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Update from the Capitol 1/19/2017

Friday, January 19, 2018 - Posted 11:31:43 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).

Tax credits for internships

In this day and age, many careers begin with internships. Whether it is college or high school students, those entering the job market often take their first step through an internship with some entity in their preferred field. These entry-level jobs provide valuable education for students embarking on their careers, as well as useful experience for them once they have graduated.

One of the bills I introduced for the upcoming spring session is House Bill 4197, which would encourage Illinois employers to offer more of these kinds of opportunities to high school and college students. The bill would create a tax credit worth up to 10% of the total stipend or salary this is paid by an employer to up to five qualified college interns or five qualified high school interns. The bill further defines the qualifications, such as requiring that the college intern be enrolled at an Illinois institution of higher education or vocational educational program and that their internship be in a field closely related to that for which they are studying.

I believe this is a good way to encourage more Illinois employers to give our students some useful, real-world experience in the job market, and potentially keep more of our graduates here in Illinois instead of leaving the state to find opportunities.

Keeping contraband out of state prisons

Another bill I have introduced came from an idea presented to me after meeting with some correctional officers from our district. I actually first introduced this legislation last year and it passed the House 115-0, but it did not get called for a vote in the Senate. I am re-introducing it and trying again this year because I believe it is a good way to protect the safety of our correctional workers.

This year, the bill is House Bill 4199. Concerns were raised by correctional officers about a pirate radio station broadcasting into a prison for the purpose of inciting violence. My bill would ban the use or possession of electronic contraband such as broadcasting equipment or recording devices inside a state penal institution with the purpose of disrupting safety, security or operations at that facility. I was proud to be joined by a bipartisan group of co-sponsors on this bill last year when it overwhelmingly passed the House, and I hope that we have even more success with it this year.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $9,200,742,214 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.

New law, now in effect, increases penalties for repeat gun offenders

One of the many new laws which went into effect at the start of this year was the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act. This legislation was supported by law enforcement and prosecutors around the state. It doubles the sentencing guidelines in the cases of offenders who have been found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm for a second time. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin was the lead House sponsor of Senate Bill 1722, which created the new Act. The bill was actually signed into law by Governor Rauner back in June, but the effective date was set for January 1 in order to give prosecutors time to familiarize themselves with its details.

In addition to the language dealing with unlawful use of a weapon repeat offenders, SB 1722 also expands the use of the First Time Weapon Offender Program. While the General Assembly has been fighting for tougher penalties for serious, repeat gun offenders; many of them gang members; we have also sought to provide a second chance to first-time gun offenders who undergo a serious program of rehabilitation and behavioral change. The new law also allows the Director of the Illinois State Police to create a Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force across multiple agencies to further study violent and gang-related crime and make additional recommendations for legislative action.

Hearing from township officials

It was an honor to join Governor Rauner and legislators from our area at the meeting of the McLean and Livingston County township officials in Pontiac last week. We had some really interesting conversations about the challenges that township governments face in the coming months. We also discussed the upcoming legislative session and what we might see come out of Springfield this session. Thanks to our township officials for serving the community, as well as for the invitation to their meeting.

Did You Know?

It's no secret that Illinois is one of the nation's leading agricultural producing states. In 2016 (the most recent year for which figures are available) Illinois farmers produced 34.8 million bushels of wheat, 1.5 million bushels of sorghum, 2.3 billion bushels of corn and 593 million bushels of soybeans.