As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
Happy 200th birthday to Illinois!
Monday December 3 will mark the 200th anniversary of the state of Illinois' admission to the union back in 1818. It will be the day that caps off a year-long celebration of Illinois' past and present, and which looks to the future.
The theme of the bicentennial festivities was "Born, Built, Grown" a celebration of all the great people and things that have their roots here in Illinois. Illinois has made a mark on history which we can all be proud of. Our place in history includes people like our greatest President and our many accomplished writers, entertainers, veterans, educators, inventors, athletes and more. Our history also includes products and innovations which came from Illinois, like the steel plow that revolutionized agriculture in the 19th century or the first nuclear reaction which changed the world in the 20th.
Today the state faces challenges; there is no question about that. But a state which was created by pioneers, which produced the leaders who won the Civil War, and which came through the Great Depression, world wars, natural disasters and many other great adversities in its first 200 years is a state which can meet the challenges of today.
More information on the bicentennial festivities and the ongoing legacy of the bicentennial celebration can be found at www.illinois200.com.
Fall veto session concludes
This week the House met for the final days of the fall veto session. The week began with the annual New Members' Conference, an opportunity for newly-elected legislators to get an orientation to Springfield, and a chance for those of us who are returning to meet our new colleagues from both parties.
Action in the fall session included an override of the Governor's veto of a lyme disease treatment bill which would have allowed physicians to prescribe more aggressive treatments of the disease. Advocates argued that the current recommended treatment for lyme disease is inadequate for those with advanced cases, but doctors felt restrained by concerns about possible disciplinary action. Some other vetoes were upheld, but many were overridden. We were able to stop some bills that pushed for additional mandates on local schools. I also am pleased to announce that the legislation to extend the TIF districts for economic development in Hoopeston passed both houses and is now waiting for the Governor's signature. In all, the House acted on over 100 pieces of legislation during the fall session.
We also took a moment to congratulate Laura Baumgardner and her students from Pontiac Township High School on their national recognition from ESPN and Special Olympics North America for their efforts to provide inclusive sports, leadership and social activities for all students. They are a great example for other schools to follow, and it was a real honor to have them join us at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Recognition of a brave young man
The House this week recognized a courageous young man from Vermilion County, Blake Kinnett of Alvin. Blake is an accomplished athlete: a two-time state champion in baseball before he turned 12, and a basketball player so talented and respected that the local court was re-named in his honor. Last year, Blake was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a genetic disease that destroys the protective myelin sheath that surrounds the brain's neurons. This disease affects one out of every 18,000 people and has no known cure.
The Alvin community has rallied around Blake and his family while they face this struggle. This week, the House commended Blake for his courage and determination and also commended his family and the community for the unwavering support they have given him. Blake's courage and the support shown him by his family and the people of Alvin are truly inspirational, and they embody that which makes our community such a wonderful place to live.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,549,571,939 in unpaid bills to state vendors. For comparison, the backlog stood at $9.1 billion at the end of November 2017. 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 $130 billion.
Visit to local schools
I had the chance to visit several of our local schools over the past few weeks and talk with students about state government and current events. My thanks to Principal Mike Weaver, the teachers and a very sharp group of students at Lincoln Elementary in Pontiac for hosting our conversation about how ideas become laws. I also enjoyed my visit with Christina M. Duncan, the principal at Iroquois West Upper Elementary School in Thawville and her students, as well as Josh Didier, Paxton Buckley Loda Junior High's principal, and guidance counselor Stacy Johnson and all the students at PBL. I am constantly impressed by the energy of these students and the desire that these future leaders have to learn.
Contest to choose name for newly-renovated Illinois State Fair coliseum
One of the restoration works at the State Fairgrounds over the past couple of years has been the Coliseum building, which was opened in 1901. The arena has been partially rebuilt and given a new roof since it was closed in 2016. The renovation was accomplished thanks to $7.5 million in donations from the private sector. It is hoped that the building will host show horses, both in saddle and in harness, at upcoming state fairs and other competitions.
A part of the celebration of the re-opening of the Coliseum will be its re-christening with a new name. A naming contest is being sponsored by the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation for eligible young adults from Illinois. Members of Illinois 4-H, Illinois FFA, and the Illinois Junior Horsemen's Council have been invited to submit naming ideas through December 14. The contest winner will be announced on January 9, 2019.
Did You Know?
Illinois became a state thanks to legislation signed by President James Monroe. Two years later, participating in its first Presidential election, Illinois cast its three electoral votes to help Monroe to a second term. It was the first of many Novembers in which Illinois would side with the winner: in the 50 Presidential contests since statehood, Illinois has been in the winner's column 43 times.