School Mask Mandates, New FOID requirements, Energy Bill Impasse

Statewide Mask Mandate for Schools

Governor JB Pritzker has issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 students in all Illinois public and private schools.

The Governor’s new order, announced Wednesday, mandates that masks be worn indoors at all times in all Illinois public and private schools and day care settings.  Students from pre-school through 12th grade will be required to wear masks, including while participating in indoor sports events.

COVID is real, and we need to be concerned about it. However, once again, Governor Pritzker is imposing one-size-fits-all mandates on our very diverse state. Last year’s statewide lockdowns and other mandates made it very clear that what works in some Illinois communities is actually counter-productive in others.  The Governor is dictating orders without input from legislators, local elected officials, or the families themselves whose lives he’s impacting. What’s worse, he is taking away parents’ right to make healthcare decisions for their children as young as pre-school age.

After living through a global pandemic for the last 18 months, we are still very much all in this together. Our goal remains the same: stop the spread of COVID-19. In order to do that efficiently and effectively, all parties should be at the drawing table not stuck under unilateral authority. Please sign this petition here to share your views and let Governor Pritzker know that you want your voice heard. You can also reach out to the Governor directly by visiting this link or calling 217-782-0244. 

While petitions speak volumes, please know that I am also available to meet with you in person—or virtually—to discuss this issue further. Feel free to contact me at my office.

New FOID Requirements

The Governor this week signed House Bill 562 into law which, unfortunately, imposes new restrictions/requirements on gun owners throughout Illinois. The measure was touted by supporters as a “FOID fix”, but I voted against it in the House because in truth it is not a “fix”.

New requirements include expanding the use of fingerprinting of FOID/CCL applicants; and also requiring person to person firearms transfers to be subject to NICS check at a federal licensed firearms dealer (an additional $25 fee may be charged.).

As with many gun control measures that come before us in the House, most of the changes in this bill target law abiding gun owners.  Illegal dealers and criminals obviously won’t be following any restrictions we pass.

There is one bright spot in the legislation that will allow for implementation of electronic FOID and CCL cards. Going electronic is a positive and necessary step. I’m afraid, however, that with the additional requirements imposed on applicants and the State Police, it may not do much to alleviate the lengthy application backlog. I’ll keep you informed of further developments.

Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Costs Taxpayers More than $150 Million

A report from the Illinois Auditor General has found numerous errors in the distribution of federal pandemic assistance funds from the Illinois Department of Employment Security—to the tune of nearly $155 million! Thousands of people who received these funds were younger than 13, deceased, or non-existent. Read more here.

Energy Deal Impasse

It now appears there will be no deal on a new state energy bill before summer’s end. State labor leaders this week declared an impasse on negotiations with environmental groups. Some of the main sticking points include prevailing wage and reduced carbon standards.

Meanwhile, two Exelon power plants have announced they will cease operation.

Big issues are at stake here: Changes in environmental standards and plant closures impact thousands of jobs. The reliability of our power grids also hang in the balance, which is a concern for every family in Illinois. Any deal that is struck MUST maximize the safety and reliability of our energy supply and protect good jobs.

Online Drivers’ License Renewal Program Expanded

Here’s a bit of good news…Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that online drivers’ license and ID renewal programs offered through his office are being expanded. With the current COVID delta variant concerns and long in-person wait times at Drivers’ Services Offices you may want to consider doing simple renewals online. Details are here.

What we Owe

According to the State Comptroller’s website, as of this writing Illinois currently has a General Fund Backlog of bills requiring payment of $3.765 billion. In addition, we owe $1.928 billion in short term and emergency borrowing that must be repaid. The total number of vouchers (bill payments) currently backlogged is 15, 016.

Around the District

I was glad to provide a Springfield update and discuss future ideas for our state with the Hoopeston Lions Club earlier this week. Great discussion with an enjoyable group, and I’m pleased to report that lots of activities are being planned for the upcoming Sweet Corn Festival over Labor Day Weekend.
My Watseka office Legislative Aide Claire Bossong and I were able to spend some quality time with Dennis Clatterbuck, Jim Sweeney, and others exploring the Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area and the northeast corner of Iroquois County. What a beautiful area! This area and our county are impacted by the rivers in Indiana.