Illinois Agriculture Director Nelson was in Watseka this week, joining Rep. Bennett to tour flooded fields and survey damage to farms in Iroquois County. Officials say parts of the county received more than 11 inches of rain in recent days.

Officials estimate 40% of crops in Iroquois County have standing water. Federal agencies, such as the Farm Service Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency, have been activated to assist local farmers with financial aid and to educate them about other programs for which they may be eligible.

Special thanks to the Lubben Family for hosting this event.
We're back in Springfield again this week, but  I'm afraid there's still no sign of any real progress on negotiating a budget. I'm ready to travel to Springfield as long as it takes, but its a disservice to you and all of our constituents that our time at the Capitol each week is being wasted on Speaker Madigan's seemingly endless political theatre rather than the real work we need to be doing to pass a balanced, full-year budget.

I'll keep you posted.


Democrats send unbalanced partial-month budget to the Governor

As the State of Illinois entered the third week of the new fiscal year without a balanced budget in place, the Democrat majority continued last week to take a piece-meal approach to the budget crisis.
The Illinois Senate concurred with House changes to Senate Bill 2040 an unbalanced partial month budget, and sent it to the Governor.  The plan is basically a partial-month slice of the plan passed earlier in the spring by Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton that, in total, spends more than $36 billion - $4 billion more than we expect to bring in in revenue.

Meanwhile, the Speaker tried but failed to pass yet another unbalanced temporary budget (House Bill 4142).

Year after year of spending money the state doesn’t have is how we got into this mess in the first place. Living within our means is the only way we’ll get out.

State workers’ paychecks go out as court fight continues

Comptroller Leslie Munger has forged ahead with plans to send out full paychecks to state workers this month despite an ongoing court battle over whether public employees can be paid while state government operates without a budget.

Checks went out to 6,800 employees who were due to be paid Wednesday for work performed in the first two weeks of the state's budget year. Others in Illinois' roughly 60,000-person state government workforce are on different pay schedules, and their checks aren't due until later this month.

Following Comptroller Munger’s decision to issue paychecks to state employees, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed an emergency motion for direct appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In the House, my Republican colleagues and I have for two weeks pushed for passage of two bills, House Bill 4235 and House Bill 4245, to make state employees’ pay an ongoing appropriation, making sure no one will miss a paycheck. Speaker Madigan continues to refuse to allow either bill to even be debated on the floor.

Governor Rauner surveys Watseka flooding, activates State Emergency Operations Center

Illinois has certainly had its share of rain and severe weather this spring and summer, including recent flooding in Watseka and some communities near Peoria.  Governor Rauner came to Watseka over the weekend to survey the flood damage. Mayor Bob Harwood, his staff, IEMA, DNR, Red Cross, the Trinity Church and a host of volunteers have done a tremendous job in a challenging time!  Senator Barickman and I are continuing to work with local officials on how the state can help.

Meanwhile, with the potential for more severe weather this summer, the Governor has activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield to ensure state personnel and equipment are ready to be quickly deployed if needed to help local emergency responders with public safety issues. The SEOC will remain activated as long as necessary. For updates on the current situation, visit the Ready Illinois website at

"Happy Hour” is legal again in Illinois

 Governor Rauner has signed Senate Bill 398 into law as P.A. 99-046. The Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act restores “Happy Hour” in Illinois.
The law allows for discounts for up to 4 hours a day and up to 15 hours a week as long as they are promoted a week in advance. The Happy Hour Law does include some limitations on practices such as serving two or more drinks to one person f, increasing the volume of liquor contained in a drink or the size of a drink without proportionally increasing the price regularly charged for that drink.

Update from the City of Watseka and the Watseka Police and Fire Departments:

Governor Bruce Rauner, IEMA Director James Joseph, State Representative Tom Bennet and State Senator Jason Barickman toured Watseka Saturday. Governor Rauner was given a map showing the neighborhoods impacted by the flood waters. They also toured the some of the impacted areas and visited with residents still located at the Red Cross shelter. The Governor and IEMA will use this visit and other information that will be presented through IEMA to consider any further action that might be taken to provide additional assistance to the residents of Watseka.

