Latest News

New legislation increases veterans services, honors Gold Star families
Several pieces of legislation to aid Illinois veterans have been signed into law over the past couple of weeks. The bills provide needed assistance to veterans and their families and honor to those who have sacrificed so much for our country and our state.

Two more bills signed into law
I am proud to report that two more of my bills have been signed into law. House Bill 4603 helps local governments cut down on excessive paperwork by allowing county boards to have the option of requiring a report from their public defenders quarterly rather than monthly. It was an idea presented to me by the Livingston County Board and I was glad to see it make its way all the way through the process.

Lots of action affecting agriculture in the spring session
The stopgap budget passed by the General Assembly, as well as some other legislation passed by both houses and expected to be signed into law this summer will affect agriculture in Illinois. Among the items in the budget was funding to make sure that important functions such as health and safety inspections of meat and eggs will not be interrupted. The budget provides $5 million for Soil and Water Conservation Districts and conservation programs. It includes the same level of funding for county fairs as did the FY15 budget. There is also $13 million for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension program.

As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).

New State job-creation agency is officially unveiled 

‘Intersect Illinois’,  the name of the new agency, reflects our state’s position as a focus of U.S. nationwide transportation infrastructure.  Intersect Illinois was created as a spinoff from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and will be in charge of “selling” Illinois to potential job creators.  

Though just officially named and unveiled by the Governor’s office, Intersect Illinois has already begun selling Illinois as a place to work and invest. Last week, Amazon.com announced their decision to open a new 750,000-square-foot order fulfillment center in Romeoville.

Illinois State Police reports on implementation of concealed carry law

 In 2013, Illinois became the 50th and final state to allow the concealed carrying of guns by license, permit, or as a right.  In Illinois, persons seeking to carry a concealed firearm must undergo training and get a license from the State Police, including instruction in firearm safety.  More than 181,000 Illinois residents had obtained concealed carry licenses as of June 1, 2016.
 
There may be some tweaks ahead for the new law.  Gun owners continue to be concerned about interstate concealed-carry permissions and reciprocity with other states. Some states, such as Arizona, allow persons to carry concealed weapons as a right without a training or licensure requirement.  On the other hand, some other states (led by California and New York) have tougher concealed-carry licensure requirements than Illinois, and so may be hesitant to honor an Illinois license.
New process now in use for drivers’ license renewals
Illinois drivers looking to renew their licenses should take note of some new processes now in place at the Secretary of State’s office. One key change, mandated by the federal government, is an end to the practice of presenting each driver with a new license on-site when the renewal procedure is completed. The REAL ID law requires all new drivers’ licenses to be manufactured in guarded, secured facilities. In Illinois, drivers who successfully renew their licenses at a Driver Services facility will get their old license back with a hole punched through them, accompanied by an additional 45-day paper slip of successful renewal. The old license will remain temporarily valid through the 45-day period. The driver should carry both the old license and the paper slip.

As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).

Despite bad news, some accomplishments in the past year
We have all heard the bad news out of Springfield on an almost daily basis: budget standoff, credit downgrades, the unpaid bill backlog. But there has also been some good news to report from the past months. While we still have a lot of work to do, there have also been some successes.

As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106) Watseka.

New School Funding Reform Commission Appointed

The commission will be composed of five designees from the Governor’s administration and each of the four legislative leaders. Secretary of Education Beth Purvis will serve as chairperson.  

There’s no question that our current school aid formula is outdated and leads to large funding inequities from district to district. The overreliance on property taxes is also a tremendous burden on local homeowners.  The new Commission is charged with coming up with a recommended comprehensive solution to reform Illinois’ school funding formula.  A report is to be presented to the Governor and the Illinois General Assembly by February 1, 2017 with action to be taken in time for the 2017-2018 school year.