REAL ID update; STEM graduates

Secretary of State offers update on REAL ID implementation
For years Illinoisans have heard the warnings that our state-issued ID cards are not compliant with federal law and that they may not be useful for such tasks as boarding an airplane or entering certain government facilities. Last week the Secretary of State issued an update to policymakers on the progress the state is making in bringing our state IDs into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act.
 
"Currently, we have satisfied 90 percent of the federal requirements and will achieve full compliance well before the mandated 2020 date," said Secretary of State Jesse White in his letter. "In fact, we are on track to achieve full compliance and begin offering REAL ID driver’s licenses/state identification cards to Illinois citizens in January 2019."
 
The letter goes on to say that the Department of Homeland Security has granted Illinois an extension for compliance, which means that our state-issued IDs will continue to be acceptable in the interim. The General Assembly has passed legislation last year and again this year to help with the transition as well.
 
Illinois notched 40,400 STEM graduates in 2016
The Illinois Science and Technology Coalition has issued its Fall 2017 "Talent Index" report which utilizes data from LinkedIn to track Illinois higher education graduation choices and numbers. The study found a record number of Illinois higher education graduates in fields relating to high-tech economic growth.
 
In recent years there has been a push to encourage education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Education in these fields is important for students entering the evolving high-tech economy. Higher education institutions in Illinois awarded 40,400 STEM degrees last year, a number which represents nearly a third of all Illinois graduates. Illinois’ number compares favorably with the national figure of 28.3%. The study indicates that Illinois’ institutions of higher education are outpacing the nation as a whole in encouraging growth-oriented educational pathways.
 
Breaking Illinois’ statistics down further, 3,300 degrees were awarded in computer science. This is a record number of computer science degrees for Illinois and it made the state second only to California in the number of degrees awarded. Degrees from Illinois institutions of higher education make up 4.4% of the national total, but 9.9% of total U.S. computer science degrees.
 
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $9,570,697,053 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.
 
Illinois Bicentennial gets underway
Sunday December 3 was the 199th anniversary of Illinois’ statehood. The date also kicked off the year-long commemoration of the upcoming Illinois bicentennial in 2018. Over the next year there will be events all around the state celebrating Illinois’ 200 years of statehood. The theme of the celebration is "Born, Built, Grown."
 
There are many resources available for individuals and communities looking to participate in the celebration. The Illinois Office of Tourism has compiled its list of 10 ways Illinois has shaped our nation’s history, from the four Presidents who came from Illinois, to our very own stretch of Route 66 to Chicago’s deep dish pizza. For more information on the state’s celebration of our 200th birthday, visit www.illinois200.com

State Police, transportation agencies launch "Winter Weather – Get It Together" winter driving preparation push
With the onset of winter weather and its added hazards to drivers, the Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Illinois Tollway have joined together to launch a program aimed at encouraging safe driving this season. The "Winter Weather - Get it Together" effort includes videos and a checkoff sheet for motorists to view and get ready.

One of the most important items a driver can have in a vehicle is an emergency car care kit for cold conditions. The kit could contain jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food, and a first aid kit. Drivers should also make sure their cell phone is fully charged and that they have a car charger.
 
The agencies reiterated their standard warnings about safe driving practices year round, such as always wearing a safety belt, not driving while using a handheld device and giving plenty of room to stopped first-responder and construction vehicles. They also advised drivers to be ready for snow and icy conditions by watching for ice on roadways, particularly on bridges, ramps and shady areas where icy can accumulate while other areas are clear.
 
For information on winter road conditions throughout Illinois, visit https://www.gettingaroundillinois.com or call 1-800-452-4368.
 
First firearm deer hunt weekend yields 51,365 tagged deer
The shotgun-season harvest numbers reported by hunters for the opening weekend of shotgun season, November 17 through 19, marked a 5.7% drop from the 54,452 taken this time last year. While the first firearm weekend is the traditional peak of the Illinois deer season, an increasing percentage of deer are taken by archery and in the nonstandard seasons.
 
This weekend, December 8-10 is muzzleloader-only deer season, and there are also two late-winter antlerless-only and CWD seasons starting December 28 and January 12. The archery season resumed on December 4 after the conclusion of the second firearm weekend. It will continue until January 14.
 
Did You Know?
Legislation was first enacted in Illinois on December 10, 1840, which gave residents of local school districts the right to elect "directors," the forerunners of today’s elected school boards.

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