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Update from the Capitol 8/23/2019

Friday, August 23, 2019 - Posted 10:22:29 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett

As always, you can contact me via webform at, 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.

Lyme disease, epi-pen legislation signed into law

I was pleased to see Governor Pritzker signed two more pieces of legislation to help Illinoisans dealing with specific health care challenges.

House Bill 889 requires insurance companies to provide better coverage for patients with tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. This bill came about due to some hard work from my colleague Rep. Dan Swanson and a 13-year-old girl in his district named Lauren Russell who has battled Lyme disease since she was seven. Because Lyme disease can sometimes require a longer course of treatment than the standard Centers for Disease Control guidelines, some Illinoisans were seeing their insurance coverage stop before they had completed their treatment. The new law covers long-term antibiotic treatment and the doctors' office visits and test that come with it.

Insurance companies will also be required to cover the costs of Epi-Pen injectors for children who have severe allergies. These life-saving injectors have skyrocketed in cost in recent years – going up by more than 400% in the last decade. A two-pen injector pack can cost a family as much as $700, and typically has a shelf life of about a year before needing to be replaced. As of January 1, they will have to be covered by insurance. The bill was House Bill 3435.

Many local IDOT road projects underway, new projects coming soon

Back in June we enacted legislation to improve and modernize the state's transportation infrastructure. Information has been starting to come from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) about the projects it intends to work on in the coming years. Right now, the state is functioning on an IDOT Multi-Year Plan (MYP) developed for the years 2019-2024. But the current MYP was put together before we passed the capital infrastructure bill which makes more resources available to give IDOT the capability to work on more projects.

The state of Illinois is divided into nine IDOT districts. Our area is split between three of these districts: Vermilion County is part of District 5 (along with Champaign and other counties to the south and east), Ford, Iroquois and Livingston are in District 3 (with additional counties to the north) and Woodford County is part of District 2 (which extends west to the Mississippi River). In each district, engineers and IDOT staff evaluate the condition of the many miles of road in their territory and use a wide range of criteria to determine which projects to take on, and in what order. Needs will vary from one district to the next, but with the additional funds now becoming available to IDOT, more of these projects can get started in the coming weeks and months, and more could be added. Many are already underway.

The current list of IDOT projects planned for the state roads in the 106th district includes six single-year and 43 multi-year projects starting in 2019. This plan represents an estimated investment of more than $155 million in transportation improvements in the five counties of our district, with more planned for the next few years.

Keep in mind that a list of additional projects is said to be coming soon from IDOT which will reflect the additional resources they will have for more projects. Also remember that this list includes only IDOT projects. More information will come from your city, county and township road officials about the new projects which they will be undertaking using the additional resources which are now becoming available to them.

Watch future newsletters from my office for an expanded list of state projects once IDOT releases its new plan in the weeks ahead.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,890,142,674 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.8 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 $133 billion.

Giving Springfield updates in El Paso and Hoopeston

My thanks to the El Paso Rotary Club and the Hoopeston Lions Club for giving me the opportunity to visit with each of them and provide a Springfield update. There is a lot going on in state government these days, and I really appreciate getting the chance to stop in and meet with our many active civic groups.

It's my job not only to report to the people of the 106th district on what is happening in Springfield, but also to hear your questions and concerns and do my best to answer them. These meetings always produce a lot of good questions and conversations, and sometimes even ideas for new or better legislation. Thanks to everyone who joins a local civic group and works to make our communities better places to live, and thanks to those who have shared their questions and comments about state government with me over the course of the summer. I enjoy hearing from you.

Flag presentation in Clifton

This week I was honored to meet with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2131 in Clifton and to present a flag to Post Commander Dave Kroll and Quartermaster Al Weedon. This flag was flown over both the State Capitol building in Springfield and the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The folded flag was contained in a triangular box which was custom made by the students in the shop class at Milford High School. Presenting flags in honor of veterans and other patriotic organizations is one of my favorite parts of the job. It is a tremendous experience to be able to thank these great Americans in person for their service to our country and all that they do for our communities.

Did You Know?

August 23 is the birthday of Illinois author and poet Edgar Lee Masters. Masters wrote about Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, but he is best remembered for the Spoon River Anthology, a collection of more than 200 stories about small town life in Illinois a century ago. Masters lived in Petersburg, near Springfield, and later in Lewistown, just west of Peoria. He died in 1950.