Update from the Capitol 4/27/2018
Friday, April 27, 2018 - Posted 2:50:56 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).|
Busy week in advance of House bill deadline
It was a hectic week on the floor of the Illinois House as Friday was the deadline for getting House bills passed by the body. Any House bill not passed by Friday is most likely done for the year. The House met all five days this week and passed dozens of bills, large and small, trying to beat the deadline.
I am proud to report that four of my bills were among those which passed the House this week. House Bill 5627 would take a major step toward reducing the shortage of teachers in Illinois by removing some bureaucratic hurdles to those wishing to teach school in Illinois. It would allow persons with a teaching license from another state to teach in Illinois schools as well, and would let those who already have an Illinois teachers' license act as substitute teachers without having to go through the long and costly application for a separate substitute teacher license â€“ something that would be particularly helpful to retired teachers who want to return to the classroom as substitutes. It also makes an adjustment in the pension code to allow retired teachers to spend more days as substitutes without endangering the pensions they have earned.
Three more of my bills passed this week as well. The first was House Bill 4687, which changes the law governing care for adults with disabilities. If someone is a ward of the state, my legislation would enlarge the list of people eligible to petition for visitation privileges to include a larger number of close family members. House Bill 4686 protects adult wards of the state from conflicts of interest when guardians are assigned. House Bill 4888 would direct the Department of Corrections (IDOC) to better collect data which can be used by policymakers to reduce violence in state prisons and help us to understand if current programs for this purpose within IDOC are working.
Illinois ranked above national average in preparations for health care emergencies
Last week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its 2018 National Health Security Preparedness Index. The report ranked Illinois as being among the 18 states ranked higher than the national average in preparedness for threats to health security.
In all, the survey looked at 140 different factors to come up with an overall threat assessment score. The study looked at factors with an obvious impact on health care, things like the numbers of board-certified pediatricians in the state, but also considered factors that are not directly related to health care, but which would have an important effect in an emergency, such as the condition of the roads and bridges which ambulances would have to transit.
The overall high score which Illinois' earned was partly driven by the state's especially strong coordination and timely response of first responders to emergencies. One very high-profile examples of this type of response was the response of Illinois emergency-room and airport security personnel to the outbreak of Ebola virus in Africa in 2014, which included one infected individual flying into Dallas-Fort Worth and numerous other brief quarantines of individuals at other airports.
This is another reminder of the important work that Illinois first responders do every day. I was glad to see their hard work and preparation recognized.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,941,028,926 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.
March jobless rate falls to lowest in more than 10 years
Illinois has reached its lowest unemployment rate since just before the Great Recession, according to the latest monthly figures released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The state's unemployment rate stood at 4.6% in March. The last time Illinois enjoyed a lower rate of unemployment was more than a decade ago in January 2007 when unemployment was 4.5%
The progress was not spread evenly across the board, and some areas continue to face challenges. While Illinois manufacturing generated net new jobs last month, the retail sector lost ground in March. The manufacturing number was especially encouraging, as the factory sector was up 900 jobs compared to February 2018, and improved by 18,200 jobs over March 2017. Because we are the center of America's transportation infrastructure we are an attractive place to create even more manufacturing jobs, if we could just get more pro-jobs policies enacted in state government.
Overall, the Illinois jobless rate stands slightly higher than the national average, which the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as 4.1%.
Illinois County Fair Queen visits the Capitol
I was proud to introduce the 2018 Illinois County Fair Queen, Samantha Hasselbring of Cissna Park in the House chamber recently. Samantha visited the Capitol along with her family as part of a day dedicated to young people involved with county fairs and agriculture in Illinois. She had the opportunity to meet with legislators from around the state to make them aware of how important agricultural fairs are to us here in rural Illinois. Congratulations to Samantha and best wishes as she carries this important message around the state.
Did You Know?
The legislation which would make Illinois a state in 1818 required Illinois to have a population of 40,000 in order to attain statehood. But Illinois officials had a hard time reaching that level and ended up having to inflate the population count in advance of statehood day, reporting a total of 40,258. After the Illinois Enabling Act had been signed into law and Illinois became the 21st state, it was determined that the actual population was only 34,620. This made Illinois the least populous state ever admitted to the union.