Education bills pass; Standing with Ukraine

Bennett-sponsored education bills pass House

I am proud to be the lead sponsor and the chief co-sponsor of a pair of bipartisan bills to help our schools. Both passed the House with wide bipartisan majorities.

I have been working for several months on a bill to help Illinois schools get funding for facilities construction. The current system is clearly not working: it has been more than eight years since schools received any kinds of grants from the General Assembly for new construction.

House Bill 3637 improves our system by making a number of changes which were recommended by a school construction task force formed to study the issue. Our bill sets up a new program for K-12 school construction requests to make the process work better for school districts once funding becomes available from the state.

The legislation is proof that bipartisanship can and does exist in Springfield: my two lead co-sponsors were Democratic House Speaker Chris Welch and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. I hope that this can be a model for the kind of bipartisan cooperation needed on the other major issues facing Illinois.

Later that same evening the House passed another bipartisan education bill, House Bill 4326, which was requested by our regional superintendents of schools to help them cover the costs of administering the school facility occupation tax. Both bills passed 105-0 and are now awaiting action in the Senate.

Standing with Ukraine

We were all shocked to see the pictures of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. The world has rallied against Russian aggression in Ukraine in the days since. As state legislators there are a few steps we can take to oppose this assault. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has introduced legislation which would require the state of Illinois to divest any of its pension funds which are invested in Russian companies. Another bill would prohibit the state treasury from holding any Russian assets.

In this way we can help to ensure that taxpayer dollars from Illinois are not going to support Vladimir Putin’s war effort.

Putin’s invasion has caused one of the largest refugee crises in Europe since the end of World War II. Refugees from the conflict have been streaming into neighboring countries and some will likely make their way here to Illinois. To assist those in need, my colleague Rep. Tom Demmer has filed legislation to include $20 million in the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget for this fiscal year and next to help resettle Ukrainian refugees who come to Illinois.

The DHS refugee resettlement program has helped more than 100,000 refugees from over 60 countries since it was created in 1975. The program offers help with learning English, vocational training and job placement, counseling, orientation and multi-lingual health services.

DNR reports final totals on 2021-2022 deer season

With the conclusion of the final weekend of deer hunting season in Illinois, the Department of Natural Resources has released its tabulation of the total number of deer harvested between bowhunting, shotgun, muzzle-loader, youth and other hunting seasons. In total, hunters in Illinois reported taking 147,004 deer this year.

That number is down from the 162,752 deer harvested a year ago. In our area, Vermilion County led the way with 1731 deer reported. Woodford was next at 1390. Hunters in Iroquois County took 897 deer, followed by Livingston at 683 and Ford County with 165.

Some answers from DOC, Job Fair in Pontiac March 15

A few weeks ago I told you about efforts I have been making in cooperation with several other Representatives and Senators to get answers from the Department of Corrections (DOC) about their plans for the future of the Pontiac Correctional Center.

We received a reply which answered some of our questions but left some others in need of further clarity. One key takeaway was this sentence: “This will result in neither the closure of the facility or layoffs.”

We have since followed up with the director to make sure that the people of Livingston County get the full and complete answers they deserve about this important facility.

In the meantime, DOC will be hosting a job fair at the Pontiac Rec Center on Tuesday March 15 starting at 7:30 a.m. The Center is located at 900 N. Elm Street. DOC is hiring for positions such as correctional officer trainees and correctional treatment officer trainees. Applicants must live in Illinois and be a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license. Anyone who is interested can visit or contact the Central Screening Office at (217) 558-4127.

Congratulations Chief Henson!

Congratulations to Dwight Police Chief Tim Henson as he celebrates his retirement after 35 years of service. A few days ago there was a celebration for Chief Henson along with his family, friends and law enforcement. There was a wonderful turnout and support for Tim’s dedication and commitment to the Dwight community and Livingston County! I was honored to join new Dwight Police Chief Mike Nolan, Chief Henson and Mayor Paul Johnson to present Chief Henson a certificate from the General Assembly to help add to the celebration.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,711,589,949 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.4 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.

Did You Know?

One hundred years ago the Illinois General Assembly contained 51 Senators and 153 Representatives (today it is 59 Senators and 118 Representatives). Rep. Gotthard Dahlberg of Chicago was chosen as Speaker of the House, leading a 95-58 Republican majority. Under the state Constitution in effect at that time the Lieutenant Governor, Fred Sterling of Rockford, was President of the Senate. The legislature had its usual collection of lawyers, farmers and businessmen but also included a barber, a druggist and a cigar manufacturer. That year’s state budget totaled $170 million. This year’s proposal is over $45 billion.

More news from around the state

How to watch virtual House committee hearings

Gas prices up across the country; Illinois gas has risen 46 cents over the week

Former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton pleads guilty to embezzling from Teamsters

Nominate a product to be named the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois

Farm Bureau’s Young Leader award applicants sought