As always, you can reach me through the contact form at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) or (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
FOID card renewal delays continue, check your status online
Illinois firearm owners are continuing to encounter delays in applying for renewals of their Firearm Owners' Identification (FOID) cards and concealed carry licenses (CCL). The State Police Firearm Services Bureau, which handles the applications, is only staffed with five people and it has been difficult for applicants to reach a live person when they contact the agency for help.
The State Police say they are aware of the problem and are working to upgrade their system. Their response includes the addition of a Voiceover Internet Protocol system which will streamline their response to calls. In the meantime, to avoid delays on the phone, FOID and CCL applicants are encouraged to visit https://www.isp.state.il.us/foid/foidinquiry.cfm to find information and check their application status online. You can also contact my district offices in Watseka and Pontiac for assistance.
This spring I am co-sponsoring House Bill 4067 which would repeal the FOID Act and eliminate the FOID card altogether.
Census day coming soon
The date of the 2020 Census is rapidly approaching. On April 1, we will try to get a count of the total population of the United States and every unit of government within. It is critical that this count be accurate as it determines everything from how many voices our region will have in Congress and the state legislature to how billions of dollars in government funding will be distributed. If any area is undercounted, it will have a harder time getting back its fair share of the taxes its residents have paid in. Individual responses to Census questionnaires are confidential and are not shared with other government agencies.
To make sure Illinois is counted accurately and fully, the state has established a Complete Count Committee, and is urging local governments and civic groups to do the same in their community. To find out how to help, visit www.illinoiscensus2020.com for more information. It is essential that every Illinoisan answer the Census questionnaire and be counted!
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,116,010,691 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.4 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 more than $137 billion.
Are we saving money?
I am sometimes asked if state government is doing anything that actually saves money. It's a good question because for all the talk about belt-tightening in government, we haven't seen very much in practice. That's a major reason why I voted against raising the income tax in 2017 and against the most recent state budget.
But believe it or not, there have been several laws enacted which will save the state money. A lot of these changes have to do with using technology to cut costs. Here is one such example. On January 1 a new law went into effect which directs the Secretary of State to set up an electronic lien and title system which will streamline that agency's process and reduce the cost of handling, storing and mailing paper titles. Other agencies have made similar changes involving electronic records.
Another way we can save money in state government is through looking at existing laws and regulations and bringing them up to date. One such change went into effect last year. The state was wasting money on unnecessary vehicle maintenance because the law required state vehicles to have their oil changed every 3000 miles. It was pointed out that newer cars only have to have their oil changed every 5000 or even 10,000 miles, but the state was still making the change at 3000 regardless. We changed the law to scrap the 3000 mile requirement and instructed state agencies to follow the vehicle's owners' manual instead. By cutting down on unnecessary maintenance, we prevented some waste.
Of course, these changes are just drops in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars in the state budget every year, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep looking for small efficiencies. So the answer to the question is: yes, we are doing things to save money, but we need to do a lot more.
Great crowd at the Watseka FFA lunch
We had a great turnout for the Watseka FFA lunch and auction. This is an important cause because these students are the future leaders of Illinois' largest and most important industry. FFA is such a great program for teaching responsibility and accountability. Thank you to Mr. Wilkey for your leadership in bringing everyone together, to all the volunteers who helped out and to the members of the community for stopping by and supporting the students.
Senate elects a new President
The Illinois Senate met for one day this week to elect a new Senate President, selecting Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) to replace the outgoing President, Senator John Cullerton (D-Chicago). Democrats hold a 39-19 majority in the Senate. Senator Harmon, 53, has served in the Senate since 2003. He is a graduate of Knox College in Galesburg and the University of Chicago, and he and his wife Teresa have three children. He joins Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin among the General Assembly's four legislative leaders.
Did You Know?
The most common county name in the United States is Washington County, which appears in 31 states. Second place goes to Jefferson County, in 26. The most common non-Presidential names for U.S. counties are Franklin with 25, and Clay and Montgomery which each appear in 18 states. All five county names can be found in Illinois.