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Update from the Capitol 1/3/2019

Friday, January 04, 2019 - Posted 9:36:02 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). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.

Route 66 Centennial Commission among new laws now in effect

Historic Route 66 will mark its 100th anniversary in 2026, and Illinois will be prepared to participate in the celebration due to the creation of the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission. The Commission was created by House Bill 66, which became law on January 1. The historic "Mother Road" is an important tourism resource for Illinois and for the 106th District, as it winds through Livingston County. The new 20-member commission will be responsible for coordinating planning of centennial celebration events along the Illinois portion of the highway's route from Chicago to St. Louis.

In all, 253 new laws went into effect on January 1. I have told you about some of them previously. Here are a few more. As an enhanced safety measure, House Bill 4377 requires that all children under two years of age must now be secured in an approved, rear-facing child seat while riding in a vehicle on Illinois roadways. Under the old law, the seat could face forward.

Under Senate Bill 2838, high school students will have more opportunities to take dual-credit classes at local community colleges. At the same time, the new law helps community colleges by requiring that they be offered the chance to enter into a new dual-credit partnership with area high schools before an offer can be made to an out-of-state school.

After a series of scandals involving excessive severance pay for public employees, Senate Bill 3604 puts some limits in place on the kinds of packages local governments can offer. The new law requires that the public be notified within 48 hours if a severance package is going to be offered and it limits the cash compensation in such severance packages to 20 weeks, rather than a full year.

Visiting with students in Milford, Gibson City

Just before the holidays, I had the opportunity to talk with about fifty 8th graders in the Milford school district. It was a very fun visit with Ms. Brown and her students. We talked about our state and federal governments, our elected officials and the importance of getting involved in the governing process. This group of our future leaders asked some great questions.

I also enjoyed my visit with Ms. Hasenauer and the 4th graders in the Gibson City Melvin Sibley Elementary School District. I have to say that Principal Kean does a great job of getting everyone in the holiday spirit. It was another session of great questions about our government leaders.

Back in session next week

The General Assembly will be back in session in Springfield next week. Monday and Tuesday, the members of the outgoing 100th General Assembly will meet to wrap up any unfinished business. At noon on Wednesday the new 101st General Assembly will be sworn in to start its two-year term. We will also be in session briefly on Thursday to start getting the House organized for the upcoming spring session.

How much do we owe?

As 2019 began, the State of Illinois owed $7,155,792,121 in unpaid bills to state vendors. At the beginning of 2018 the state owed $9.3 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.

Continuing our work on flood prevention

I met with the Iroquois River Conservancy District in Indiana to continue the conversation around the huge watershed that covers Iroquois County, Kankakee County, Will County and several counties in Indiana. This is a huge watershed that extends both states. Flooding rarely affects just one community, it often strikes a very wide area. When it is river flooding it can extend for many miles as the high water works its way down the river. We need to look at the bigger picture when trying to address flooding issues. I am glad to have so much cooperation from local and state governments on both sides of the state line as we tackle a challenge that affects us all.

Did You Know?

January 4 is the birthday of Illinois' U.S. Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, a World War I veteran who rose to be Senate Republican Leader during the 1960s. Dirksen was a key player in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying, "Stronger than all armies is an idea whose time has come." But he is most often remembered for a quip about the federal budget, "A billion here and billion there: pretty soon you're talking about real money!" Senator Dirksen died in 1969.