Transportation survey; New laws coming January 1

IDOT wants your opinion
Illinois motorists are being asked for their opinion on the status of the state’s highway system. The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting its annual Traveler Opinion Survey from now until the end of the year.

Travelers are asked to share their thoughts on things like how well the state does with ice and snow removal, the condition of highway rest stops, and what they think of Amtrak. Those who take the survey will also have the chance to offer feedback on how they personally use the transportation system.

IDOT has conducted this survey every year since 2001. Secretary Randy Blankenhorn recently said that collecting this kind of public input gives IDOT an opportunity to grow the transportation system and provide safe and economic travel for Illinoisans. The survey is online at and is open until December 31.

New laws taking effect on January 1
There are 242 new state laws which have a January 1 effective date. These new laws range from “cleanup” language which just eliminate from statute references to commissions and task forces that no longer exist, to significant changes to the way programs and agencies operate. Over the next few weeks I will share with you some of the details of these changes.

One such new law was included in House Bill 4213, and it concerns an outdated policy that was costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. All state-owned vehicles were required to have their oil changed at 3000 miles, even though most new cars are designed to go 5000 or even 10,000 miles without needing an oil change. All this unnecessary maintenance was a waste of taxpayer dollars. This legislation directs the Department of Central Management Services to refer to the recommendations in the vehicle’s manual for when to get the oil changed, rather than use a one-size-fits-all policy that was wasting money.

A law to better protect youth athletes from the effects of concussion will take effect with the new year. House Bill 4226 puts in place a uniform set of rules for the accommodation of a student who had a concussion during a school athletic activity. Under this law, the Department of Public Health will put together informational brochures to help educate members of the public about how to spot warning signs that indicate that someone has a concussion.

Visit with FFA students
My thanks to Landin Wilson for the invitation to come talk to the FFA students at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School about how ideas become laws in Springfield. It was a great group of students with a lot of energy. Thanks also go to Mike White and Kirsten Wyatt for their leadership in and support of education. Agriculture is our leading industry in Illinois, and these young men and women are our future leaders. It is also a good reminder of how important the issue of agricultural education in our schools is going to be in the next General Assembly.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,824,450,937 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at just over $9 billion. 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.

“Dos and Don’ts” of disaster donations
Central Illinois was recently struck by a series of tornadoes which did damage to several towns, most seriously in the city of Taylorville, just southeast of Springfield. As we do after every disaster, Illinoisans opened their hearts to help their neighbors through donations. This week, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) issued some tips on how to be most helpful with your donations to help those who have been struck by a disaster.

During the immediate aftermath of a disaster, local officials are often overwhelmed by donations of items which “require agencies to redirect valuable resources away from the critical core life-safety missions for donation management,” says IEMA. The agency recommends monetary donations, which gives the responders the most flexibility for meeting their needs, and which also adds money to a local economy that might be struggling in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

IEMA also suggests that those wishing to help after a disaster visit, the website of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to find a list of reputable, disaster relief organizations involved in emergency preparedness and response.

Did You Know?
Starting with the Census in 1890 and running through 1940, Illinois had the third-largest population of any state in the Union, the highest standing in our history. Recently we have been the fifth-largest state in the nation, but early this year, we were passed by Pennsylvania and slid into sixth place. California, Texas, Florida and New York are the only other states which have more residents than Illinois.