Calls to investigate LaSalle COVID outbreak; Re-opening IDES offices

House calls for investigation into COVID outbreak at LaSalle Veterans Home

The House approved a resolution calling for the Illinois Auditor General to begin a performance audit of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) and its failure to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home last year. More than 200 residents and staff at the facility were sickened by the virus last fall, and 36 people died.

The acting inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services issued a report that blamed the severity of the outbreak on a series of mistakes by IDVA personnel at the facility, including poor preparation, communication and training as well as failure to utilize proper infectious disease protocols once the outbreak was discovered.

State government must do better when it comes to protecting the health of the veterans who reside in these facilities.

Calls growing for state’s unemployment offices to reopen

More than 450,000 Illinoisans are out of work, an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent. This is an improvement from where we stood a year ago, but it is still far too high. This high unemployment rate is made worse by the problems far too many Illinoisans have had in accessing unemployment assistance due to the chaos at the Department of Employment Security (IDES) throughout last year. While many state offices in Springfield will be re-opening on Monday, IDES offices remain closed to the public. A bipartisan House resolution has been introduced calling for IDES offices to re-open immediately and begin restoring services to the public.

Over the past year we have learned that quite a lot of work can be done remotely. My district offices have been assisting hundreds of local residents who have contacted us by phone, letter or e-mail during the pandemic. But this problem at IDES is of such severity and has gone on for so long that the current system of using the phone hotline or website and then waiting for a response is clearly not working.

Another resolution calls for the Auditor General to look into the way IDES has administered the unemployment insurance program. It was unanimously adopted by a House committee. The unemployment trust fund is currently more than $5 billion in debt, which Illinois taxpayers will have to pay back, possibly through higher taxes on employers, lower benefits to the unemployed, or some combination of both.

House honors fallen heroes, local ag leader, county official

This week the House passed four joint resolutions which I sponsored to honor some heroic Illinoisans. House Joint Resolution 29 would rename a section of Illinois Route 251 around Minonk as the Corporal Joseph C. Clegg Memorial Highway to honor a local soldier who lost his life fighting to save the Union at the battle of Vicksburg in 1863. HJR 30 designates Illinois Route 171 in southwestern Cook County as the Atomic Veterans Highway to salute those who suffered ill effects from their participation in nuclear weapons tests during the Cold War.

HJR 31 recognizes a fallen Illinois state trooper who was killed in a 1946 gunfight by naming Illinois Route 9 in Paxton as the Trooper Marvin C. Archer Memorial Road. A fourth resolution, HJR 32, honors a local soldier who lost his life in Vietnam. The legislation designates Illinois Route 47 in Gibson City as the SP4 William Eugene Campbell Memorial Highway. These resolutions now go over to the Senate for further consideration.

The House took a moment Thursday to honor the life of Marvin Perzee of Watseka who passed away in July 2019 after a life dedicated to Illinois agriculture and county fairs. Marvin was active in Iroquois County 4-H for almost 50 years, many of those years as its president. He was an outspoken advocate for county fairs, their funding, their safe operation and their usefulness in promoting Illinois agriculture and education. The resolution the House passed declared May 20 as Marvin Perzee County Fair Day throughout the state.

We also honored the life of Phyllis Ann Jameson who passed away on April 23. She was the first woman to hold the office of coroner in Iroquois County. She also briefly served as Iroquois County Sheriff in 1980, the first woman to hold that post as well. In 1985 she was elected to lead the Illinois Coroner’s Association and led the effort to make continuing education training compulsory for all coroners in Illinois. After retiring as coroner she served on the county board for another ten years.

House Republicans call for redistricting transparency, Democrats go behind closed doors

This week WCIA’s capitol correspondent Mark Maxwell ran an eye-opening story about the locked room in which the Democrats are drawing the districts for Illinois legislators. Despite promises of transparency, the people of Illinois are being locked out of the process of drawing districts. Click here for the story from WCIA, and click here for the response of Republican members of the redistricting committee.

Breakfast stop in Buckley

It’s been great to see so many of our local restaurants open once again as we continue to recover from the pandemic shutdowns. Over the weekend I enjoyed the opportunity to have breakfast with Peggy, Scott and Wilmer at Peggy Sue Restaurant in Buckley. It was nice to see everyone.

May is Motorcycle Awareness Month

With the warmer weather we see more motorcyclists out on Illinois’ roadways. This month has been proclaimed as Motorcycle Awareness Month in the state of Illinois to encourage all motorists, those on two wheels and those on four, to “unite in the safe sharing of roadways throughout the great state of Illinois.”

The Governor’s proclamation, crafted in cooperation with ABATE, calls on Illinois motorists to “be aware of motorcycles on the roadways and recognize the importance of motorcycle safety.” It also recognizes the contributions which motorcyclists have made to national and community charitable organizations. Please be alert while driving and remember to help keep our motorcyclists safe!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,800,615,424 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.1 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.

Happy Mothers Day!

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health

Click here to see my conversation with Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association

State’s top court asked to decide if it’s time to shoot down FOID cards

Breach reported by Attorney General’s office confirmed to be ransomware attack

Indications looking good for Illinois State Fairs this summer

Federal REAL ID deadline extended to May 3, 2023

IDFPR releases consumer Frequently Asked Questions about the Predatory Loan Prevention Act

IDNR opens applications until May 31 for next class of conservation police officers

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.