Bills passed this spring include legislation for teachers, injured first responders

Bill to address teacher shortage headed to the Governor
A bill I sponsored which would make to hire classroom teachers and substitute teachers has passed both houses of the legislature and is on its way to the Governor. Under House Bill 5627, Illinois would recognize out-of-state teacher licenses, allowing licensed teachers from out-of-state to teach in Illinois without meeting additional requirements. The bill establishes a Short-Term Substitute Teaching License and sets out the qualifications for obtaining one from the State Board of Education. It also allows an educator with a Professional Educator License or Educator License with Stipulations to work as a substitute teacher without having to obtain a separate substitute teacher license.

In recent years Illinois has had a worsening shortage of teachers. This legislation makes some common-sense changes to the process for licensing teachers in the hopes of easing that shortage. For example, it seems like a needless duplication of effort for someone who is already licensed to teach in an Illinois classroom to then have to go and get an entirely separate license just to be a substitute teacher. To ensure that teacher quality does not suffer due to these changes, the bill lays out the requirements that the State Board of Education would have make sure an out-of-state teacher meets before being allowed to teach in Illinois.

This bill passed the House 111-0 back in April and cleared the Senate 58-0 in late May. It will now go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Legislation to assist first responders with PTSD passes both houses
Legislation which would end the requirement of permanently-disabled firefighters having to undergo an annual examination to continue receiving their disability pension has passes both houses and is on its way to the Governor. Senate Bill 3119 would allow a first responder who has been declared by two physicians to have been permanently disabled in the line of duty to be exempted from the requirement that he or she be re-examined each year to ensure that the disability still exists. The person would have to be over the age of 45, and a supermajority of the local pension board would have to consent to the exemption before it would take effect.

The need for this legislation was brought home to me very directly after a meeting I had with the Lattz family from our district. They pointed out that it was inflicting needless pain and suffering to require a permanently-disabled firefighter to have to re-live his traumatic experience year after year, just to be told what he already knows: that his injuries are permanent. I joined a colleague from the other side of the aisle in getting this exemption added to the bill in order to show compassion for an injured firefighter and to spare others this kind of needless trauma.

Senate Bill 3119 passed the House 106-4 and the Senate 58-0. It is also on its way to the Governor’s desk.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,517,135,381 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.

Funds released for county fairs

This summer, thousands of Illinois students will exhibit animals and crops at county fairs, and thousands more Illinoisans will spend an evening or two strolling through these great American events. In the current state budget, $1.3 million in state funds were allocated for rehabilitation of facilities at county fairs, and now those funds have been released in time for this summer’s events. I am especially appreciative of the efforts of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, particularly their government affairs director Margaret Vaughn and legislative director, Marvin Perzee of the Iroquois County Fair Board, for helping to make this possible.

According to a study from the University of Illinois Extension, Illinois agricultural fairs contribute $170 million in spending to Illinois’ economy, and they support 1000 jobs. In our area, everyone knows a family farmer or a student in 4-H or FFA, so these events are especially important here.  County fairs are not only important economic engines for their communities, but they are important civic and educational events that Illinoisans enjoy every year. They are a chance to showcase and promote the importance of agriculture in communities across the state. I am glad that we were able to get these funds released and that this summer’s fairs will receive their funding.

Record year announced for Illinois tourism
According to information collected from Illinois hotels, motels and tourist attractions, nearly 114 million visits were made to Illinois last year, an increase of 1.4% from 2016. Spending by visitors to Illinois last year increased by 3% to $39.5 billion. This spending from tourism supports the creation and maintenance of an estimated 335,500 jobs.

Illinois’ Office of Tourism has worked to encourage visits to Illinois by promoting the opportunity for persons from throughout the country and around the world to enjoy authentic U.S. “heartland” products and experiences.  Illinois experiences are featured in the state’s “Illinois Made” campaign. Illinois benefits every time visitors pay taxes for goods and services such as hotel rooms, meals and rental vehicles among many other products. In total last year, tourist travel to Illinois generated $2.95 billion in state and local tax revenue, which works out to $1,300 in tax payments for the average Illinois household.

Did You Know?
Abraham Lincoln’s final trial was formally closed out on May 24, 1859, in Metamora. The trial involved Melissa Goings, who was accused of murdering her husband. Lincoln, as her defense attorney, argued self-defense, citing Mr. Goings’ violent temper. Legend has it that when his client asked Lincoln where she could get a drink of water, he replied “Tennessee,” after which she fled the county and was never found. The story was recounted in the 2012 Academy-award winning film Lincoln. The courthouse in Metamora where the trial would have taken place is now a state historic site.