FEMA is not in town. If anyone represents themselves as a representative of FEMA, they work for FEMA, or they are a contractor for FEMA do not allow them entry to your residence and call 911 and request the police.

Damage Assessment teams covered most of Watseka Saturday. If a door hanger was left on your door please follow the instructions. It is important that your information be collected. This will assist the State in decisions they must make
Information material is available at City Hall, during normal business hours, that will assist you with debris cleanup, how to spot predatory contractors, clean up and mold issues. The City will not recommend any contractors, however, we suggest you use contractors you know. Beware of contractors that just show up at your door. If in doubt please call 911.

There is no longer a curfew in town.

NICOR and Ameren Illinois have policies they must follow when restoring your gas and electric services. The City cannot overrule or change these policies.

For official information concerning this event please refer to, or the Watseka Area Firefighters Association or Watseka Police Department facebook pages.
Watseka flood cleanup: Debris removal protocol via Watseka Police and Fire Departments:



The following items ARE NOT considered household goods and WILL NOT be picked up:

Hazardous material paint flammable material electronics
appliances (stoves, refrigerators, etc)
building and construction material
vehicle parts tires batteries concrete rocks.
If any of the above mentioned items are mixed in with other household debris the items WILL NOT be picked up.

Debris pickup is scheduled to begin Tuesday Morning, July 21, 2015. There will be several other agencies assisting with the debris removal.

All areas affected by flooding will be picked up as soon as possible, please be patient we will get to you.

After the initial cleanup is complete then we will come through the neighborhoods one last time to pickup any items missed.

You may begin setting items at curbside starting today, Friday July 17, 2015
Update from Watseka Police and Fire Departments:

The curfew for areas of Watseka not directly affected by flooding will be lifted at 6 AM Friday July 17, 2015.

Areas still affected by flooding will be kept in the curfew. These areas are:
Oak Street north to Sheridan St and the Union Pacific RR tracks East to 8th Street.
Lafayette St North to Iroquois Street and the West City limits to the Union Pacific RR tracks.
One block either side of West Park Avenue.

Important Message from City Hall:

Until further notice, due to the severe flooding emergency within the City of Watseka, no contractor shall perform any work on any structure within the City of Watseka that was affected by flooding without first registering at City Hall. Each such contractor must be licensed, bonded, and insured to perform the proposed work, and must provide a written estimate for the cost of the work to be performed

Robert Harwood, Mayor
The latest flood update from  Watseka Fire and Police Departments:

Sugar Creek has dropped 10 inches from 6pm to 8am
Iroquois River dropped 9 inches from 6pm to 8am

South Second Street is open all the way out of town.
Walnut street is open from Yount St East out of town
The West Junction REMAINS CLOSED


Watseka Public Works has started to clear debris from the streets where they can.

RECAPPING South Second Street, Route 1 South (from Milford), and Cable Line Road are the only ways in to Watseka at this time.

The Watseka Fire Department is once again handling any assistance calls that we can. Station #1 at 5th st/ Oak st is still staffed and will be for as long as needed.

Curfew is still in effect from 10pm to 6am Daily until July 20.

City Officials will continue developing a Recovery Plan so it will be ready to implement as soon as flood water recede. The City of Watseka will also follow State and Federal Guidelines in an effort to receive additional assistance from the Federal Government. This process does take some time to be completed.

NICOR Gas will require receipts from a licensed service Contractor before gas service will be restored to homes that were turned off.

We stress again that we ask our residents to continue to be patient and stay safe during this flood event.
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 a new law spearheaded by State Representative Tom Bennett.

Bennett’s measure, signed into law Thursday as PA 99-0048 ensures 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.

“Each year we learn more about SIDS, including how best to prevent it. It’s crucial that new parents leave the hospital armed with the most up-to-date and reliable information available on how they can protect their newborns,” Representative Bennett said. “I’m very happy that my first bill signed into law may help save a baby’s life.”

Rep. Bennett talked with WDWS morning hosts Dave and Elizabeth about the state budget stalemate, worker paychecks, local flooding and more. Click here to listen!

Watseka Flooding Update From the American Red Cross-Central Illinois Chapter:

The American Red Cross continues to provide food, shelter and comfort to the flood victims in Watseka.

 The shelter is located in the Trinity Church, 1658 East Walnut Street in Watseka.
Visit for flood safety and recovery tips.

