Rep. Bennett greeted Governor Rauner on the House Floor Thursday. Thursday evening, the governor signed into law the emergency FY15 budget provisions passed by the House earlier in the week.

Statement of State Rep. Tom Bennett on House Bills 317 and 318, the emergency FY 15 budget measures advanced today by the Illinois House:

“It’s very unfortunate that former Governor Quinn advanced and signed a budget that he knew was more than $1 billion out of balance to avoid making difficult decisions before the election, but that’s the situation we have to deal with,” said Representative Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City).  “The ‘fix’ advanced by the House today isn’t perfect, but it’s necessary. It provides Governor Rauner the flexibility he needs to fund crucial services such as child care and court reporters through the end of the fiscal year in June.”

To ensure local families, groups and organizations are involved in the legislative decision making process, State Representative Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) is forming local Advisory Committees. The new 106th District Agricultural Advisory Committee has held its first meeting, and set priorities, Rep. Bennett said.

“As bills and budgets are being discussed this spring we need to make sure local families and groups are included in the conversation. That’s what my new advisory groups are all about,” Bennett said. “My focus on agriculture goes back to my roots growing up on a farm in Gibson City. Farming practices should be profitable and safe for the environment.  Farmers need to be able to provide a safe food supply for both current and future needs.”

School Boards in Illinois will be better able to ensure student safety while discussing building security under legislation guided through the Illinois House Thursday by State Representative Tom Bennett. House Bill 1498, Bennett’s first bill passing the House, ensures local school districts have the flexibility they need to thoroughly discuss measures to keep students and staff safe from threats of harm.

“The current language of the Open Meetings Act presented school boards with a serious dilemma. As they interpret the Act, it requires them to discuss security planning, including reports about where their buildings are specifically vulnerable, in open, public session. Obviously, that could put students and staff at risk and needs to be clarified.”
Rep. Bennett and Judy Jo Arbour present their SIDS education enhancement
 to the House Human Services Committee
New parents in Illinois will be ensured to leave the hospital with good, updated information on how to protect their newborn from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) under legislation guided through the House Human Services Committee Wednesday by State Representative Tom Bennett. Bennett (R-Gibson City) won unanimous committee approval of House Bill 1407, ensuring that the materials on SIDS prevention new parents receive at the hospital will include information developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics or a statewide or nationally recognized SIDS or medical association.

“As we continue to learn more about SIDS, prevention information continues to evolve as well. It’s crucial that new parents leave the hospital armed with the best, most reliable information available on how they can protect their child from SIDS,” Representative Bennett said.

Rep. Bennett (left) and Superintendent Daniel Hollowell  discuss
House Bill 1498 in the House State Government Administration Committee
State Representative Tom Bennett today advanced legislation in the Illinois House ensuring local school districts have the flexibility they need to thoroughly discuss measures to keep students and staff safe from threats of harm. House Bill 1498 won unanimous approval in the House State Government Administration Committee. A former educator, Rep. Bennett said it’s fitting that his first bill presented in committee is aimed at keeping students safe.

 “It’s a very unfortunate reality today that schools need to have security measures in place, and specific plans to deal with threats of violence in their buildings. Keeping students and staff safe must be the only concern in these situations. My legislation simply clarifies that school boards may go into executive session to discuss security details if they feel that’s what they need to do to best ensure everyone’s safety,” Rep. Bennett said.

 Representative Bennett stressed that his legislation simply clarifies an existing exemption under the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The Act includes 32 reasons why a public body may hold a closed meeting, including allowing for discussions of “security procedures and the use of personnel and equipment to respond to an actual, a threatened, or a reasonably potential danger to the safety of employees, students, staff, the public, or public property.”  This exemption, as it applies to school boards, has however been legally interpreted by some to only allow for closed meetings to discuss actual, existing threats, not preventive planning. Daniel Hollowell, Superintendent of Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53, told committee members that clarification is critical.

“Our district recently conducted a thorough assessment of our buildings’ security, resulting in a 200 page report detailing our vulnerabilities as well as potential solutions. Having to discuss our specific vulnerabilities in public puts our students and staff at risk,” Superintendent Hollowell said.

House Bill 1498 clarifies the language in the Open Meetings Act to ensure school boards are permitted to discuss preventive security planning in closed meeting.  Having cleared the State Government Administration Committee, it now advances to the floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives.