statute that ambiguously defines what constitutes a “patient” receiving mental health treatment and under what circumstances it needs to be reported. As part of the agreement process in crafting the bill, the Illinois Hospital Association has committed to improved staff training at Illinois’ hospitals to ensure the law is being properly followed and patient rights are being respected.

“This law is a much needed clarification to the regulations that are already in place to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals for hospital workers,” Rep. Wheeler said. “Laws intended to address gun possession by mentally unstable individuals only work if people understand and follow them.”

In addition to shoring up existing law, HB 4855 also serves to protect the second amendment rights of responsible FOID card holders. The legislation requires FOID card renewal applications to be approved or denied within 60 days. If the application was submitted prior to expiration, the individual’s FOID card will remain valid while ISP processes the application unless the person becomes subject to revocation.

“The FOID renewal process can be lengthy, resulting in responsible, law abiding citizens needlessly losing their gun rights,” said Wheeler. “This legislation will ensure that an individual’s right to their FOID card is not infringed.”

HB 4855, now P.A. 100-906, will take effect on January 1, 2019.


State Representative Barbara Wheeler has been invited to speak on a panel at the Professional Women in Advocacy (PWIA) Conference in Chicago on Thursday, August 23rd.

The PWIA Conference was founded in 2013 to reach women at all levels of their profession across various industries with the goal of giving women advocates the tools and information they need to competently and confidently represent their organization or cause. This year’s theme is “Women Count” to highlight the impact women have in the civic arena. The Chicago workshop will cover communications for advocacy, lobbying compliance and political engagement. The all-day conference will take place at University Center at 525 South State Street in Chicago.

Rep. Wheeler will sit on a bipartisan panel titled “Been There Done That- Women of Distinction”. Every year this particular panel gathers successful women from business, media, and politics to share their stories, lend advice, and inspire others. It is expected to be moderated by FOX 32 anchor, Sylvia Perez. 

Tickets can be purchased and more information on the conference can be found here.

Springfield, IL… Today Governor Rauner signed House Bill 4340 into law, legislation sponsored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) to bolster the Human Trafficking Resource Center Notice Act and maximize its impact.
In 2015 Rep. Wheeler passed the Human Trafficking Resource Center Notice Act (Public Act 99-0099). The law requires the posting of information on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at specific businesses and establishments known to be frequented by victims of trafficking or associated with human trafficking activities. The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is tasked with ensuring compliance with the law, but the department lacks the resources to properly do so.

While Illinois has seen the number of phone calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline rise from 473 in 2012 to 673 in 2017, these numbers pale in comparison to other states. In the same period Ohio, which implemented similar legislation but with tighter enforcement laws and expanded notice posting requirements, saw a rise from 459 to 1,113 calls.

“The differences between us and the states that really enforce these notices are stark and frankly heartbreaking,” Rep. Wheeler said. “Illinois ranks among the top states for human trafficking cases and Chicago is considered to be a national hub for human trafficking because of the role it plays as a major convention city. There are many victims out there that can be saved at no cost to the state if people only knew where to turn or what to do.”

The vast majority of the tips the NHTRC receives does not come from victims, but from concerned members of the community, which is why making information about NHTRC more readily available to the public is so important. HB 4340 removes the IDOL as the primary enforcer of compliance with the law and instead shifts the role to the governmental entity regulating the particular establishments and local law enforcement who are better equipped to handle the responsibility.

Information gathered by the Illinois Human Trafficking Task Force helped to craft this legislation, a panel on which Rep. Wheeler served. In addition, Rep. Wheeler, a noted human trafficking advocate, was contacted by tattoo parlor owners who shined a light on the industry-wide ignorance of what to do in cases where they suspect human trafficking. Similar to how slaves were branded by their owners, purveyors of so called “modern slavery” often take their victims to tattoo parlors so that if they ever run away, they can be tracked back and returned to their captors.  Some tattoo artists have caught on to this trend and offer their services to remove these brands for free, among those being INK180, a nonprofit based in Oswego. Removing these brands is an important reintegration step for survivors on their journey to move on from their victim status.

As a result, HB 4340 further expands the locations where the notice must be posted to include massage parlors (one of the top human trafficking related industries), certain large public events and gatherings, schools, and tattoo and piercing parlors.

“Not only does this new law contain the best practices of states that have made great strides in reaching human trafficking victims and concerned citizens, but it makes Illinois a state leader in combating human trafficking. No other state requires posting at public events or schools.” Rep. Wheeler said. “By publicizing these notices and resources, victims will know they are not alone and Illinoisans who see suspicious behavior will know what to do and have the potential to make a lifesaving impact on someone.”

HB 4340 is effective immediately.