Looking for answers on masks; First day with no COVID deaths

Residents asking if students must wear masks in school this fall

One question which is on the minds of many people in our area and throughout the state is whether or not students will be required to wear masks when they return to school this fall. Restrictions have been lifted in most of the state and masks are only required in a few places, such as health care settings and on public transit. The question of whether students – who have mostly been maskless as they participate in their summer activities – must wear masks when they return to school this fall is still up in the air.

Many Illinoisans have been taking the question to their local school boards and superintendents. These local leaders have in turn been waiting on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education. Many school districts are concerned that if they defy guidance from IDPH or ISBE they could be held liable for any illnesses which result, or could put millions of dollars in state funding in jeopardy.

I understand the reluctance of these officials to take that step without a clear go-ahead from the state level. I support a resolution which was introduced last week calling on the state to give local school boards more authority to make these decisions based on local conditions.

This week I reached out to ISBE to ask for a clear answer for our local schools on the question of requiring masks for students this fall. Students need to be back in school in person every day, and parents and school leaders need to know what precautions they will need to take.

State reports first zero-death day from COVID since March 2020

On Monday the Illinois Department of Public Health reported zero deaths in the state due to COVID-19. It was the first time that the state reported no COVID deaths in Illinois since March of 2020. In all, 23,272 Illinoisans have died of COVID according to IDPH. The number of cases in Illinois has been steadily falling since the vaccine rollout began about six months ago, though new cases continue to be reported every day.

While this is good news, it does not mean the danger has completely passed. On Tuesday the state reported 16 deaths. Just over 56% of those eligible to be vaccinated in Illinois are now fully vaccinated, with 64% having received at least one dose. If you have not yet been vaccinated you can find the list of vaccination locations here.

What happens when bills pass both houses?

Last week I told you about the more than 600 bills which passed the House and Senate this year. They ranged from major bills like the state budget to a small bill which corrected a spelling error in an earlier bill. But once a bill passes the House and the Senate, what happens next?

Under the state Constitution, when a bill passes both houses the originating house has 30 days to send it to the Governor for his review. For the most part this 30 day period has passed. Just a small number of the bills which passed on that one session day in mid-June are still in the hands of the General Assembly. One of these is House Bill 165, the bill I sponsored to study carbon capture technology to fight air pollution.

Once a bill is sent to the Governor, he has 60 days to act on it. This is the case for the six other bills I sponsored which passed both houses. For example, House Bill 3928, legislation from the students at Pontiac Township High School to create a 30-by-30 natural resources conservation task force, was sent to the Governor on June 30. He will have until late August to decide whether or not to sign it, though I expect he will. Bills which are signed may become effective immediately or have a different effective date specified within the bill.

The Governor can veto a bill entirely or in part, what is known as an “amendatory veto.” If he does so, it returns to the chamber where it originated and the sponsor can then decide whether to attempt to override the Governor’s veto or in the case of an amendatory veto, whether to accept his suggested changes. We will be back in session starting October 19 to consider any vetoes which might be issued.

I will keep you posted on legislation which is signed or vetoed by the Governor over the course of the summer.

Tour of Evergreen FS

My thanks to CEO and General Manager John Tuttle, Location Manager Mike Legner, Crop Specialist Glenn Zehr and Liz Hobart for a tour of the Evergreen FS facility in Pontiac on Tuesday. I appreciate their never-ending focus on technology and improving efficiencies. We have indeed come a very long way!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,906,358,574 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.2 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

How Illinois failed to stop a flood of unemployment fraud

Work along Illinois Route 9 starting Monday

Illinois Secretary of State’s office warns against text ‘phishing’ scams

State courts prepare to resume normal operations

Ameren Illinois forgives more than $29 million in past-due bills

DNR reminding Illinoisans to keep bird feeders and baths clean to protect bird populations

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.