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Update from the Capitol: Democrats retain majorities in both chambers

Thursday, November 05, 2020 - Posted 9:28:07 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett

Tom Bennett

Democrats retain majorities in both chambers

Capitol.pngTuesday's election once again produced Democrat majorities in both the Illinois House and Senate. Democrats have been the majority party in the House since 1997 and the Senate since 2003. With some races still left to be settled, Democrats have won more than enough seats to claim the majority. These results will give the Democrats at least two more years of total control of state government, which they have held for 14 of the last 18 years.

One change which is on the horizon in state government concerns the Supreme Court. Justice Thomas Kilbride failed to get the required retention vote for another ten-year term on the Court. A new Justice will be chosen to replace him.

I am honored to have been chosen as your representative in Springfield for another two years and am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve our region in the General Assembly.

Graduated income tax amendment falls short

The proposed Constitutional amendment to switch Illinois from a flat-rate income tax to a graduated tax failed on Tuesday. The effort would have changed the Illinois Constitution to allow legislators to set different tax rates for different groups of people, raising and lowering taxes or adjusting tax brackets as they saw fit.

I hope that the failure of this amendment will convince political leaders in Springfield that the people of Illinois do not want tax increases, they want fiscal responsibility and a real effort to balance the state budget.

Entire state now placed under enhanced coronavirus restrictions

This week the final region of the state which had not been forced to take a step backward due to spread of the coronavirus was placed in ‘enhanced mitigation' status. Region 2, which includes Livingston and Woodford counties in our district, saw these additional restrictions go into effect on Wednesday morning. A region is moved into enhanced mitigation when its 7-day rolling average test positivity rate surpasses 8% and remains there for three consecutive days.

With this move, the entire state of Illinois is now under some kind of enhanced mitigation. Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties were placed in enhanced mitigation last weekend.

Bars and restaurants will be prohibited from indoor service until the case numbers go back down and the restrictions are lifted. These restrictions place enormous strains on our local restaurants and many of them are pleading with the Governor to reconsider. 

To read the full list of mitigation steps, please click here.

I understand the need to take steps to slow the spread of the virus, which has been on the increase in all parts of the state for the last several weeks. However, I continue to take issue with the unilateral imposition of these orders by the Governor with no input from local leaders or the elected legislature.  

I have reached out to the Governor's office to request data and information used in making this determination, and to ask why bars and restaurants were specifically singled out when they may not necessarily be the leading sources of infections.  I have asked the Governor's office to better explain their thought process in taking this action. I share the many valid concerns which our local business owners have about what is happening and why.

As I have said since last spring, this needs to be a cooperative effort through the legislative process, not government-by-executive order. Most other states have re-convened their legislatures at some point in the last eight months to engage policymakers in their state's response. Illinois has failed to do so, except for a rushed, four-day session almost six months ago. The legislature needs to be part of the solution, as do local health officials.

Principal for a day

PBL_JH_Principal_for_a_Day_2020_Picture_1.jpgEvery year I enjoy taking part in the ‘Principal for a Day' program at one of our local schools.  I was pleased to be able to keep the tradition alive, albeit remotely, by visiting virtually with the students at Paxton-Buckley-Loda. I am always inspired and encouraged by meetings with the students in our district, and this was the case once again.

My thanks to PBL superintendent Cliff McClure and the administrators and teachers, as well as the 8th grade students who participated in such an interesting conversation and asked such good questions.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,333,545,170 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.5 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 more than $137 billion.

More news from around the state

Four new Vermilion County deaths in the latest update from the Department of Public Health

Veterans' virtual job fair series coming up next week

New helpline launched for Illinois farmers

Illinois Department of Insurance announces the state of ACA marketplace open enrollment

For additional helpful resources, click here.

For continually updated news from state agencies, visit: or my website at and click on COVID-19 Info. Persons with coronavirus questions or concerns should call the statewide toll-free coronavirus hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also submit questions via e-mail at

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).