Agency consolidation; improved travel info website

Governor begins consolidation of IHPA into IDNR
Governor Rauner issued an executive order earlier this month which would start the process of moving the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) into the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). IHPA is responsible for over 50 different historical sites around the state. Some of these sites include the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, the Governor Small Memorial in Kankakee, Woodford County’s Metamora Courthouse, as well as many other sites related to Abraham Lincoln and important cultural and historical figures throughout Illinois.

Under the Executive Order, most of the functions of the IHPA will go back to IDNR, which IHPA was a part of until it was separated out back in 1985 (DNR was then called the Department of Conservation). It is expected that consolidating these two agencies will create administrative savings for the state. One of the largest parts of IHPA is Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It will become a separate entity under the Office of the Governor, and will have its own Board of Trustees.

The legislature could block with move within 60 days of the issuance of the Executive Order. If it does not, the consolidation would take effect at the end of May.

Improvements to Department of Transportation website
For several years, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has maintained a website, www.gettingaroundillinois.com, to help Illinois drivers find details on construction, winter road conditions, and other information helpful to those using Illinois highways. This month, IDOT announced that it has updated and improved the site to make it more mobile-friendly for travelers.

IDOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn says the change is meant to help travelers access the information from the site more quickly and conveniently. One of the bigger changes involves a map that users can zoom in to their location, route or destination, instead of the static map on the previous version of the website. Other improvements include changes to the color-scheme on the winter road conditions map to make the conditions clearer to users and a better method of updating information to reduce system downtime.

The Getting Around Illinois website averages more than two million views each year.

Slight revisions coming to new state license plates
The Illinois Secretary of State’s office has announced that it will be making slight revisions to the newly-designed Illinois license plates in order to make the plates easier to read. The plates began rolling out earlier this year as part of an effort to replace Illinois license plates that were issued as far back as 2000 and 2001.

Drivers who have already received the new plates will not need to exchange them. The change will involve plates that are being produced now and in the future. It is in response to what the Secretary of State’s office spokesman called a “manufacturer’s error,” for which he said the manufacturer would pick up the cost. The result of the error was that the letters and numbers on the plate were not printed as dark as they should have been, making them more difficult to see. The Secretary of State is also going to use a slightly lighter shade of gray on one part of the background to increase the contrast of the letters and numbers.

New plates are being rolled out over the next several years in order to save money. The Secretary of State plans to gradually re-plate all Illinois vehicles, starting with the oldest plates, over the next 10 years.

Route 66 listed among most endangered historic sites in Illinois
The non-profit group Landmarks Illinois, which annually releases a list of the ten most endangered historic sites in Illinois, has included Historic Route 66 in its list for 2017. The historic highway crosses the 106th district and features attractions across its route through Livingston County.

The group pointed out that a federal program to preserve the historic route will run out in three years. They would like to see the historic route protected by the National Park Service as a National Historic Trail. Several members of Congress from our area are sponsoring legislation in Washington to do just that. In Springfield, the Illinois House passed legislation earlier this year setting up a Route 66 Centennial Commission to coordinate commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the highway in 2026.

Looking ahead
The House is back in session on Monday April 24 and is scheduled to be in session on 24 of the next 38 days through the end of May. Friday is the deadline for bills introduced by House members to pass the House. If they do not pass the House by then, they are considered dead for the year. Bills will begin arriving from the Senate in larger numbers this week. House committees will begin hearing and considering those bills in the near future.

The House is scheduled to adjourn on May 31. There is still time to get our work done if the leaders of the two parties can show a willingness to work together and get a full-year balanced budget in place by then.

Did You Know?
The word “ILLINOIS” was added onto our state flag at the suggestion of Navy Chief Petty Officer Bruce McDaniel of Waverly. While looking at a display of state flags in his mess hall in Vietnam, McDaniel noticed that Illinois’ flag was one of the hardest to identify because the state’s name did not appear anywhere on the flag. He contacted his state representative, and legislation making the change was passed and signed into law in September 1969.

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