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Update from the Capitol 6/28/2019

Friday, June 28, 2019 - Posted 11:54:39 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.

Cutting down on student debt, and keeping our graduates here in Illinois

College students all over Illinois are hopefully enjoying the summer vacation, but they and their families are also likely considering the ongoing challenge of paying for higher education. The State of Illinois has enacted many different programs to help students with the cost of school, and also to help address the shortages that exist in critical jobs, like teachers, public defenders and nurses.

Contact my office for some helpful information on these programs, and how to apply. You might be able to find assistance in paying tuition bills, as well as help fill a crucial need here in one of our Illinois communities.

State Fire Marshal reminds Illinoisans to be safe this summer

With the July 4th weekend approaching, most of us will be firing up the grill, or lighting some fireworks. While we are enjoying those timeless summer traditions, however, we should all take a moment for safety. The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has released a series of reminders for having a safe celebration this summer.

When it comes to grills, the OSFM reminds us that they should only be used outdoors, and never left unattended. The same holds true for campfires: keep an eye on them and make sure they are at least 25 feet away from any structures or anything else that could ignite, like low overhead branches. Avoid campfires or any other burning on windy days, and keep an eye on pets and children who might be nearby. Always be sure a campfire is completely out before leaving the area.

Nearly one in four emergency room visits related to fireworks come from the use of sparklers. They can burn as hot as 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough heat to melt glass. More than 18,000 fires are caused by fireworks in an average year. The OSFM urges Illinoisans to leave fireworks to the licensed professionals, and to make sure you check with local authorities about which ones are legal in your community and which are not. Children should never be allowed to use fireworks. More information on fireworks safety is available from the state fire marshal.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,499,299,536 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.4 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 approximately $130 billion.

State taking action to help farmers affected by recent flooding

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is working to assist farmers throughout the state who have suffered losses due to the ongoing flooding this spring and early summer. The agency is offering a $400,000 "cover crop incentive program" to help those farmers with acres which have been forced to lay fallow this year due to the delayed start to the planting season. The program is meant to take action to prevent erosion and provide a solution besides using chemical weed control.

There is now a "Flood Assistance" tab on the website of the Department of Agriculture,, which contains information about the resources available from the state and federal governments to assist farmers impacted by flooding. More general information about available resources can also be obtained from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency at

You can also visit my website at for information on flood resources and details about some of the recent meetings of my regional flood prevention task force.

Hearing from the residents of the 106th

This week I concluded my series of town hall meetings throughout the district. Thanks to everyone who came by the meetings this month in Watseka, Paxton, Hoopeston, Pontiac and El Paso. It was a busy spring session and there was a lot to talk about: the budget and infrastructure, abortion and Second Amendment rights, the salary increase (which I am not keeping), recreational marijuana, and much more.

I've been trying to get around the district as much as possible, offering Springfield updates and talking with local residents in all five counties, whether it is a presentation at a civic club meeting or just a conversation at the local sandwich stop. You can always share your concerns and questions with me by phone at my Watseka and Pontiac offices, on social media or through my website at

Did You Know?

July 4 marks not only Independence Day, but also the anniversary of the largest Revolutionary War battle fought in Illinois: the 1778 battle of Kaskaskia. After Americans led by George Rogers Clark defeated the British, the local settlers rang the bell in the local church in celebration. The preserved bell is now part of a state monument and is known as the Liberty Bell of the West.