Honoring Illinois veterans; Teacher of the Year

200 Illinois Veterans to be honored during Illinois Bicentennial
In honor of the upcoming Illinois Bicentennial, Governor Bruce Rauner and Erica Jeffries, the Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) have announced the launch of HONOR 200. The program will be part of next year’s Illinois Bicentennial Celebration, and will pay tribute to 200 veterans whose service has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

The IDVA and veterans’ organizations from across Illinois will be promoting HONOR 200 and also soliciting nominations for those veterans whose service will be recognized as part of the program. Nominations will be evaluated on the achievements of the nominee and on the extent to which their contributions have aided, benefited and provided inspiration to their community. To nominate an Illinois Veteran, please send written nominations to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 69 W. Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60601 or make your nomination online at www.illinois.gov/veterans.

The Illinois Bicentennial Celebration will kick off on the state’s 199th birthday on December 3, 2017, with events in Springfield and Chicago. It will continue with programs and events all around the state throughout 2018, ending with the Bicentennial Birthday Party on December 3rd, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago. The HONOR 200 veterans will be recognized during the Birthday Gala. More information about the Bicentennial, including ways that your community can participate, can be found at www.illinois200.gov.

Lindsey Jensen is the 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year
We are fortunate to have some outstanding educators in our area, and now one of them has been recognized as the 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Lindsey Jensen of Dwight Township High School earned this year’s honor. Mrs. Jensen teaches English, drama, literature and Shakespeare to juniors and seniors in Dwight. She has taught English for nine years and been an educator for 12. I recently had the privilege to meet with her and present her with a congratulatory certificate on behalf of the Illinois House of Representatives. Teachers have one of the most difficult, yet most important jobs in our society, and I am thrilled to see one of our local teachers receive this recognition.

“Cards for Heroes” holiday card drive begins
Those wishing to send holiday greetings to Illinois servicemen and women overseas can do so through the “Cards for Heroes” military holiday card drive program. First Lady Diana Rauner announced the opening of the program, which will be coordinated between the IDVA, the Illinois Executive Mansion Association and the USO. This is a good way for Illinoisans to let those in uniform know that we are thinking of them while they are defending freedom far from home.

Cards should be mailed to: USO of Illinois – Cards for Heroes; 333 S. Wabash, 16th Floor; Chicago, IL 60604. They can also be dropped off at any IDVA Veterans Services Office. The locations of those offices can be found at www.Illinois.gov/veterans.

Because of the long distances these greetings must travel, and because of a higher-than-normal volume of mail around this time of year, it is asked that anyone wishing to submit cards do so as soon as possible in order to ensure that the greeting arrives in time.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $9,441,352,158 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Get Covered Illinois open enrollment underway
The Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) has opened the enrollment period for health insurance through the Get Covered Illinois program. The open enrollment period lasts through December 15.

Representatives from the DOI will be available in my Pontiac office at 311 N. Mill Street, Suite 2, on Wednesday November 29 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to assist anyone with questions about enrollment. DOI will be at my Watseka office at 342 W. Walnut Street on Monday December 4 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Assistance and information are also available from the DOI by calling toll-free 1-866-311-1119 or visiting www.getcovered.illinois.gov.

Protecting our state insect
Back in 1974, students in a third-grade class in Decatur proposed naming the Monarch Butterfly the official state insect of Illinois. They took their idea to legislators and in 1975 legislation was passed making the orange-and-black butterfly an official state symbol of Illinois.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and milkweed is the only plant consumed by monarch butterflies in their entire lifetime. In recent years, monarch butterfly populations have been diminishing around the world. Here in Illinois, some towns have enacted ordinances which require property owners to cut down noxious or exotic weeds. House Bill 685 would make an exception for milkweed. It would allow property owners and others who are concerned about sustaining the food supply for our state insect to cultivate milkweed without finding themselves in violation of local laws.

The legislation passed the House back in the spring and the Senate last week. It is now awaiting action by the Governor.

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!
Next week we pause to remember all that we have to be thankful for. If you are traveling, please remember to exercise caution on the roadways during this busy travel season. Please accept my best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving.

I will be back with another update from the Capitol on Friday December 1.

Did You Know?
The University of Illinois won its first national football championship on November 21, 1914, when Coach Robert C. Zuppke’s squad beat Wisconsin 24-9 to complete an undefeated season. Zuppke would coach Illinois to seven Big Ten championships and four national titles.