State Police urging caution on roads; DCFS investigation still ongoing

State Police—in the midst of deadliest year in history – remind drivers to move over

The Illinois State Police have compiled maps of incidents such as squad car crashes and deaths of troopers, and have determined that 2019 has been the worst year in their history. The State Police were created as an agency in 1922.

The latest incident happened early this month on Interstate 57 in Chicago’s south suburbs. Four people, including two state troopers, were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after a driver crashed into a state police squad car and another police vehicle. The driver was arrested for violation of the “Scott’s Law” first responder protection act, and was allegedly found to be driving under the influence. 

Following a series of tragedies this year, we have seen heightened awareness efforts about Scott’s Law, which directs drivers to move over or slow down when there is an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing on the side of the road. This latest incident sparked a viral Facebook plea by Trooper Tracy Lillard encouraging Illinoisans to follow the law and be vigilant about “moving over and slowing down.”

Investigations into DCFS continuing

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is the state agency with the responsibility of protecting children under threat, including foster children. But as we have seen in too many headlines in the past few months, children under DCFS supervision have suffered ill treatment or in a few cases died or been killed. The Chicago Tribune reported last week on a series of cases in which foster children were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles. DCFS has since acted to ban the practice

State legislators have joined the DCFS inspector general in launching an investigation of the circumstances surrounding these deadly mistakes and any wrongdoing at DCFS. We have heard troubling reports about DCFS personnel acting in an unprofessional manner and not following established child welfare best practices. A Task Force on Strengthening Child Welfare Workforce for Children and Families has been appointed to investigate DCFS personnel policies and practices as part of an effort to ensure that state government is adequately meeting its important responsibility to protect the state’s at-risk children.

Investigation into use of “seclusion rooms” in Illinois schools

Like many Illinoisans I was shocked to read a recent ProPublica Illinois article about the overuse and misuse of “seclusion rooms” in schools throughout the state. The story went into heartbreaking detail about the students, many of them with disabilities, who were put into these rooms, sometimes for hours at a time.

Legislation has already been filed to prohibit the use of these rooms, and I expect we will see more action on the issue when the legislature reconvenes. We need to respect our hard-working educators who must maintain order in their classrooms, but we also need to make sure that students are not mistreated in the process of doing so.

Land banks and economic development

We recently met with officials from several east central Illinois counties to help provide information about land banks, their purpose and how they could help with economic development. It was an excellent discussion of the potential economic development benefits for our region.

We heard from Pat J. O’Shaughnessy of the Vermilion County Land bank, attorney Brent Denzin, and Nicki Pecori Fioretti, Director of Community Affairs for the Illinois Housing Development Agency during the meeting. I appreciate Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold for hosting us as we discussed this important resource for local communities.

Youth advisory council meeting

This week I joined State Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington in speaking to Senator Jason Barickman’s Youth Advisory Council meeting in Bloomington. I have mentioned before how inspired I am after talking with groups of students in our area, and this time was no different. We had a good conversation about the wide range of issues affecting state government and the future of Illinois. Thanks to Senator Barickman for the invitation and to all the young leaders who participated in the discussion.

Use caution while deer hunting

This month is the beginning of shotgun deer season in Illinois, and the Department of Natural Resources is once again urging hunters to exercise caution while in the fields. According to DNR, the item which is most frequently involved in reported hunting accidents is not a firearm, but instead is a tree stand. Last year, of the 19 hunting incidents reported in Illinois, 14 of the involved elevated stands. These stands, which are often used in cold weather, can be coated in dew or in some cases ice, which makes climbing to them and using them slippery and dangerous. DNR is reminding hunters about hunting safety and encouraging those who use tree stands to think about using a harness when climbing up off the ground.

Illinois unemployment rate holding at 3.9%

Illinois and the nation continue to report historically low unemployment rates. The latest Illinois figure was reported by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), and put the unemployment rate at 3.9%. In all, IDES reports a record 6,192,300 nonfarm Illinois payroll checks were paid out in October. Areas of growth included such sectors as educational services, health services, leisure, hospitality and government. However, numbers for construction, mining and manufacturing were either flat in October or declined. The unemployment rate was the same as in September, according to numbers released by IDES.

Illinois continues to lag slightly behind the rest of the country. The Illinois unemployment rate was slightly higher than the 3.6% rate recorded nationwide.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,001,787,006 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.0 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 $133 billion.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving

I wish you and your family a very happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. I will be back with another update from the Capitol on Friday December 6.

Did You Know?

Thanksgiving ceremonies in America trace their history all the way back to the early 1600s, but the late-November date for the celebration was set by Abraham Lincoln. Encouraged by news of long-awaited Union victories on Civil War battlefields in 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a national day of giving thanks that November. In 1941 Congress passed legislation setting the fourth Thursday of November as a federal holiday for Thanksgiving.