Many bill signings; Safe Routes to School

Governor signs Bennett-sponsored legislation
Four more bills which I sponsored this spring have been signed into law by Governor Rauner. Senate Bill 2713 creates a Greenways and Trails Advisory Council at the state level to serve as Illinois’ advisory council to the federal Recreational Trails Program. The council will help protect and enhance the outdoors experience of Illinoisans. It is also intended to be a forum for public discourse and participation on recreational trails in Illinois. The legislation also clarifies some language about stickers and stamps for off-highway vehicles. Senator Chuck Weaver of Peoria carried this bill in the Senate.

Senate Bill 3135, which I sponsored along with Senator Chapin Rose of Mahomet, clarifies when a person needs an EPA permit to apply algicide to a body of water. The Governor also signed House Bill 4686, which protects adult wards of the state from conflicts of interest when guardians are assigned. I was proud to join with our Department on Aging in helping this bill become law.

It was an honor to stand up with Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe and several other legislators to salute the importance of agriculture in Illinois during the Ag Day festivities at the State Fair on Tuesday. As part of the ceremony, the Governor signed Senate Bill 2875. Under this legislation, which I sponsored along with Senator Weaver, we are formally repealing some programs within the Department of Agriculture which have not functioned in years but which still exist on paper. It is a good measure for streamlining government and avoiding possible confusion in the future.

New law authorizes police to take action to protect pets
During these hot summer months we frequently hear the warnings about not leaving pets inside hot cars, even for a short time. Now Illinois has a law which better protects pets from this kind of dangerous neglect. Senate Bill 2270, which was signed into law last week, authorizes law enforcement to temporarily take custody of a dog or cat if the animal is exposed to extreme temperature conditions for an extended time.  The new law will apply to animals trapped in hot motor vehicles, and also to those forced to stay outdoors in conditions of extreme cold.

SB 2270 was co-sponsored in the House by Reps. David Olsen and Allen Skillicorn.  After unanimous House passage, the bill was signed by Gov. Rauner on August 7.

Another successful senior fair
We conducted another successful senior fair on Wednesday in Pontiac. There were 27 vendors on hand; from state and local government, non-profits and the private sector; to provide information to local seniors on the resources available to them. It was a wonderful turnout. Thanks especially to our event co-sponsors: Health Alliance, the Pontiac Chamber and Pontiac Parks and Recreation.

Faster notification of illness in veterans homes
Another new law which was signed by the Governor recently gives all state-run veterans homes no more than 24 hours to notify residents and their emergency contacts if two or more residents of the facility are diagnosed with an infectious disease during a 30-day period.

This was another piece of legislation which was passed this spring as part of the state’s response to the tragic outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Quincy at the Illinois Veterans Home. The new state budget includes $53 million for planning and design work toward a complete rebuild of the Quincy facility’s current infrastructure. The state has already spent $6.4 million on a water purification system within facility to prevent another occurrence of the water-borne disease.

The new law and its shorter notification window will give residents and their loved ones a better warning should a dangerous situation recur at any veterans home.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,409,444,973 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.

IDOT looks for ‘Safe Routes to School’ ideas

The Illinois Department of Transportation is looking for local projects to be part of its Safe Routes to School program.

Administered by IDOT but funded with federal dollars, the Safe Routes to School program is intended to help Illinois students safely walk and bike to school. It funds projects which cut down on traffic around schools or otherwise enhance safety. Some past projects have included things like sidewalk improvements, education and outreach programs to encourage safe driving in school zones and ways to cut down on speeding around schools.

IDOT is inviting those with ideas for proposals to visit their website at to learn more about the program. School districts and other local governments as well as non-profit associations may apply for the grants. The program does not require a local funding match. Applications will be accepted beginning on September 24, with a deadline of November 19.

Did You Know?
The Illinois State Fair was not held during World War II because the state fairgrounds in Springfield were given over for use by the U.S. Army. When the fair re-opened in 1946, organizers hoped for one million attendees. The figure ended up being 1,001,341 visitors, with more than a quarter of that total attending on the day set aside to honor veterans. The attendance figure for this year’s fair will be announced after the conclusion of the fair on Sunday August 19.