Spring session about to start; restrictions on lobbying

General Assembly back in session next week
The House and Senate will re-convene for the 2018 spring session on Tuesday, January 30. The House had originally been scheduled to come back for two days this week, starting on January 23, but the Speaker decided to cancel both days’ session.

We will have a lot to do once we finally get back to Springfield. Governor Rauner will deliver his State of the State Address on Wednesday, with the budget address to follow in two weeks. There are a lot of issues large and small that need to be taken on this spring and I am eager to get to work on them as soon as possible.

Bill to restrict lobbying by former legislators
This spring I have introduced legislation that would require legislators to wait until they have been out of office for two years before becoming lobbyists. It is not uncommon in Springfield to see a legislator leave office and within a short time go to work as a lobbyist. I believe we should enact a waiting period before legislators can become lobbyists. My legislation, House Bill 4207, amends the existing state ethics law; known as the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act; to add this ethical safeguard.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,461,599,121 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.

New law creates women’s division in Department of Corrections
Governor Rauner has signed House Bill 1479 which solidifies the creation of a new women’s division within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

The legislation, House Bill 1479, follows the passage of House Bill 3904, the Women’s Correctional Services Act. These new laws require the IDOC to appoint a chief administrator for the women’s division, incorporate gender-responsive programming and address the specific challenges that female offenders face.

Back in 2015, the department accelerated its efforts to restructure its operations for female inmates after the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform suggested that IDOC needed gender-responsive and trauma-informed treatment programs. Today, incarcerated women are participating in courses designed to help them overcome any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they may have experienced and get on a path to healing. The new laws also help ensure that IDOC staff receive training to help them work collaboratively with women to address needs and improve both safety and wellness throughout all of the state’s women’s correctional facilities.

Flu season continuing to take its toll on Illinois
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that this year’s flu outbreak is now affecting patients in all 50 states. A recent CDC summary showed 7,249 positive lab tests for flu in Illinois during the weeklong reporting period.

It is important to remember that there is a difference between the number of reported cases of flu and the total number of cases. These lab tests are only performed when patients visit a doctor’s office or other medical facility. Here in Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) limits its flu tracking to cases that involve either hospitalization or death. Many Illinois schools and workplaces have noticed student and employee absences this winter due to flu symptoms.

Public health officials, including both the CDC and IDPH, continue to recommend that everyone get a flu shot if they are able to do so. Vaccinations protect some people against some influenza viruses, but do not protect all people against all of the cases of this particular disease. Regardless, health care providers advise that it is much better to get a flu shot than to not get one. It is also important to observe proper flu-prevention practices such as covering coughs and sneezes and frequently washing hands.

Thanks to Lincoln Elementary
Thank you to Mrs. Gschwendtner and the 3rd grade class at Lincoln Elementary in Pontiac for inviting me to visit and read to the class. I enjoyed my visit very much. It is encouraging to see so many bright youngsters and the hard-working teachers and administrators who are shaping our nation’s future.

Did You Know?
Tuesday’s earthquake in Alaska was so powerful that it was detected by a seismograph here in east-central Illinois. The quake’s waves traveled the 2860 miles to a seismograph maintained by the University of Memphis’ Center for Earthquake Research and Information in Mansfield, Illinois, located between Bloomington and Champaign. It took almost ten minutes for the movement to reach the seismograph in Mansfield. Though the quake was detected by the machine, the U.S. Geological Survey had not received any reports from the area of any people who felt it.