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Update from the Capitol 8/30/2019

Friday, August 30, 2019 - Posted 12:43:08 PM 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.

Flood prevention, alternate teacher licensing bills become law

Two more bills I sponsored in the House became law this week. House Bill 2583 was an idea which came out of my flood prevention task force meetings. It allows conservancy districts to change their names to reflect additional territory that was added, and therefore clarifies state law to make clear that these districts have the right to expand if voters give their approval in a referendum.

This legislation is important for our area because it helps our local river conservation districts work on flood prevention or flood mitigation projects over wider areas. We have seen repeated flash flooding and river flooding throughout the 106th district in recent years. Oftentimes this flooding can be caused or be worsened by water drainage factors far from the site of the flooding. The water management authorities who protect our communities from flooding are helped by my legislation which lets them better address flooding before it gets out of hand.

A second bill I sponsored which Governor Pritzker signed was Senate Bill 1901, a bill to make some changes to the process for licensing alternative educators under the Illinois School Code. Among its changes were some adjustments to fee schedules and bringing back a requirement that an applicant for an alternative educator license must pass the State Board of Education's teacher performance assessment before they can enter their second residency year. With the signing of these bills, the state has now enacted six of the bills I sponsored this year.

State agencies warn public about blue-green algae

The Illinois EPA and the Department of Public Health are reminding residents to be on the lookout for blue-green algae on bodies of water in Illinois. This time of year the water conditions are ideal for blue-green algae growth. Most blue-green algae are harmless, but others produce chemicals which cause sickness in people and pets, depending on the amount and type of exposure. There have been reports elsewhere in the nation of illnesses and deaths of pets who came into contact with blue-green algae blooms.

When officials confirm the presence of blue-green algae, they are advised to post signage to warn residents; but not all blooms are reported to state officials. Those using waterways should be careful to stay away from suspicious looking water. Key warning signs are water that looks like spilled green or blue-green paint; has surface scums, mats, or films; is discolored or has green-colored streaks; or has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface.

The agencies advise keeping children and pets out of the water and preventing pets from drinking from the water or licking their fur after swimming in water containing a blue-green algae bloom. A person or pet who has contact with a blue-green algae bloom should rinse off with clean, fresh water as soon as possible.

More information is available at the IEPA's Harmful Algal Bloom website.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,389,926,203 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.7 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 $133 billion.

Visit with Ford County townships

It was nice to stop in and visit with the township commissioners from throughout Ford County a few nights ago at their meeting in Kempton. They are a good, hard-working and committed group of local officials working to make our area's townships even better places to live.

A lot of exciting things are happening at the township level, including improvements to our township roads as more funds start coming in from the state to help with road projects that are so important to our rural communities and families. Keep up the good work!

Field trip grants available for Lincoln Presidential Museum

School districts interested in taking a field trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield might be eligible for some help with transportation costs. The Museum, in cooperation with the Winnick Family Foundation has announced a series of transportation grants for teachers and students in grades 4-12, at any public or private school with a low-income enrollment of greater than 30%.

Applications are due by October 15, and the selected schools will be notified by November 15. The grants will be for field trips during 2020. The grant will cover the transportation costs of the field trip. Additionally, the museum will waive the $4 per student fee charged for school field trips in March, April and May if the group has received a Winnick Foundation grant. More information is available by calling (217) 782-2981.

Property tax survey

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have been appointed to a newly-created property tax task force to study ways to reform Illinois' property tax system. We held our first meeting last week, and have more meetings scheduled in the near future. Property taxes affect us all, either from payments we make on property which we own, or through the added costs they place on items at the businesses where we shop, for example. Many important services are funded through property taxes, so it is critical that we get this reform effort right.

I want to hear from you about your thoughts on how to fix Illinois' property tax system. Visit for a short survey about Illinois' property tax system and what we can do to fix it. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

Did You Know?

The drafting of our current state Constitution was completed on September 3, 1970, at the end of a convention which first convened in December 1969. The convention adjourned on September 3 and presented its work to the voters of the state, who approved the document later that year. The 1970 Constitution is the fourth state Constitution in Illinois history, following those enacted in 1818, 1848 and 1870.