New General Assembly; veto session gets underway

Lineup set for new General Assembly
The members of the 100th Illinois General Assembly will take the oath of office at noon on Wednesday January 11, 2017, in Springfield. The new General Assembly will include some newly-elected members, as well as many who have served previously. I am looking forward to beginning my second term representing the people of the 106th district in the House of Representatives.

Next year, Democrats will again hold the majority in the House, as the chamber will be made up of 67 Democrats and 51 Republicans. That is a change from the current makeup of 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. In the Senate, Democrats will continue to hold their majority as well, with 37 Democrats and 22 Republicans, a change from the current 39-20 lineup in place for the outgoing 99th General Assembly. In addition, our new state Comptroller, Susana Mendoza, will take office on January 3.

Now that the people have spoken, it is time for us to get back to work in Springfield to get a balanced state budget in place.

Fall veto session underway
The House and Senate reconvened on November 15 for the first of two scheduled session weeks to consider bills vetoed by Governor Rauner over the summer. There were about three dozen bills which were vetoed whole or in part by the Governor this year.

The session got off to a rocky start when a planned meeting between the Governor and the four legislative leaders on Monday had to be cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. The meeting was moved to Tuesday, but did not produce a budget agreement. Additional meetings were held throughout the week, but there is still no agreement in place.

However, the House did take action on some other matters. One notable piece of legislation which was passed was Senate Bill 2912, legislation to help school districts address the shortage of substitute teachers. The legislation streamlines the licensing process for teachers, reduces licensing fees and creates a one-year grace period for retired teachers to substitute while they work to bring lapsed licenses into good standing. The legislation now goes to the Governor.

Illinois to begin replacing older license plates
License plates issued in 2000 and 2001 will begin to be replaced in January as part of an effort by the Secretary of State’s office to help law enforcement correctly identify license plate numbers. As plates age, their reflectivity is degraded making it harder to read the plates under certain conditions. Beginning next year, the oldest plates on the road will be replaced, and the process will roll forward over the next few years to gradually update license plates until there are none on the roads that are more than ten years old.

A vehicle owner who qualifies for the new plates will receive a notification in the mail. They will then receive a yellow sticker for their plate when they renew their vehicle registration. A new license plate will follow within 60 days. The Secretary of State is re-plating vehicles over time instead of all at once in order to keep the program within budget constraints at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Any Illinois motorist who is not scheduled for re-plating but who wants to replace their current plate anyway may request a new plate; at a cost of $29; starting in January by contacting their local Drivers’ Services facility or calling 800-252-8980.

DNR reminds deer hunters about safety
This year’s Illinois firearm deer season is November 18-20 and December 1-4. In addition, muzzleloader-only deer season runs from December 9-11 and archery season remains open until January 15. With hunters once again taking to the fields, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters to be sure safety is their top priority.

One of the major sources of safety incidents for hunters last year was tree stands. DNR reminds hunters to employ a Fall Arrest System safety harness or some other kind of fall restraint system in their tree stand, and to check to make sure their ladder, harnesses, straps and other equipment are in working order. DNR also stresses the importance of firearm safety, such as always treating a firearm as if it is loaded and keeping an eye out for other hunters, buildings or vehicles that might be beyond your target.

Hunters are also reminded that in certain counties where Chronic Wasting Disease is present, they are required to stop at a check station to register any deer they take. Counties in our area affected by this requirement include Livingston, Grundy, Kankakee and LaSalle. For additional information, visit the DNR’s deer hunting website.

Getting ready for winter weather
It seems hard to believe that winter is right around the corner, but we recently received a reminder from the National Weather Service. November 13 through November 19 was Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Illinois. The National Weather Service website has a large collection of information on how to prepare for and stay safe during winter weather. The information includes tips on safe driving and preparing your vehicle for winter, best practices to avoid injury while shoveling snow, the safe operation of space heaters and portable generators, as well as what to include in your emergency supply kit. I hope everyone will take the time to get educated about staying safe in winter weather.

Did You Know?
This year marks the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Illinois is home to two National Parks and is part of three different National Park Service trails. Springfield’s Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Chicago’s Pullman National Monument are the two parks, while the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail all traverse some part of Illinois.