FEMA flood damage assessment; rail upgrades coming

FEMA assessing flood damage in our area
Following last month’s flooding in the eastern part of the 106th district, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this week joined with state officials to conduct assessments of the damage which struck our area. This is the next step in the process of determining whether our area will be eligible for federal assistance to help with cleanup and recovery efforts from the flooding.

On February 23, Governor Rauner declared Iroquois, Vermilion and Kankakee counties to be disaster areas and authorized additional state resources to help with the response. Since then, the state has provided 50,000 sandbags, as well as 18 pumps and hoses, and work crews from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Initial damage assessments by local officials found 126 homes in the three counties which were either destroyed or suffered major damage. Flood waters impacted an additional 850 homes. The FEMA teams were joined by state and local officials and inspectors from the U.S. Small Business Administration in a tour to assess the damage. They will compile their report and then make a decision about whether the damage is severe enough to warrant a request for federal aid.

Railroad capital plan invests $103.6 million in Illinois, includes Iroquois County project
The Union Pacific railroad (UP), one of America’s major rail firms, operates a large amount of track in different parts of the state of Illinois. The company’s rail service connects many different industrial parks and enterprise zones across the state. In the railroad’s 2018 capital spending plan, which was unveiled this month, UP announced that it will invest over $100 million in track and bridge maintenance and repair in Illinois.

One of its major projects is UP’s plan to replace 49 miles of rail on what used to be called the Chicago & Eastern Illinois line south of Chicago. This line runs between Chicago Heights and Watseka. It includes track along the way that is considered by many investors as ripe for development. UP has previously developed similar track in the northern Illinois community of Rochelle into a logistics hub which is home to light industry and good road and rail capabilities.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,390,176,381 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.

Legislation to reduce cost of consumer credit freeze actions to $0 goes to Governor
The Senate has passed legislation already agreed to by the House which would affect consumer decisions to place, remove or temporarily lift a security freeze on their credit rating report. The legislation, which I supported, is HB 4095. It reduces burdens on consumers if their confidential information has been breached. It comes after the news of the Equifax hack last year which put personal information of millions of consumers at risk. The Senate’s approval of the bill has enabled the measure to be sent to Gov. Rauner for final action.

Upcoming meeting in Ford County
On days when the House is not in session in Springfield, I try to talk with as many local residents as possible to find out your thoughts on the different bills we are considering in the General Assembly. To help in this effort, I am hosting a constituent meeting at the Ford County Courthouse in a couple of weeks. Additional meetings throughout the district will be coming up in May and June.

The Ford County meeting will be Tuesday April 3 from 5:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. at the Ford County Courthouse, which is located at 200 W. State Street in Paxton. Appointments or RSVPs are not necessary. I hope you will stop by to share your comments or questions about the legislation that is pending in Springfield.

New habitat area at GCMS
My thanks to Jason Bleich and Pheasants Forever for partnering with Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Middle School recently to create a habitat area on GCMS property for both scholastic exploration for students and habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and bugs. The event inaugurating the habitat area was well organized. The students were energetic and engaged. Thank you also to Superintendent Jeremy Darnell, Principal Kyle Bielfeldt and school board member Tyler Young for the invitation and for bringing together a great ag related learning experience for students. 

Did You Know?
While Illinois has been home to four Presidents; Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama; there have also been two Vice Presidents from Illinois. Adlai Stevenson served under President Grover Cleveland from 1893 to 1897 and Charles Dawes served with President Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. All four Presidents from Illinois were chosen for a second term. Neither Vice President was similarly rewarded.