Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has spearheaded a law that made his state the first in the U.S. to effectively ban book bans.
Illinos Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the measure into law Monday. As the Chicago Sun-Times report, the law “will block state grant funding to public libraries and schools that don’t adhere to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, a set of rules that says reading materials shouldn’t be removed or restricted due to ‘partisan or personal disapproval.’
Book bans have been all the rage in several conservative-led states, such as Florida, where Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency is governor.
Started as a movement to keep certain books related to gender identity from being read by very young school kids, the book bans have expanded way beyond that, removing books by acclaimed authors, such as Toni Morrison, who deal with racial relations.
Per the Sun-Times, “the American Library Association said there were 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since they began tracking data more than 20 years ago.”
“To me, this is a slippery slope, and it goes against what education is about. The purpose of education is to teach children to think for themselves,” Giannoulias is quoted as saying. “We thought instead of being reactive to book bans, being reactive to this assault on our democracy, we said let’s be proactive. And if you’re going to ban books, you’re not going to get state grants.”
Giannoulias, 47, who also served as Illinois Treasurer from 2007-11 before launching an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 2010, has been busy writing and pushing for important legislation since he took office last January 9. The fact that the governor is a Democrat and that the party enjoys a supermajority in both state chambers will be of great help in enacting the agenda.
Some of the other bills include a ban on “Zoom(ing), watch(ing) or stream(ing) videos or access(ing) social media sites while driving; a bill limiting the use of automatic license plate readers to protect those coming into Illinois for abortion care; a bill authorizing Giannoulias’ office to negotiate with e-book and audiobook publishers to acquire digital prices at lower prices; and a measure making it illegal for police to stop motorists for items hanging from their rearview mirror, such as air fresheners,” the Sun-Times report. A further bill will make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, so they can exercise that right once they turn 18.
The son of Greek immigrants – his late father was from the village of Kalavryta, in the Peloponnese, and his mother from Cretan town of Chania – Giannoulias was a basketball player in his youth. He played professionally for Greek club Panionios in 1998-99.