As always, you can contact me via webform at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
Many House bills advanced out of committee
Last Friday was the deadline for House bills to advance out of committees to the House floor. Any bill that did not make it out of committee by then is considered dead for the year and will have to start over next January.
As the House began passing bills over to the Senate, we saw some good pieces of legislation continue to advance through the process. House Bill 2133 extends protections for children from online predators to cover cloud-based networks as well. I co-sponsored House Bill 2177 which allows high schools to give posthumous diplomas to students who went into the military before graduating high school and were killed in the service of our nation. That bill was inspired by the superintendent of a school district in western Illinois who wanted to award posthumous diplomas to three servicemen from that community who lost their lives in Vietnam after leaving school early to serve in the military.
One of the timeliest bills to advance out of committee was House Bill 2417, which enhances penalties for violating "Scott's Law," the state law which requires drivers to change lanes and give room to state troopers and other first responders who are stopped along a roadside. This legislation comes at a time when the Illinois State Police have had sixteen of their vehicles struck on Illinois roadways in just the first three months of this year. Three troopers have been killed in these accidents in 2019, including two last week. Regardless of whether this bill passes or not, drivers on Illinois roadways must always remember to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles.
Some bills which did not advance before the deadline
I am relieved to report that several bills which I opposed did not make it out of House committees before the deadline. Two abortion bills, House Bills 2467 and 2495, did not make it to the House floor before the deadline. These bills would repeal the law requiring parents to be notified before their underage daughter may receive an abortion, and would prohibit doctors from refusing to perform abortions in violation of their conscience. While these bills; and a similar Senate proposal (Senate Bill 1942); appear stopped for now, there is a bill still active in the Senate (Senate Bill 1594) which would repeal the parental notice law. It looks like we have not heard the last of this effort.
Some anti-Second Amendment bills also failed to move forward in the House. These include House Bill 2331, which would have added an extra tax of 3.75% on firearms and firearm parts. Another anti-Second Amendment bill which did not advance was House Bill 888, which would have required every applicant for a FOID card to turn over all their social media information so that it could be reviewed by authorities as part of the application process.
You can review the status of any House or Senate bill by visiting www.ilga.gov.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,154,662,333 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.5 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
Congratulations to students at GCMS
I'm starting to get up and around the district after my recent car accident, and it was a great joy to have one of my first stops be Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School (GCMS) to congratulate two outstanding groups of students.
The first visit was with Mr. Reale and the Future Farmers of America chapter. A few weeks ago they joined hundreds of other FFA students from all around Illinois at the Capitol to speak out on issues important to agriculture and agricultural education. I was sorry to miss them in Springfield, but I enjoyed meeting with the FFA officers at GCMS on Monday. They are the future leaders of our state and are in one of our largest industries.
I also got the chance to congratulate Coach Ryan Tompkins and the GCMS varsity basketball team for taking third place at the state basketball tournament. I was honored to present them with certificates from the General Assembly. Our community is very proud of these young men for their dedication and commitment to each other as they had a wonderful season. Congratulations to the players and coaches for a very memorable and fun season.
Real ID drivers licenses finally issued in Illinois
For years, Illinois has lagged behind the rest of the nation in issuing drivers licenses and state identification cards that are in compliance with the federal REAL ID act, legislation passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The federal law was meant to cut down on the threat of fraudulent identification being used for entry into sensitive areas like airports, military bases and federal buildings. States were required to make changes to their state-issued IDs in order to make them harder to counterfeit. Illinois missed several deadlines and had to get a number of extensions from Uncle Sam as we gradually moved toward compliance.
At last, Illinois IDs which are fully-compliant with the federal law are being issued. To get one of the new IDs, an Illinoisan must submit additional documentation at any Secretary of State driver services facility. A temporary license will be issued while the verification documents and other information go to a secure facility for creation of the ID. The new ID will have security features to resist counterfeiting. The applicant will receive it in the mail in a blank, sealed envelope.
Meanwhile, current ID cards are covered by a waiver from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and can still be used for purposes like entering an airport until October 1, 2020. There will be no additional cost for the new REAL ID cards, but they will take longer to get. Because they have to be created a secure facility, applicants can no longer pick up new licenses in person at driver services facilities.
Did You Know?
When lines were being drawn for what would become the states in the Great Lakes region, Thomas Jefferson sketched out a map of the area with a series of square-shaped states. Under Jefferson's plan, the area that is now Illinois would have been split between parts of states which Jefferson proposed to name Assenisipia, Illinoia, and Polypotamia.