Thanking first responders; college exam bill becomes law

Thank you to our first responders
Far too often we are reminded of the risks that our first responders take to keep us safe. In the past few weeks, those of us who serve in elected office have seen these brave men and women in action. They do their jobs so well that we sometimes take their service for granted until something happens to remind us of all that they do. I want to take a moment to say thank you to those who serve and protect each and every day.

Last month a gunman opened fire on members of Congress who were practicing for a baseball game outside Washington D.C. Fortunately, there were two members of the U.S. Capitol Police present to stop the gunman before more people were killed or seriously injured. Both officers were injured in the shooting, yet they still acted to protect the public.

On July 6, Illinois State Trooper Ryan Albin, a graduate of Eureka College who was assigned to the State Police post at Pontiac, was laid to rest. Trooper Albin, an eleven year veteran of the State Police, lost his life in the line of duty on Interstate 74 on June 28. He is survived by his parents, two sisters and his two young children.

On that same day, right before the Illinois House convened its session, a person threw an unidentified substance in several locations in the Capitol building. Capitol Police pursued her to the House gallery where she was caught. Police and fire department hazardous materials personnel arrived at the Capitol, secured the scene and took action to keep everyone safe while evaluating the threat. Those who were already in the Capitol were told to shelter in place for more than two hours, while others were unable to get into the building because of the lockdown.

Eventually, it was determined that the substance was not hazardous and the lockdown was lifted. During those hours of uncertainty, the professionalism and dedication of those who responded to the emergency was a great comfort to all of us who were in the building at the time. I want to say thank you to each and every person who puts on a uniform and serves our community. They stand up every day to keep us and our families safe. We should always be mindful of their service and thankful for their sacrifice.

College exam bill becomes law
A piece of legislation which I sponsored this spring has been signed into law by the Governor. House Bill 2442 would allow schools to hold college entrance exams on regular school days instead of having to schedule them for weekends. The bill passed both houses with large bipartisan majorities and was signed by the Governor on the last day of June.

This new law makes it easier for students to take these important exams and also helps school districts save money. Students can now take an exam, such as the SAT, on a regular school day instead of having to make arrangements to come in on a Saturday, for example. Schools no longer have to shoulder the extra expense of opening up a building on a weekend.

Three other pieces of legislation which I sponsored in the House have now passed both Houses and are awaiting action by the Governor.

Some facts and figures on the recent tax hike
The Daily Herald newspaper in the Chicago suburbs put together some figures regarding how much the recent state income tax increase will affect Illinoisans. As you know, the tax increase passed on July 6 despite the veto by Governor Rauner and the No votes of most Republicans, including me.

According to the Daily Herald, an Illinoisan making $34,000 will see his or her taxes go up by $382 a year. Applied to a family of three with an income of $75,000 a year, the tax burden goes up by $822 a year. And if it is a family of four which earns $150,000 a year, their tax bill will go up by $1,695 each year. Wouldn’t you rather have that extra money to buy groceries, pay bills or save for college?

Life insurance locator service recovers millions for Illinoisans
The Illinois Department of Insurance announced that its Life Policy Locator Service, which helps families discover lost life insurance policies and annuities, has recovered more than $3 million already in 2017. Over the past 12 months, the service has helped Illinois families discover $4.6 million in life insurance benefits.

The program is a free service to help Illinoisans recover benefits that are rightfully theirs. The Department of Insurance offers the Life Policy Locator Service on its website. Any person can go to the website and submit the necessary information, which includes a copy of the death certificate, and then the Department of Insurance will contact the 485 insurance companies which are licensed in Illinois to have them check their files for any life insurance policies belonging to the deceased. The company will then contact the requestor within 30 days to continue with the claims process.

More information is available at the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.illinois.gov. A paper application is also available for those not wishing to use the online service.

July is Heat Safety Awareness Month in Illinois
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is advising Illinoisans of the importance of protecting themselves and others from the dangers of hot weather during July. IEMA is especially focused on preventing the deaths of children in hot cars this summer, citing a statistic that an average of 37 children die each year from heat stroke after being left in locked cars.  IEMA reminds drivers to “Look before you lock, ” and encourages drivers to keep their keys out of the reach of children to avoid potential tragedies. Never leave children unattended in a locked car.

IEMA is also offering other tips for safety during these hottest months of the year. For example, you should drink at least 1.5 to 2 quarts of fluids daily to stay hydrated, but avoid alcoholic beverages and drinks containing caffeine. Check on neighbors and others who do not have air conditioning. Also, make sure your pets have extra water and a place of shady refuge during the day.

Did You Know?
Illinois’ first Motor Vehicle Law went into effect on July 1, 1907. The law required all drivers to register their vehicle with the Secretary of State. It mandated that vehicles have “good and sufficient” brakes, two headlights and one rear light, as well as a signal device such as a horn or a bell. The new law also set forth Illinois’ first speed limits: one mile in six minutes while in a town (10 miles per hour) and one mile in three minutes (20 mph) on an open road. If a vehicle was scaring horses, the driver was required to stop and shut down the vehicle until the horses passed or else face a $200 fine.

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