Several Bennett bills pass the House; Unemployment rate down

Deadline week in the Illinois House

Today is the deadline for House bills to be voted on in the House of Representatives, and I am proud to report that six of my bills have passed and will move over to the Senate.

Five of my bills passed the House last week. These bills included legislation to protect the rights of adults who are wards of the state (HB 263 and 266), to honor the service of veterans who were exposed to radiation from Cold War atomic tests (HB 285), to enhance the safety of motorcycle passengers (HB 656) and to recognize Air Force combat veterans (HB 657).

This week the House passed my carbon capture legislation, House Bill 165, which would set up a study through the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute to look into the feasibility of using carbon capture technology to prevent carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere. It would instead be converted to liquid and pumped deep underground where Illinois’ sandstone geology makes our state well-positioned to become a leader in this industry, with all the environmental benefits and job creation potential that come with it.

House Bill 3928, which passed on Thursday, creates a Thirty-by-Thirty conservation task force to make recommendations to the General Assembly concerning strategies to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and water resources by 2030. The idea for this bill was presented to me by a local high school teacher, Paul Ritter, and two students, Emilie Collins and Keagan Hall from Pontiac Township High School, who will be among the members of the task force. Once implemented, the task force will hold listening sessions throughout the state to help develop their recommendations. The House also passed House Bill 2533 last night to extend the statute of limitations on prosecuting perjury and to fight against wrongful convictions.

I was proud to vote in support of a bipartisan bill which places term limits on how long someone may serve as a legislative leader, something which is long overdue. On the other hand, however, it has been very frustrating to once again see progress blocked on bills dealing with important subjects like property tax relief, ethics reform and improving our jobs climate.

The next step in the legislative process is for bills which have passed one chamber to be reviewed in the other chamber. So next week we will begin looking at Senate bills which are now arriving in the House, while the Senate will consider those bills which have passed the House. The spring session is scheduled to adjourn on May 31.

Unemployment continues its gradual decline

The Illinois economy has been gradually improving since the depths of the pandemic-related shutdowns last spring as more Illinoisans are able to return to work. In March 2021 Illinois’ unemployment rate declined three-tenths of a point to 7.1%. In all, 32,200 non-farm jobs were created in the month.

The largest growth occurred in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector of the economy which includes businesses like restaurants and hotels. There were 13,700 leisure and hospitality jobs created in the state last month. Illinois also added 6300 construction jobs in March as the housing construction market picked up steam.

But as we have seen month after month, Illinois is still trailing behind the pace of the national recovery which started last summer. Nationally the unemployment rate stands at 6%.

Thank you to our volunteers!

This week has been designated National Volunteer Week, a chance to honor and thank those who have given of their time to make their communities better places to live.

Each of our lives has been positively impacted by volunteers. Whether it is a youth sports coach, a person who helps clean up a local park, someone who donates their time to their town’s food pantry, or those who rush to help after a disaster, these are just some of the many ways we have seen people volunteer in our community. The spirit of volunteerism and of helping one’s neighbors is one of the things that makes our district such a great place to live.

So today I thank all those who donate their time to help their neighbors and who work so hard to improve the quality of life for all those living in the dozens of cities and villages in the 106th district. Thank you for what you do, and thank you for your commitment to the community.

Vaccination center in Iroquois County

Thank you to Dee Schippert of the Iroquois County Department of Public Health, Sergeant Major Michael Freed and about 34 other members of the Illinois National Guard for assisting with vaccinations at the Iroquois County Fairgrounds on Monday. They were there much of the day providing vaccines to local residents. It was a great partnership and great teamwork. Thanks to the health department workers and the members of the National Guard for all they are doing for our community and the state.

Anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible to receive a vaccination, so please reach out to your local health department or visit coronavirus.illinois.gov to find out how to sign up.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,099,689,705 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 $141 billion.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health reports deaths in Vermilion and Woodford Counties

Hear my podcast discussion about legislation to eliminate FOID and CCL renewals

Questions and answers about Reimagine Illinois

Democrats may use population estimates for redistricting, raising questions about fairness of maps

More than 25% of Illinois’ population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Community colleges in Illinois now have option to provide free COVID tests to residents

This year’s Illinois State Scholars include many outstanding students from our district

New small business and nonprofit tax credit for vaccination support

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).