Hearings into Pontiac prison status; Farmers market bill signed

Calling for hearings on Pontiac Correctional Center status

On the heels of our very successful town hall meeting last week in Pontiac, a bipartisan group of legislators from around the area is calling on House and Senate oversight committees to hold hearings into the status of the Pontiac Correctional Center and the Department of Corrections’ (IDOC) refusal to answer questions from legislators and the public. We wrote to the chairwomen of the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee to ask them to convene a joint hearing of the two committees to get answers from IDOC.

Director Rob Jeffreys said he would come to Pontiac to answer questions from the public, but then he backed out. Since he won’t provide answers to the public or to area legislators, maybe he will be willing to talk to the legislative committees with oversight of IDOC. We are calling for transparency in these decisions which affect not only those who work at Pontiac, but also their families and the community as a whole. We need clear and consistent answers and an end to the secrecy. I will keep you posted as we continue our efforts.

Farmers’ market legislation signed into law

Governor Pritzker has signed into law a bill I sponsored to ease the permitting process for vendors at farmers markets in Illinois. Under Senate Bill 3838, the qualifications and fees for obtaining a permit to be a vendor at a farmers’ market are standardized so that farmers and other vendors have fewer hoops to jump through in order to sell their products at farmers’ markets.

The bill passed both houses unanimously. It was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Dave Koehler, and was supported by the Farm Bureau and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. I appreciate the hard work everyone put into this effort to make things run a little smoother for vendors at our farmers’ markets.

Study finds Illinois is America’s third-most corrupt state

An annual report by the University of Illinois at Chicago has found that for the third year in a row, Chicago is the most corrupt city in America, and Illinois is the nation’s third most corrupt state. The report was compiled by former Chicago Alderman Dick Simpson, who is now a professor at the university, and is based on U.S. Department of Justice public corruption statistics.

Simpson cited “the sheer number and political stature of the Illinois elected officials and business leaders who are implicated, indicted or convicted,” and called the figure “staggering.” The recent indictments include multiple state legislators, including the former Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan who has pled not guilty to a 22-count federal corruption indictment.

This corruption affects every single Illinoisan in many ways, from backroom deals which lead to wasteful spending of taxpayer money, to poor delivery of government services. We need to stop delaying and enact real ethics reform now.

State of Illinois still investing funds in Russia

After Russia invaded Ukraine I joined with many other members of the House in sponsoring legislation to divest Illinois assets from investments in Russia. Illinois taxpayer funds should not be going to help Vladimir Putin’s regime. We introduced legislation, House Bill 5705, to add Russian companies to list of restricted companies for the purpose of investment of Illinois pension funds. In the closing week of session, a very similar bill, House Bill 1293, passed the House unanimously, but did not get called for a vote in the Senate.

This means that in spite of the images that we have seen on TV, and the strong statements made by many public officials, Illinois has not taken the action it needs to in order to stop funds from flowing to Russia. I was proud to co-sponsor the first bill to stop these investments, and proud to support the bipartisan bill which passed the House. It is a real disappointment that we could not get this bill across the finish line.

Congratulations Dr. Jancek!

The Dwight community came together on Saturday night to congratulate Dr. Richard Jancek, long-time Superintendent of Dwight Public Schools on his retirement. Deb Karch attended to present a certificate from the General Assembly to commemorate his 33 years of educational service and leadership. Nick Stipanovich, President of Dwight Grade School Board of Education and Tim Henson, President of Dwight Township High School Board of Education were on hand to celebrate Dr. Jancek’s great leadership! Congratulations!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,391,538,723 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.4 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?

Here are some statistics about the Land of Lincoln from the Illinois Blue Book. As of 2020 there were 107 airports in the state of Illinois. Our state has 15,969 miles of highway and 9,982 miles of railroad. Illinois has a total of 48 community colleges and nine public universities which are spread over 12 campuses.

More news from around the state

Records show Dept. of Employment Security lost $1.2 million in taxpayer money to fraudsters

What happened to ethics reform in Illinois government? Why watchdogs have some hope

New audit faults performance of Department of Children and Family Services

Senior Illinoisan Hall of Fame nominations due soon