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.
Last Thursday, I was involved in a car accident. After leaving session in Springfield I attended the annual Chamber Dinner in Pontiac. The accident occurred on the Weston Blacktop as I was returning home from the dinner. I have some broken ribs, but the doctors have told me I should recover over the next few weeks. I am glad to be out of the hospital and starting to do some work from home.
I am so grateful to the first responders who assisted me at the crash scene and the doctors and nurses at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington who have been helping me to recover. I am also deeply appreciative for all of the friends in the 106th district and my colleagues in the General Assembly who have sent me prayers and good wishes over the last few days. It means a great deal to Kathy and me to know that so many are thinking of us.
I have always been proud and honored to have the privilege to work for such great people as the residents of the 106th district, and your kind thoughts in these past few days have only reinforced that feeling. Please know that while I have had to take a few days off from the General Assembly, I expect to be back at work soon. My offices in Watseka, Pontiac and Springfield remain open and ready to assist you, and I am looking forward to getting back to the Capitol to continue the important work we have started.
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
House begins passing bills to the Senate
Meanwhile, the business of state government continues to go on. The House this week began acting on some of the bills that have emerged from committee this spring. Unfortunately, the bills which passed this week do very little to help small businesses or improve our job creation climate in Illinois.
On Wednesday the House passed a piece of legislation billed as an equal pay bill, but which would actually hurt employers instead of helping employees. We all agree that people should receive equal pay for equal work. In fact, Illinois passed legislation in 2003 to ensure exactly that. The problem with the legislation which the House passed this week is that it has no caps on punitive fines and would serve to encourage frivolous complaints. Also, like the minimum wage increase signed into law last month, it does not take into account the geographic locations of a job, which should be a factor in a state as large as Illinois. This legislation as currently written is not the answer.
The House passed a bill on Tuesday which would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21. We all want to reduce smoking and smoking-related illnesses, but this legislation falls short. There is currently a federal process in place to address this issue nationally. Also, while it prohibits tobacco purchases by persons under 21, it does not prohibit possession by those same individuals. This legislation will hurt small businesses and Illinois taxpayers, but do very little to cut down on smoking.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,343,723,504 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.7 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.
Did You Know?
A few weeks ago I told you that the coldest temperature ever recorded in Illinois happened in Congerville in 1999. It now seems that we have a new record: a weather station in Mt. Carroll, in far northwestern Illinois, recorded a temperature of -38 degrees on January 31, eclipsing the Congerville mark by two degrees. The new record was not official until last week when the State Climate Extremes Committee verified that the reading was not due to any kind of technical error.