Veto session concludes; Harvest emergency declared

Fall veto session concludes
This was the final week of the fall veto session of the Illinois legislature. The House met on Tuesday and Wednesday to finish up its work for the year. Unfortunately, some major issues remain unresolved, such as the need for reforms to our business and job creation climate. These issues will still be on the agenda when we return for the spring session in January.

One important piece of legislation which passed 117-0 was Senate Bill 402, a bill to protect against the kinds of sexual harassment which have victimized far too many in state government. Numerous accounts of harassment have come to light recently and this week the House took action. SB 402 requires state agencies to enact policies to prevent sexual harassment and to require employees to complete a sexual harassment training program every year. It puts in place a hotline to report wrongdoing, protects whistleblowers from retaliation and empowers the inspector general to punish offenders. This is an important step in changing the culture in Springfield.

The House is scheduled to begin its spring session in January, and we will be back with many important issues to tackle.

Governor declares harvest emergency due to wet conditions
Truck drivers who carry agricultural products on Illinois highways are now eligible for free permits to exceed highway weight limits by as much as 10 percent due to an emergency declaration issued by Governor Rauner on Sunday. The declaration is in effect for 45 days. It comes in response to weather-related delays for farmers and grain handlers and will allow for quicker crop transportation now that the harvest is underway.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois’ corn harvest is 17% behind last year’s rate and trails the five year average by 11%. The delays have backed up the transportation chain for farmers seeking to bring in their harvest and transport it to storage sites.

Information about the permits can be obtained from the Illinois Department of Transportation by visiting https://truckpermits.dot.illinois.gov/.

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $13,249,968,404 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

The bill backlog declined by about $3 billion this week due to the funds beginning to be received from a recent state bond issue. In an effort to bring the backlog down, the state issued $6 billion in bonds over the past few weeks. The interest on the bonds is lower than the interest on the late payments, so this effort has the potential to save taxpayer dollars while bringing down the unpaid bill backlog by roughly half over the next several months.

Silver Search task force begins operations
The Illinois State Police is cooperating with local law enforcement agencies around the state on its new Silver Search task force, an operation meant to improve response times in searches for missing senior citizens.

Illinois has more than 220,000 residents who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or similar conditions, and Silver Search is meant to help protect them from harm. Depending on their medical condition, some of these men and women may, at times, be both mobile and disoriented. The Silver Search task force can announce “Silver Alerts” to enlist the public’s help in searches for missing seniors. The task force officially kicked off at the beginning of this month.

The program was created by legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2015.

Illinois schools continue to take action on concussions
Illinois schools, with help from the General Assembly, are taking action to allow student-athletes to continue to take the playing field, while protecting them from the long-term effects of concussions. Schools and policymakers are trying to reduce what is known as “second-impact syndrome (SIS),” which occurs when a brain that is recovering from a previous blow is shocked a second time. SIS has been associated with long-term concussion effects.

The state law which governs school action against concussions and post-concussion effects is the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, which was enacted in 2015. High schools are required to put together policies dubbed “return-to-play” and “return-to-learn” for students who have suffered any kind of concussion, whether related to sports or not. These policies must be developed by a team of persons who have undergone adult education and training. They are also required to keep track of and report the injuries and the treatment.

Since 2010, 2,029 documented head injuries have been reported at events sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). In most cases, the student was removed from the remainder of the contest by the on-site concussion team. Over the past few years, participants have been better trained in how to document and report athletic head injuries. Efforts are now being made to increase the number of fully certified athletic trainers at small schools in rural Illinois.

Did You Know?
Through the Illinois Veterans’ History Project, the Illinois State Archives seeks to record the stories of the men and women from Illinois who have served our nation in the armed forces. Veterans or their family members are encouraged to fill out a Patriot Information Form with their service information as well as their remembrances and recollections. The stories are then permanently retained in the Illinois State Archives for future generations.

Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served our nation. We are grateful for your service!

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