As always, you can contact me via webform 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.
State Police to improve FOID card renewal process
In recent months I have heard from many constituents in the 106th district about the difficulty they have been having with renewing their Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards. I also recently spoke with the Illinois State Police (ISP) and learned about some improvements they are implementing to make the process go more smoothly for those who need to renew their cards. It is important to note that your FOID card will still be valid all during the renewal process as long as you have applied for the renewal before the expiration date on your current card.
ISP says they average about 25,000 FOID card applications each month. They have a hotline to assist applicants, but it is only staffed by five people. ISP is now implementing an upgraded phone system, which will include an interactive, automated option for those who just need to compete an application without speaking to a customer service agent. It will also let applicants request a call-back without having to spend a long time on hold. It will be possible to use the automated system to renew a FOID card or a Concealed Carry License (if there is no address change) over the phone, including payment.
In the meantime, ISP reminds prospective applicants that they have four methods of finding help with either FOID card or CCL questions. You can call (217) 782-7980 to speak to someone, visit www.ispfsb.com to find information about frequently asked questions, e-mail ISP at ASKFOID@illinois.gov for customer service questions, or find a video tutorial from ISP on Youtube.
Residents of the 106th District who continue to have difficulty connecting with ISP can always contact my office for assistance.
Woodford County included in disaster declaration request
Governor Pritzker has asked President Trump to issue a federal disaster declaration for 33 Illinois counties, including Woodford, due to the recent severe flooding. The Governor requested that Woodford County be among those counties to be granted Individual Assistance under any federal declaration, meaning that eligible individuals who suffered damage from the flooding could apply to FEMA for assistance if the state's request for federal aid is approved.
According to the damage assessment conducted by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) the state incurred $69 million in direct losses, damage to more than 1000 miles of roadway or bridges, 1400 homes impacted by rising floodwaters (including 42 which were completely destroyed and 178 which sustained major damage). Hundreds of businesses were impacted as well, with implications for their local communities.
Illinois was last approved for federal disaster aid in 2013. In order for Illinois' request to be approved, federal law requires a determination that the impact of the disaster is above and beyond the capability of the affected state and local governments to respond.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,617,290,232 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.
Department of Public Health issues warning on vaping-related illnesses
Illinois recently recorded its first death of a person with a severe respiratory illness possibly tied to vaping. In late August, the number of cases of people who were hospitalized with respiratory symptoms doubled, according to information released by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). More cases are under investigation by IDPH and local health departments with help from the federal Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.
"The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Director of IDPH. Cases have been reported in every part of the state, including Champaign and Peoria.
IDPH advises anyone who have chest pain or difficulty breathing after vaping or using e-cigarettes to seek medical attention without delay. The agency has also advised medical professionals who encounter a patient with sudden respiratory illnesses to ask about any possible use of e-cigarettes or vaping. More information is available from the IDPH website.
IEMA holds annual training summit
This week I attended the opening session of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency's annual training summit in Springfield. It was a good opportunity for policymakers and emergency responders from around the state to get together to discuss lessons learned from recent emergencies and to build working relationships that will be crucial in the event of a disaster.
I also had a nice meeting with the new IEMA director, Alicia Tate-Nadeau and some of my friends from the Illinois State Water Survey who have been so helpful to our flood mitigation and prevention efforts here in the 106th district.
Did You Know?
Illinois has many official state symbols. In addition to symbols typical of most states (state flower, state bird, state tree, etc.) we also have a state snack food (popcorn), a state amphibian (the eastern tiger salamander), a state fossil (the tully monster), and a state dance (the square dance). Many of these ideas came from schoolchildren or local groups seeking to spotlight a positive aspect of their community or the state as a whole.