Tougher penalties for passing stopped school buses, texting while driving

Legislation would double fines for passing stopped school bus

A bill which would double the fines for passing a stopped school bus which is picking up or dropping off children passed the Illinois House. The legislation would increase first-offense fines from $150 to $300, and second offense fines would jump from $500 to $1000.

Under Illinois law, a driver traveling in either direction must stop when coming up on a school bus which is stopped to load or unload students. This law applies on all roadways, parking lots and school property. The only exception is in the case of a vehicle on the opposite side of a divided, four-lane highway. If the bus has its stop arm extended and its red lights flashing, all drivers coming upon it must stop and remain stopped until the signals cease and the bus starts moving or the driver signals them to proceed. A driver can already have his or her license suspended for passing a stopped school bus, and the Illinois Secretary of State automatically issues three-month suspensions for anyone convicted of the offense.

The bill is House Bill 1873. It now goes over to the Senate for consideration.

New powers in ‘texting-while driving’ cases

Whether it is a cause in passing school buses, or just general inattentiveness behind the wheel, texting-while-driving has continued to be a serious problem on Illinois roadways, and is a significant cause of accidents. House Bill 2386, which gives new powers to a court hearing a texting-while-driving case that resulted in a serious injury has passed the House and gone over to the Senate.

A court will now be required to give an offender a fine of at least $1000 if the driver is convicted of causing a serious injury because of texting-while-driving. In some cases, the fine is currently as low as $75. The Secretary of State will also be empowered to suspend or even revoke driving privileges for the offender. The suspension could be as long as 12 months. It is hoped that by toughening these penalties the state can do more to educate drivers about the serious consequences of passing school buses and texting-while-driving.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,499,003,238 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.5 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.

Honoring Marvin and Sharon Perzee

Earlier this spring the Illinois House of Representatives recognized Marvin and Sharon Perzee of Iroquois County on their over 50 years of advocating for farms and local fairs in Illinois. It was my honor to meet with Marvin and Sharon and present them with a copy of the resolution from the House of Representatives documenting many of their accomplishments over the last 52 years.

During that time, Marvin served as a member and President of the Iroquois County Fair Board, led the Ashkum Chargers 4-H club, served on Ag Advisory boards for several state and federal legislators and was named a 1999 Master Farmer. Over the years, Marvin and Sharon have shown such a wonderful love and passion for county fairs, agriculture, and our next generation of Ag leaders. They both are known and respected far and wide for their leadership around the state of Illinois.

Licenses now available from DNR

The application period for important licenses from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is now open. The 2019 fishing, hunting and sportsman combination licenses are now available for purchase from vendors statewide, or by going to the Department’s website at www.dnr.illinois.gov. Licenses issued in 2019 are good through March 2020.

Applications are also being accepted for firearm/muzzleloader deer permits. From now until April 30, Illinoisans can get an application in for the lottery drawings for this year’s deer season. Those interested in applying can do so online at the DNR website, and the first lottery is open only to Illinois residents.

DNR is also reminding those wishing to visit state parks and other sites with spring turkey hunting programs that during spring turkey season (which runs until May 16 in our area) the hunting areas of those facilities are closed to activities other than turkey hunting from a half hour before sunrise until 1 p.m.

Did You Know?

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the marketing of agricultural products from Illinois accounts for more than $19 billion every year. Corn makes up just over half that, with soybeans at about a quarter. Livestock, dairy and poultry also make up a significant percentage. On top of all that agricultural production, the Illinois economy brings in billions more from industries related to agriculture, such as the manufacturing of farm machinery and production and distribution of commodities once they have left the farm.