From the Watseka Police and Fire Departments:

Sugar Creek dropped 5 inches over night
Iroquois River dropped 3 inches over night

South Second Street from Mulberry Street (Glenn Raymond School) South is open all the way out of town.

RECAPPING South Second Street, Route 1 South (from Milford), and Cable Line Road are the only ways in to Watseka at this time.

The Watseka Fire Department is once again handling any assistance calls that we can. Station #1 at 5th st/ Oak st is still staffed and will be for as long as needed.

Curfew is still in effect from 10pm to 6am Daily until July 20.

Water Levels are still high in town and the public will not be allowed back into flooded areas due to Continued safety concerns.

City Officials will continue developing a Recovery Plan so it will be ready to implement as soon as flood water recede. The City of Watseka will also follow State and Federal Guidelines in an effort to receive additional assistance from the Federal Government. This process does take some time to be completed.

We stress again that we ask our residents to continue to be patient and stay safe during this flood event.
Representative Bennett has been on scene today in Watseka to lend his office's support to the flood relief efforts.

"We have  great cooperation between the different agencies," Representative Bennett said. "Special thanks to Mayor Bob Harwood, Emergency Management's Aaron Ceci, IEMA, Red Cross, members of the Trinity Church for providing shelter, and the many folks working in front of and behind the scenes. Lot of good work in responding to needs in Watseka!"

Here's the latest update from Watseka first responders:

**Statement from the Watseka Fire Department**

Iroquois River From 730 am to 1130 am went down 1/4 inch.

Sugar Creek from 730 am to 1130 am went down 1 1/2 inches.

Cable line Road (2200 East) Is open from the north And Route 1 from the south are the only routes into Watseka.

Ameren Illinois and NICOR Gas will shut off electric and gas supply ONLY UNDER 2 CONDITIONS:
1. If the Customer requests the service to be shut off.
2. If the Service Representative of either utility determines that a safety issue exists due to flood waters.

The Red Cross has a shelter set up at Trinity Church.

City Wide Curfew is in Effect from 10pm to 6am everyday until July 20th.

Watseka Fire Department will be staffed and open 24 hours a day until there is no longer a need. Phone 815-432-3848 for questions or assistance please don't hesitate to call.

We ask that our residents be patient and most of all safe during this flood event.
Updated information from a City of Watseka press release reported in the Times-Republic.

"...As of today the Watseka Fire Department, assisted from other area departments, has evacuated families from 28 homes on the north and west side of Watseka. Forty-seven families have self-evacuated from the same area. Checks for well-being have been provided to five residences. Evacuations have slowed but still continue.

The American Red Cross shelter at Trinity Church is housing more than 50 people as of today.

Ameren Illinois and NICOR Gas will shut off electric or gas supply under two conditions: If the customer requests the service be shut off, or, if the service representative of either utility determines that a safety issue exists due to the flood waters. Neither utility is randomly shutting off electric or gas supply..." Click here to read the full article.
Representative Bennett today toured several sites in the Watseka area experiencing flooding. Mayor Bob Harwood is executing plans to help deal with the rising water. Some major roads are impacted. Approximately 20 homes have been evacuated so far. Local officials are currently working with county and state agencies. Click here for details and stay safe!
As the state budget stalemate continues into mid-July, State Representative Tom Bennett
(R-Gibson City) this week officially gave notice to the State Comptroller that he will refuse his own pay until the budget is resolved.

“Speaker Madigan refuses to budge on his demand that we once again spend billions of dollars more than we will take in in revenue, and he’s willing to sacrifice state employees’ paychecks to achieve his demands. Yesterday he pushed through the House an unbalanced temporary budget that had employee salaries tacked on as a last minute amendment. The catch is that he knows it’s unbalanced and he knows that it will be vetoed; leaving state employees in the lurch once again.  Meanwhile, my House Republican colleagues and I have twice in two weeks introduced simple, clean legislation that does nothing but authorize payment to state employees that the Governor would sign. Speaker Madigan won’t even allow that legislation to be debated on the House floor,” Representative Bennett said.
As Illinois begins a new fiscal year this week with no state budget in place, State Representative Tom
Bennett has signed-on to legislation to ensure thousands of state and university employees will continue to receive their paychecks.

