When Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, arrived at the state Capitol of Springfield, she made her it her first priority to improve boating safety. Motivated by a family tragedy, she passed a law to help crack down on drinking and boating. As the year progressed, Morrison was involved in other safety issues and started a concentrated push to improve the Department of Children and Family Services – one of her top legislative priorities.

“Keeping people safe is one of the government’s basic functions,” Senator Morrison said. “When the government isn’t doing everything it should be – especially when it comes to protecting children – I’m going to do what I can to make things better.”

Morrison’s key legislative victory in 2013 was a law that requires boat operators who cause an accident that results in death or serious injury to submit to a test for drugs and alcohol. A similar law is already in place for suspected drunken drivers. Morrison introduced the law because one of her nephews was killed by a boat driver who was using drugs and alcohol, and the family was outraged that there was no law requiring him to submit to chemical tests.

“My nephew’s death was a tragedy for our whole family,” Morrison said. “But at least some good will come from it. Hopefully this law will make people think twice before they drink and operate a boat.”

Morrison also held a series of hearings about other boating safety proposals that may result in legislation in 2014.

In the fall, Morrison succeeded in improving transportation safety in another way. She secured a $200,000 state construction grant to help the village of Palatine improve pedestrian crossings at the corner of Rand and Hicks Roads.

Over the course of the year, Morrison was also appointed to a youth heroin abuse task force and the Illinois Council on Aging. The heroin abuse task force will focus on the rapid growth in heroin use among teenagers and young adults – for example, heroin overdose deaths in Lake and Will counties doubled between 2008 and 2012. The members of the task force will help coordinate prevention efforts and find legislative solutions.

“We need to make sure that parents, law enforcement officers and young people all have the tools they need to prevent and treat heroin addiction,” Morrison said. “According to some reports, heroin has become as inexpensive as alcohol and marijuana. This problem isn’t going to go away on its own.”

The Illinois Council on Aging is the group that oversees the state’s Department on Aging, which helps provide care and support to seniors, especially seniors with special needs and/or low-incomes.

Senator Morrison ended the year with a series of special hearings on the Department of Children and Family Services – the state agency charged with protecting at-risk children and caring for children whose parents cannot be trusted to keep them safe. The issue has taken on new importance in the wake of the death of a young  girl – Gizzell Ford – who died despite DCFS involvement in her short life.

“These DCFS hearings have been very constructive,” said Morrison, who will hold a final hearing in January. “I expect to be able to propose meaningful laws that will help protect our state’s most vulnerable children in 2014.”

Morrison’s legislative agenda for 2014 will focus on her work with DCFS, improving Illinois’ environmental protection laws and helping make small businesses more competitive.