As always, you can reach me through the contact form 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.
Ethics reform, athlete compensation lead fall session agenda
The short fall session of the legislature, also known as the "veto session," started the first of its two scheduled weeks on Monday. Traditionally the veto session has met to discuss any bills which were vetoed by the Governor over the summer. But this year there were only eight bills vetoed, so some other issues made their way into the spotlight this week.
On Monday we learned of the latest corruption allegation in Illinois government. This time it was a state representative from Chicago who allegedly offered a bribe to a state senator in exchange for supporting a bill. The need for stronger ethics laws in Illinois has been apparent for a very long time. This is just the latest example.
This week I joined several of my colleagues at a press conference to call for stronger ethics laws, including a bill I introduced earlier this year. My proposal, House Bill 165, would prohibit legislators from leaving office and immediately going to work as lobbyists â€“ they would instead have to wait two years. It seems like such a common sense idea to me, but the bill was not called for a vote this spring. We need stronger ethics laws in Illinois, and my legislation should be part of that process. I am also a co-sponsor of a resolution to create a State Ethics Task Force to address corruption within state government. Both of these pieces of legislation are long overdue.
Another big issue which came up this week was the proposal to allow college athletes to be paid for endorsements, House Bill 3904. I voted No on this bill. Universities and associations like the NCAA need to be more involved in the process at every step of the way. The legislation would not take effect until 2023, but we rushed to vote this week, in spite of a lot of unaddressed concerns.
The bill passed the House on Wednesday and is now awaiting action in the Senate.
REAL ID deadline is now set
After years of extensions, Illinois is finally set to become fully compliant with the federal REAL ID law on October 1, 2020. This will require everyone with an Illinois driver license or state-issued ID card to have an upgraded card by that date in order to use it for identification purpose for such things as boarding an airplane or entering a federal building.
The Secretary of State's office is hiring and training additional staff to assist with the changeover to the new, more secure identification cards. All Illinoisans are encouraged to visit the Secretary of State's REAL ID website at www.realid.ilsos.gov to find out about the process of upgrading to the new license requirements. The site includes an interactive checklist of documents you will need in order to apply for the new ID, and also walks users through the steps involved in getting the new ID.
The requirement for these new IDs was implemented by Congress several years ago as a recommendation following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Creating IDs which are much harder to counterfeit will enhance the safety at airports and other secure facilities. Most states in the nation are already REAL ID compliant, but Illinois took much longer. We have been given a series of extensions as we moved toward compliance, but now the state is finally ready to begin issuing IDs that are 100% compliant with federal law. Everyone is encouraged to visit the website and learn the steps involved. Illinois' current extension runs out on October 1, 2020, and after that date you will be required to have a REAL ID compliant license to enter many secure facilities.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,251,576,343 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.9 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.
Discussing a Reagan statue for the Capitol
Illinois has been the home of four Presidents. Two of them are honored with statues at the state Capitol. I propose to add a third: Ronald Reagan, Eureka College Class of 1932. Last week I met with sculptor Lonnie Stewart and Eureka College Senior Vice President Michael Murtaugh, as well as Architect of the Capitol Committee members Brad Bolin and Mark Flowers and Architect of the Capitol Andrea Aggertt to discuss the possibility of honoring our nation's 40th President and our district's favorite son with a statue somewhere on the Capitol grounds.
We want to ensure that our cash-strapped state's taxpayers do not end up stuck with the bill, so we are looking at ways to accept private donations for the creation, acquisition and placement of the statue. There will be much more discussion to come, but I believe we are moving this project in the right direction.
Did You Know?
On November 5, 1908, Fort Massac at Illinois' southern tip became the first Illinois State Park. The old French fort dated from colonial days. It was seized by the British, but then abandoned during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington ordered it rebuilt. It was used by Lewis and Clark and was a training base early in the Civil War. It fell into disrepair, but was preserved by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and eventually sold to the state. The restored fort today hosts historic re-enactments and encampments.