Help for kids in DCFS system, $8 billion in unpaid bills

Legislation, executive order, aims to help kids in DCFS system
There are approximately 16,000 children in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Ideally, when a child needs a guardian, an adult relative or friend from the child’s background is selected, but this is not always possible. In some cases, the guardianship over a young person is assigned to the state. These young people were traditionally called “wards of the state,” but a new executive order will request that people in this standing now be called “youth in care.”

The Youth-in-Care executive order was signed alongside the Governor’s signing of a package of bills dealing with adoption and child welfare issues. Included is House Bill 5665, sponsored by Rep. Christine Winger, which is aimed at bringing a sense of normalcy to the lives of those in foster care. Under the new law, caregivers will have the right to approve or deny permission for a child to participate in certain functions, such as extracurricular activities, sleepovers, church camps, and scouting camps.  Prior to the enactment of the legislation, caregivers had to appeal to DCFS in order to be able to grant permissions of this type.

State’s unpaid bill backlog surpasses $8 billion
According to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s website showing how many unpaid bills are in her office, the backlog of unpaid bills rose above $8 billion this week. Figures from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) continue to show Illinois general funds revenue far behind expenditures.

Also in the news over the summer were stories about Illinois being having to deplete its so-called rainy-day fund, because the amount of money available in the state’s bank account was overwhelmed by the billions of dollars in unpaid Illinois bills.  This backlog is forcing long waits for social service providers, health care providers, units of local government that sell electricity and water to state buildings, and other creditors.

The need for us to get serious about putting our fiscal house in order and passing a balanced budget has never been more clear.

Friend of Agriculture award
I was honored to accept the Friend of Agriculture award from the Ford-Iroquois Farm Bureau. This award is presented to legislators whose voting record reflects an appreciation of agriculture’s importance to Illinois communities and the state’s economy. Agriculture is the driving force behind our economy in Illinois, particularly in our area, and the legislature needs to do everything within its power to protect and promote Illinois agriculture.

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, there are 74,300 farms in Illinois, covering nearly 75% of the state. The marketing of Illinois agricultural products generates over $19 billion per year, with corn making up the largest share, at 54%. On top of the commodities produced on the farm, Illinois’ economy also brings in billions from such industries as manufacturing of farm machinery and agricultural real estate. Whether it is a family farm handed down through the generations or a new agribusiness enterprise just getting started, agriculture is a vital part of our way of life in Illinois.

Winter deer-hunting dates finalized
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which issues Illinois deer hunting licenses, has set the dates for late-season deer hunting.  The Late-Winter Antlerless-only season is oriented toward 24 counties where surplus deer have been counted, and the Special CWD Deer Hunting Season is aimed at thinning out the deer population in 14 specific counties that are places at or adjacent to locations where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been diagnosed.

The Special CWD counties are all in northern and central Illinois. In our area, Vermilion County is a Late-Winter Season open county, while Livingston is a CWD season open county. The posted dates for both hunts are December 29, 2016 through January 1, 2017 and again from January 13, 2017 through January 15, 2017. More information is available from the Department of Natural Resources.

Paperless system eases state certification process
The Business Enterprise System of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) has implemented a paperless, web-based certification system for businesses seeking certification as minority, female, persons with disabilities or veteran-owned. The new system is intended to improve the certification process by getting rid of the need to send in multiple paper forms and by offering an automated process and real-time status updates. The program is part of an executive order issued by the Governor earlier this summer to make sure that equal opportunities are available to all Illinois businesses. CMS hopes the program will lead to more certified businesses in Illinois. More information is available at www.opportunities.illinois.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-356-9206.

September is National Library Card Sign-up Month
Libraries are one of the most important resources in our communities. Whether you are reading for school or leisure, doing research, accessing services via the internet or just looking for a place for you or the kids to find educational activities, the public library has it all. This month, many of our local libraries are cooperating with the American Library Association to encourage as many people as possible to obtain library cards during National Library Card Sign-Up Month.

Contact your local public library today to find out about the many services they offer and how to obtain a library card. You will be glad you did!

Did You Know?
There are 15,978 miles of state highway in Illinois, according to IDOT. Illinois’ 2185 miles of interstate highway give our state the third-largest system of interstates in the entire nation. Drivers in Illinois travel 105 billion miles annually, and consume 6.1 billion gallons of fuel. Illinois has the third-largest total of bridges and the second-highest number of railroad crossings. Wherever your travels might take you, I hope you will drive safely!