Update from Senator Bennett: March 10

Bennett Advances Legislation to Help Schools Deal with Teacher Shortage and Scheduling Challenge With schools across Illinois struggling to fill vacancies and hire substitutes, State Senator Tom Bennett  has advanced legislation to help willing and experienced retired teachers to help fill some of the gaps. “This bill is designed to help schools cover vacancies, particularly with substitute teachers, by making it easier for retired teachers to step back in to classrooms and put their experience to work for students,” said Bennett. “This will provide one more tool to our schools to make sure they can staff classrooms and provide the best education possible.” Senate Bill 1468, filed by Bennett, would allow teachers who are receiving retirement benefits to accept employment as teachers for up to 150 days or 750 hours per school year through 2025, and a maximum of 100 days or 500 hours in 2026 and thereafter. Senator Bennett will be filing an amendment to change from 150 days to 120 days through 2025. In addition to the teacher shortage, schools are also facing increasing challenges with their schedules, trying to meet requirements while dealing with emergencies. Senate Bill 1470, also filed by Bennett, would allow schools to use remote learning days instead of emergency days, for a maximum of 5 days per school year. “This will provide some additional flexibility to our local schools to maintain schedules, meet staffing requirements, and handle whatever emergencies may arise,” said Bennett. “I believe we need to empower our school districts to deal with the numerous challenges they face, so they can focus on their core mission of educating children.” Both Senate Bill 1468 and 1470 were advanced by the Senate Education Committee on March 7 and now await votes by the full chamber.
Governor to force over 100 residents with developmental disabilities to relocate The Governor and the Illinois Department of Human Services announced this week they would be greatly reducing over the next three years the number of residents at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center located in southern Illinois. The plan unveiled by the Governor’s Administration comes following negative news coverage involving stories of abuse at the facility. Currently, the Center is home to approximately 270 residents with various mental health conditions and developmental disabilities. Under the Governor’s plan, 123 patients will be forced to relocate to either another state-supported center or a community residence, posing grave concerns for many residents and their families who fear how far away they’ll have to move and the ability to find a facility that fits their needs. Just two weeks ago, Republican legislators called for public hearings on the issues surrounding Choate and outlined a list of potential solutions to implement for the facility to continue to serve Illinois’ most vulnerable residents. Despite the plan announced this week, Senate Republicans remain committed to ensuring any future action is in the best interest of the residents of Choate and their families.
Bill to protect long-term care residents against isolation advances One of the most vivid memories of the COVID-19 pandemic was the isolation many long-term care residents faced in response to strict government mandates imposed throughout Illinois. Legislation to ensure that kind of isolation can no longer happen was passed unanimously by the Senate’s Executive Committee this week. Senate Bill 2322 directs the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to establish a statewide policy for visitation of residents in the event of a public health emergency. This policy would require facilities to inform residents of their right to designate both a “primary essential support person” and a “secondary essential support person” of their choice. These support people provide essential care for residents far beyond a general visit. Senate Bill 2322 allows residents to continue receiving essential care from their support persons despite visitation restrictions, and even under a statewide emergency. Senate Bill 2322 is expected to receive an amendment to clarify that provisions found in the bill would not affect hospitals or certain care facilities where IDPH has no regulatory oversight. Senator Bennett supports the bill saying it’s possible to still maintain the safety of residents and staff while also ensuring that our vulnerable population can continue to receive support and care from a loved one.
LaSalle Nuclear
Ending Illinois’ ban on building nuclear plans moves forward For more than three decades, Illinois has had a ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants. A bill that passed out of Senate Committee this week and filed by State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) would end the moratorium and allow the state to increase its energy capacity with this efficient source of energy. Senate Bill 76 would allow public utility and energy companies the option to choose whether they want to invest in the construction of both traditional, large nuclear reactors or new, small modular reactors that could be placed in existing infrastructure such as factories or pre-existing coal-fired power plants that are already connected to the electric grid. Nuclear power provides a safe, clean, and reliable source of energy, said Senator Bennett, who supports ending the archaic and arbitrary ban. He noted that allowing more nuclear energy onto the grid would likely lower energy costs for families and consumers and boost local economies impacted by the closure of coal-fired plants.
Dollar Pipeline
How much do we owe? As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,261,385,167 to state vendors, including 19,650 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 just under $3 billion.
Did You Know? The 53rd Senate District has served as a home for lots of great innovations and innovators. When you think about great ideas, ice cream may not be the first thing that pops up. However, Burt “Butch” Baskin and his partner Irv Robbins made a major innovation in the restaurant business. After opening several of their Baskin Robbins restaurants, the pair decided to sell the individual locations to their managers, becoming the first food company to franchise their outlets, kicking off the age of franchising. Today, 54% of fast-food restaurants are franchises. While Irv Robbins originally hailed from Canada, Burt Baskin was born and raised in the 53rd District, in the town of Streator. He graduated from Streator Township High School in 1931, and from the University of Illinois in 1935. After service in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II, he started his first ice cream business in California.
This Week in the 53rd Senate District
Tom Bennett

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