Governor Rauner last week vetoed the Democrats’ unconstitutional budget that was $4 billion out of balance. As Fiscal Year 2016 begins on July 1st the Governor and legislative Democrats remained deadlocked over spending and taxes. Without a budget in place by July 15th, the State will be unable to make payroll for employees in numerous agencies.

However, under a 2014 law passed by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, lawmakers, legislative staff and judges will still receive their paychecks, with or without a new budget in place. Senate Bill 274 (P.A. 98-682) included a “continuing appropriation” for the salaries and operational expenses of legislators and judges.
The information below was put together by the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to answer state employees' questions about pay and benefits while no state budget is in place.

FAQs for Budget Situation

We understand state employees have questions on how their benefits will be impacted as the state budget is no longer in place beginning July 1. The following Q&As were designed to help answer any questions you may have.

Employee Benefits

Q.  Will an employee's health, dental or life insurance be affected?
A.  No. Group insurance coverage during a budget situation will not be impacted. If paychecks are delayed, and as long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, insurance premiums will be taken accordingly. The missed payroll deductions will be taken once paychecks are issued.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's contributions to any flexible spending accounts (i.e., MCAP, DCAP) during the budget situation?
 Employees enrolled in MCAP will not be impacted. ConnectYourCare debit cards will continue to work. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, deductions should be taken accordingly. If MCAP deductions are missed, they must be made up when the budget situation is resolved.
 Employees enrolled in DCAP may be impacted as reimbursements are limited to the available account balance contained in their DCAP account. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, and once all payroll deductions are deposited into the DCAP account, reimbursements can be made for eligible expenses up to the available account balance.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's Commuter Savings Program benefit?
A.  Employees enrolled in the Commuter Savings Program will continue to receive the benefit under this program. Employees will owe any underpaid amount upon their return to payroll.

Workers' Compensation Program

Q.  Will an employee's Workers' Compensation benefits be affected?
A.  No. In the event of a budget situation, Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Permanent Total Disability (PTD) and survivor death benefit payments under the Workers' Compensation Act will continue through July. Work-related injuries should continue to be reported through the procedures in place today.

Deferred Compensation Program

Q. What will happen to an employee's Deferred Compensation contributions during the budget situation?
A.  As long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, payroll deductions for Deferred Compensation should be taken accordingly. Deferred Compensation contributions can only be made through payroll deduction. The employee cannot deposit money directly to his or her fund to catch-up the contributions.

Q.  If an individual is currently receiving a distribution from their Deferred Compensation account, will that distribution continue during the budget situation?
A.  Yes. Current distributions and changes to distribution amounts will continue to be processed. To make any changes in distribution, call T. Rowe Price at 1-888-457-5770.

Q.  Will hardship distributions/loans from an employee's Deferred Compensation account be available during the budget situation?
A.  A loan provision is available at any time and allows a participant to have one outstanding loan and borrow a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $50,000 or 50% of their account balance over a five year period. The interest you pay goes back to your account along with the principal amount each month as you repay the loan through Automatic Clearing House (ACH) deductions from your bank. Employees would likely not qualify for a hardship distribution as they will be made whole of any missed payrolls when the budget situation ends.

Q.  How do I borrow from my Deferred Compensation account?
A.  To apply for a loan from your account over the phone, call T. Rowe Price at 1-888-457-5770 to speak to a Representative. There is a $75 processing fee and you will need to supply bank routing and account information for your checking/savings account numbers to set up the automatic ACH deduction. Participants are allowed one outstanding loan at a time. You may repay the full loan balance amount at any time through the same phone number at T. Rowe Price.

State Employee Compensation

Q. What options exist if certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees?
A. State employees will be paid for their work. If certain parties take action to temporarily block pay for state employees, there may be an opportunity for employees to get bridge loans from local financial institutions. Credit Union 1, for example, has already agreed to offer no-interest loans for qualifying members of the credit union should salary payments for state employees be delayed. To be eligible to receive 0% interest loans from Credit Union 1, participants must have been members on or before May 1, 2015. Employees who have become members of Credit Union 1 since May 1, 2015, can apply for a loan, subject to normal criteria, rates and terms.