New laws effective January 1; Commission to study birth-to-5 education funding

256 new laws take effect January 1

In all, Illinois will enact 256 new laws when we enter 2020. I told you about some of these last week. Below are a few more which are of special note.

New public university admissions standard

For the upcoming 2020-21 academic year, four state universities, Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Illinois, will create a four-year uniform admission system pilot program. Under this new program, any Illinois student who graduates in the top 10% of their class or has a grade point average in the top 10% of their class during either of the last two years of high school will be automatically admitted to any of these schools, should they apply.

Longer-term insurance coverage for certain diseases

Last year legislators heard the troubling story of a young girl from northwestern Illinois who contracted Lyme disease and was unable to obtain a full course of treatment in Illinois because her insurance company refused to cover the full round of antibiotics. Lyme disease treatment has certain recommended timelines which are sometimes insufficient to completely treat the disease, and in this case an insurance company refused to cover the extra antibiotics which the child needed. Effective January 1, state law will require insurers to continue to cover necessary antibiotics beyond the normal four-week course of treatment for a person with a tick-borne illness.

New building trades training program

Another new law taking effect January 1 directs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to create a training program for building trades. The program will award grants to community-based organizations for the purpose of establishing training programs for people between age 18 and 35 who are interested in going into the building trades.

Two new laws protect victims from harassment

Two different laws will take effect January 1 to protect victims from harassment. The first allows judges to issue no-contact orders to jail inmates who are awaiting trial. This new law came about because of cases where a person not yet convicted of a crime abused their telephone privileges in jail to continue to harass their accuser.

The second new law allows owners of home-based businesses who have been victims of stalking or who have petitioned for an order of protection to list the address of the local county clerk instead of their home address on their paperwork. Legislators passed this bill after hearing the story of a business owner whose stalker used the law requiring home-based businesses to have their address published as a way to find and further victimize her.

Check your FOID card status online

I have been hearing from many local residents about delays in processing FOID card applications and renewals. You can check the status of your application with the State Police by visiting https://www.isp.state.il.us/foid/foidinquiry.cfm or calling (217) 782-7980. As always, my offices in Watseka and Pontiac are available to assist you as well.

Early Childhood Funding Commission holds first meeting

I was honored to be named to the new Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding. We had our first meeting on Monday. The 29-member commission includes legislators and education professionals who will meet to review the state’s commitments to funding of high-quality early childhood (birth to age 5) education programs and seek to determine ways to make these services more available to people in every part of the state. We are tasked with studying all sides of this issue and putting together a set of recommendations to be presented to the Governor in January 2021.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,302,588,791 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.0 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 more than $137 billion.

Donation of this month’s pay raise

I mentioned last week that I am donating my share of a pay increase which legislators received this year, even though we did not deserve it. I have pledged each month to donate the raise to a non-profit agency which helps the people of our district. This month I had the honor of visiting and touring the Eureka Area Food Pantry which provides its services to people throughout Woodford County. I appreciate Norma Savage for showing me around and all the volunteers who work so hard to help those in need. They are making an important difference in the community.

Deer season numbers drop by 7% this year

The Department of Natural Resources has reported on the figures from the two weekends of shotgun deer hunting season this year, and they showed a decline from last year. In 2019, shotgun deer hunters took 75,349 deer, down from almost 81,000 in 2018. DNR figures indicated that the decline mostly took place in the first weekend of the season. The state’s leading county for deer hunters this year was Randolph County in southwestern Illinois, where 2,253 deer were taken and tagged. In all, DNR reported hunters taking deer in 100 of the state’s 102 counties. Archery deer season lasts until January 19.

Congratulations to our new Illinois State Scholars!

More than 100 high school students from the 106th District were named Illinois State Scholars by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. This is a great academic honor for these students who have worked so hard in their schoolwork. My congratulations to each and every one of them!

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. I hope that you and your family have a joyous celebration of this holiday season and that if the season takes you across town or across the country, you will have safe travels. Please also take a moment to think of those less fortunate or those who may not be able to celebrate with family and friends.

This has certainly been a very interesting year, and I once again express my gratitude to the people of the 106th district for giving me the privilege of being your voice in Springfield. I will be back with another update from the Capitol on Friday January 3.

Did You Know?

The beloved Christmas song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by Robert May a writer for Montgomery Ward in Chicago. He wrote the song to bring some Christmas cheer to his daughter while his wife was sick with cancer. Montgomery Ward printed the story and distributed it in book form in 1939.