EMS bill signed; Preparing farms for the future

EMS bill signed into law
Governor Rauner has signed into law two more bills which I sponsored this spring, including a bill to better help those having medical emergencies on their way to a hospital. Senate Bill 3255 enhances public safety by allowing Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (ARPN) and Physician Assistants (PA) to practice within the Illinois EMS system as EMS personnel for emergency care before a person reaches a hospital or during non-emergency medical transports, if the ARPN or PA meets certain specified requirements. The legislation creates greater flexibility in the medical system by allowing medically-qualified individuals to utilize their training to help those in need of care who have not yet reached a hospital.

Another bill signed recently was House Bill 4687, legislation to expand the list of people eligible to petition for visitation privileges for a disabled adult who is a ward of the state. That list will now include a larger number of close family members. This legislation recognizes the bonds which persons who are wards of the state may have with relatives who are not immediate family members. By enlarging the list of those able to petition for visitation privileges to include more members of the family we can show more compassion for those under the state’s care.

This brings to nine the total number of bills which I sponsored that were passed and signed into law this spring. I appreciate the help of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who helped pass these bills, and I am also grateful to the residents of the 106th District who came to me with ideas for improvements to state laws and who helped me move these and other bills through the process.

Preparing farm families for the future
I was glad to work with the Ford/Iroquois Farm Bureau and Country Financial to host a Farm Succession meeting in Gilman last week to discuss how farm families might prepare for the future. The event’s discussion focused on real life situations and estate and succession planning tools. These are challenging but important discussions that families need to have sooner rather than later. We had a very nice turnout for the meeting. Rick Morgan, Senior Financial Security Consultant for Country Financial gave a tremendous program. Thank you to Farm Bureau President Ron Bork and Manager David Treece for all your efforts.

Friend of Agriculture award
I was honored to accept the Friend of Agriculture award from the Illinois Farm Bureau Activator last week. Thank you to Ford/Iroquois Farm Bureau Activator Trustee David Haase, President Ron Bork, Activator Trustee Don Ulfers, Ford/Iroquois Farm Bureau and Illinois Farm Bureau for presenting me the award in Gilman. Agriculture is such a key part of all of our communities and our state’s economy!

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,539,212,130 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.

Governor signs legislation to help keep Illinois students in Illinois
Over the past 25 years we have seen enrollment at Illinois public universities and community colleges drop by 50,000 students according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. Just in this decade, enrollment at Illinois public universities has gone down by about eight percent. Governor Rauner recently signed two bills to try and reverse this “brain drain” of students leaving Illinois.

The first creates a merit-based scholarship program for students from Illinois, while the second sets up a task force to better share college and career interest data between high schools and colleges. Both initiatives came from ideas presented by the Higher Education Working Group, which has been charged with making Illinois colleges and universities more affordable and accessible for Illinois students.

Senate Bill 2927 creates the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program. This program will give merit-based scholarships to students from Illinois who attend college in-state. Scholarship funds will be apportioned to the state’s public universities by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission based on the proportion to their enrollment of undergraduate, in-state students. These scholarships will be especially helpful to Illinois students who are not eligible for MAP and Pell grants, but still need assistance with tuition to in-state institutions.

To better share information between high schools and colleges about students’ college and career interests, House Bill 4781 creates a task force to ease the data sharing-process. The data will help colleges offer better counseling and academic advising for students and make it easier for them to tailor their programs to help students achieve their desired outcome. The task force will present its findings to the General Assembly by the end of January.

Local leaders keep working on flood prevention
Last Friday we had a good meeting with local drainage district directors and officials from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as part of our continuing effort to mitigate or prevent flooding in the district. Paul Osman of DNR and Sally Ann McConkey from the Illinois State Water Survey spoke with members of the Farm Bureau and the drainage district leaders about flood insurance, flood mapping and a number of other important issues.

Bringing people together to identify problems is an important step toward finding solutions. I appreciate everyone who stopped by to participate in our efforts, which will continue in the months ahead.

Did You Know?
Like the current House of Representatives, the state House 100 years ago had its share of lawyers, merchants, teachers and farmers. But its list of professions also included a cigar dealer, a lecturer, a lumber and coal dealer, two druggists, a saloon owner and a sand dealer. Sixteen different representatives or senators covered some part of the current 106th district back in 1918. Among them were a barber and a hotel keeper, as well as farmers, merchants, bankers and attorneys.