|Bennett Advances Legislation to Help Educate Students on Potential Careers State Senator Tom Bennett is working to make sure students have better information on careers as they choose what programs to pursue in college. “If students know more what educational requirements exist for certain jobs, as well as how lucrative those career paths are, then they will be able to make better choices in college,” said Bennett. “This is about empowering students to help create the best possible futures for themselves.” Senate Bill 1356, filed by Bennett, would requires the Illinois Board of Higher Education to annually compile a list of the most in-demand jobs in Illinois, along with the starting and median salaries for those occupations, and the education levels required to enter those fields. On February 21st, the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee approved the measure. It now awaits action by the full Senate. Senator Bennett also advanced legislation to help the spouses of veterans who died during property tax homestead exemption reviews. Senate Bill 1534 passed unanimously through the Senate Revenue Committee on February 23rd.
|Republican Legislators Call for Action for Choate Mental Health and Development Center Following another report by ProPublica detailing disturbing mistreatment of residents at Choate Mental Health and Development Center in Anna, IL, Senate Republicans are calling for action to not only address these recent allegations but also the decades-long mismanagement of the downstate facility, which serves as a home to approximately 270 residents. Last week, Senators signed a letter requesting public hearings to discuss the serious concerns regarding the downstate facility, and some stood together at a press conference at the Capitol Feb. 23 to outline potential solutions, some of which include: Implementing ongoing staff training, Instituting a mass hiring of qualified staff, Tracking staff incidents by location and trends, Increasing administrative and security inspections, Improving overall accountability of staff performance, and Assigning an interim director or assistant director. Choate Mental Health and Development Center has been in the news cycle for multiple instances recently related to abuse and general poor conditions at the facility.
|Illinois Supreme Court Sets Hearing Date for the SAFE-T Act Appeal The Illinois Supreme Court has set the date of March 14 to begin hearing oral arguments on whether the no-cash bail provision of the SAFE-T Act is constitutional. In late December, a judge in Kankakee County ruled in favor of more than 60 State’s Attorneys as it declared the controversial provision violated the Illinois Constitution. The no-cash bail system was set to go into effect on Jan. 1; however, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Dec. 31 to halt the implementation of the no-cash bail system following the lower court’s ruling. The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued to make sure different systems weren’t being used in different counties while the court case moved forward. In its order, the Illinois Supreme Court said the ruling was to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois” as 65 counties were included in the lawsuit while the other 37 counties were still planning on implementing the no-cash bail system. While Illinois courts are still deciding the fate of the no-cash bail system, other portions of the SAFE-T Act are already being implemented, including requiring body cameras on law enforcement, more police training, and new guidelines for the decertification of police officers.
|How much do we owe? As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,764,461,341 in unpaid bills to state vendors, including 18,893 ending vouchers. 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 $139 billion. At the same point last year, the estimated amount owed was approximately $3 billion.
|Did You Know? In 2008, the celestial body known as Pluto went from being recognized as the 9th planet to being demoted to mere dwarf planet. Regardless of how it is classified, Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, who was born in the 53rd Senate District, in Streator. His discovery was confirmed on February 18th, 1930. In 2015, the New Horizons space probe became the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. Some of Tombaugh’s ashes were carried on board during the flyby. The spacecraft discovered a heart-shaped region on Pluto’s surface that is now known as the Tombaugh Region. Tombaugh’s discovery is honored with a monument in Streator at the Anderson Golf Course.
|This Week in the 53rd Senate District Despite a busy week of legislative session, Senator Bennett was still able to spend time travelling the 53rd District and meeting with constituents.