SOS deadlines extended; Slight decline in unemployment

Secretary of State extends expiration dates to August 1; encourages use of online service

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has extended the expiration dates of driver licenses and ID cards until August 1, 2021, in a bid to reduce the number of people coming into Driver Services facilities. Many of these offices were closed in the early days of the pandemic but have since re-opened. The extension covers driver licenses and ID cards, but not commercial driver licenses (CDLs) or CDL learner permits.

Secretary White also encouraged Illinoisans to utilize the Secretary of State’s website at www.cyberdriveillinois.com for routine business like purchasing license plate stickers. White’s office says online transactions have gone up by 75% since last summer and encourages use of the service as a way to avoid having to wait in line or make an in-person visit to an SOS facility.

Unemployment declined slightly in February

Illinois’ economic recovery from the pandemic continued in February according to numbers released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). IDES reported that unemployment fell by 0.3% in the month, finishing at a level of 7.4%. In all, 21,000 non-farm jobs were created in Illinois in February.

The “Leisure and Hospitality” sector finally showed some gains, adding 32,300 jobs after being among the hardest hit parts of the economy during the pandemic. Construction jobs declined by 5600 and business services fell by 4500 in February.

Illinois still has a way to go, however, as we trail the national average unemployment rate of 6.2%. Compared to one year ago – the last report issued before the pandemic and the shutdowns – Illinois unemployment is more than double its February 2020 rate of 3.6%, reflecting a loss of 461,200 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, remains the hardest-hit sector, down by 185,700 jobs since last year.

Two more bills out of committee, but not quite finalized

Last Friday was the deadline for advancing House bills out of committee and onto the House floor for further discussion. I succeeded in getting nine bills through the committee process this year. I have told you about many of them over the past few weeks. Two of those nine moved on to the House floor, but will still require some more work before they are ready for a final House vote. We are trying to work collaboratively with all the interested parties to craft the best piece of legislation possible before bringing it up for a final vote.

House Bill 165 will set up a study by the Prairie Research Institute of the University of Illinois into carbon capture, utilization and storage technology in Illinois. The U.S. Department of Energy is working on 30 research projects in the state of Illinois today. Our study would bring together scientists, state agencies, landowners, business and labor to find out the best way to utilize this new method of preventing air pollution and make Illinois a leader in carbon capture technology. The House Energy and Environment committee voted 29-0 to move the bill to the House floor.

Another bill which cleared committee was House Bill 3928 to create the Illinois Thirty-by-Thirty Conservation Task Force. Its goal is to review and make recommendations to the General Assembly about the best ways we can conserve land in Illinois, with an eye toward conserving and protecting 30% of land in Illinois by 2030. The task force would submit its report by January 1, 2023. This bill was approved on an 8-0 vote in the State Government Administration committee.

We will continue to work with all involved stakeholders to perfect these bills until they are ready for passage. The deadline for passing House bills over to the Senate is April 23.

Donating the pay raise

I pledged that I would not accept the pay raise which legislators were given a couple of years ago. Instead I am donating the increase of my paycheck each month to a no-profit serving the people of the 106th district. Recently I made a donation to Bruce Tallyn of Benson to help with their Legion Hall and Community Center. This facility is the center of activities for the entire community. They host everything from fire department breakfasts to chicken dinners and a host of other important events.

Later I donated another pay raise check to Anita Melgoza and Cindy Guttendorf at the food bank in Gilman. They do a great job of reaching out to the community with their service. Food pantries have been especially affected by the pandemic as demand for their services has surged with so many people losing their jobs over the past year. I was glad to support them in their important work.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $5,203,542,474 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.4 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 $141 billion.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health reports another death in Livingston County

Some Illinois unemployment fraud victims have state income tax refund stripped away

Did you miss my Facebook Live conversation with Rep. Mark Batinick and Rep. Dan Ugaste about Reimagine Illinois? Click here to watch the video.

IDOT, ISP remind motorcyclists to “Ride Smart”

Self-regulating traffic signal heater named “Coolest Thing Made in Illinois”

State historic sites to host Walk, Hike and Bike History tours in Springfield beginning April 10

DNR launches new website to encourage habitat protection

To get all the latest news and information from every Illinois state agency, visit the state’s newsfeed website at https://www2.illinois.gov/news. There you will find the latest press releases from state agencies. If you want to receive updates only from the agencies you select, you can sign up to receive state agency news alerts by going to https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/pages/communicationsoptin.aspx and signing up for e-mail news updates.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).