State Police anniversary; One week of session remaining

State Police celebrate 100th birthday

Today is the 100th birthday of the Illinois State Police. The state’s premier traffic safety and law enforcement agency was created on April 1, 1922, by Governor Len Small to enforce the weight limits on the newly-built state highways. The force originally consisted of just eight sworn officers riding motorcycles left over from World War I. But as the highway network grew and more Illinoisans started taking to the roads, the role of the State Police soon expanded into enforcement of highway speed laws.

Over the decades the ISP took on even more responsibilities, including helping local law enforcement with major crime investigations, providing laboratory services, countering drugs, gangs and human trafficking, and even playing a part in the fight against terrorism, just to name a few. Over the last 100 years, 72 Illinois state troopers have lost their lives in the line of duty. They are remembered at the Illinois State Police Memorial Park in Springfield.

One of these fallen troopers was Trooper Albert Hasson, the first Illinois state trooper who died in the line of duty. He was struck by a car while on patrol near the city of Chenoa on September 7, 1924. This week we adopted a resolution to designate U.S. Route 24 in Chenoa the “Trooper Albert Hasson Memorial Highway.”

April 1, 2022, is recognized as Illinois State Trooper Day throughout the state as we remember the service and the sacrifices of our state troopers and thank them for all they do for us.

One week left in spring session

The House and Senate are scheduled to complete their work and adjourn for the summer one week from today, on Friday April 8. We are usually in session until May 31, but planned construction on the Capitol building has forced us to shorten the schedule this year. With a week to go, there are many priorities that still need to be acted upon.

Every year our most important task is passing a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. So far this year we have received a budget proposal from Governor Pritzker which seeks to increase spending even though we expect to take in less money. Committees have been holding hearings on the different parts of the budget, but no legislation has yet emerged to fund the state for the next year. If previous years are any indication, this could be a warning sign that we are going to see another multi-thousand page budget bill introduced in the dead of night and rushed to passage. Last year’s budget was so rushed that we had to re-convene in special session just to correct a serious drafting error that somehow slipped through. I hope there will be more transparency and more review this year.

We need to act to clean up the severe deficiencies affecting the Department of Children and Family Services. The director of DCFS was recently held in contempt of court for the eighth time due to children in DCFS care being kept in psychiatric hospitals beyond any medical necessity for them to do so.

The year began with a promise from the House Speaker that we would see a sweeping anti-crime package to counter the rising crime throughout Illinois. I have been part of the Republican effort to offer suggestions and legislation that could be part of this much-needed package, but so far our bills have not been allowed to be discussed in committees. The Speaker has not yet put forward his plan, and time is running out for us to review it before voting on it. A big part of the crime problem in Illinois has to do with a policing bill which was introduced at 3 a.m. on the last day of session and passed before noon, long before anyone had time to review it. We should not make that mistake again.

With one week of session to go, we have a lot of work to do.

Illinois unemployment rate stands at 4.8%

The latest monthly unemployment report showed Illinois continuing its slow recovery from the pandemic shutdowns as unemployment slipped to 4.8% in February, down by 0.2% from January. Sectors leading the job growth in Illinois during February included trade, transportation, utilities, manufacturing, leisure & hospitality, education and health services.

But, as always, this good news comes with a warning. The unemployment rate in Illinois remains higher than the national rate, which currently comes in at 3.8%. We continue to trail neighboring states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa which have advantages over us because of their lower taxes and friendly job-creation climates. Illinois has to become more friendly to job creators or we will continue to lag behind.

Enjoying pancakes in Forrest

Over the weekend I stopped in to see some friends at the pancake breakfast at the American Legion in Forrest. There was good food and important conversations about everything from our schools to the latest on the Pontiac prison to the beginning of the spring planting season. They had a great turnout from the community. Thank you to the Legion for all the hard work that goes into putting on such a nice event.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,385,262,681 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.

Did You Know?

The renovations underway in the state Capitol building are just the latest in the structure’s 150-year history. Since construction began in 1868 the building has been remodeled many times, with different agencies and offices moving in and out. In the late 19th century nearly all of state government was headquartered in the building, everything from the Governor and the legislature to the Supreme Court, state militia, state museum and such agencies as the Board of Live Stock Commissioners.

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