Morris Youth Takes the Top Prize at State Fair
12 year-old Shaelye Varner of Morris took the most coveted prize in the Illinois State Fair Junior Cattle Show, the Grand Champion Steer. Then on Tuesday night at the Governor’s Sale of Champions, her steer smashed the previous record for the highest selling animal at the fair by taking the top bid of $100,000.
Records were also set for Land of Lincoln Grand Champion Steer, Grand Champion Barrow (swine), and Grand Champion Wether (sheep). In all, the event raised an astounding $260,095 for not only the junior producers who raised the champion animals, but also the 4-H and FFA programs, which each receive 10 percent of the proceeds. The kids typically put most of their sale proceeds toward their own college education.
Senate Week in Review
A “Sign and Drive” law, legislation to assure that 911 callers will be correctly connected to emergency services, new rules to upgrade the care available through first responders in rural areas, and eliminating the need for permanently disabled veterans to annually reapply for parking stickers, are all among the new laws signed in recent days, said Senator Sue Rezin (R-Peru).
New program contradicts Quinn claim
At the same time, new evidence emerged to contradict Governor Quinn’s claim that he shut down a failed and mismanaged “Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.”
Instead, House and Senate leaders and members of the Legislative Audit Commission, are pointing to a last-minute $20 million lump sum allocation buried in the state’s labor department budget. They are calling for an accounting of what appears to be a virtually identical re-branding version of the scandal-plagued program.
As with the original Neighborhood Recovery Program, administration of the new grant program was assigned to a state agency with no experience or expertise in grant management.
The lawmakers are asking the Governor to provide a full accounting of how taxpayer money is being spent for the new program that purports to offer job training to at-risk youth.
It is essentially the same description that was used for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), which ended up paying teens to march in a parade with Quinn, attend yoga classes, go on museum field trips and hand out fliers. Further investigations have shown that the NRI awarded grants to political insiders and channeled money to a day care center for a non-existent program that was supposed to help former convicts transition to life outside prison.
That $20 million lump-sum earmark to the Department of Labor, identified in the state budget with only vague language, represented a 300% increase in the agency’s budget at a time when the state is facing major cuts in core programs and closing state facilities.
Concealed Carry Popular
Illinois’ new concealed carry law is proving popular across the state, with an estimated 69,000 permits having been issued through July. The Chicago Sun-Times has developed an interactive map showing the breakdown of permits by county.
Although Cook County has the highest number of permits issued, it actually ranks 96th out of 102 counties in the state for the percentage of residents holding a permit. The county with the highest percentage is Mason County in central Illinois, with just over 14% of its 14,600 residents holding a permit.
Sangamon County, which hosts the State Capitol, has the lowest percentage of permit holder at just .02% of its residents.
Sign and drive
Beginning in January, motorists who are stopped for a routine traffic offense will no longer be required to surrender their license as bail. Senate Bill 2585 reinstates “sign and drive” which was the law in Illinois until 1986 and allows drivers to simply sign for the ticket.
Illinois is one of only six states which takes a driver’s license for a minor traffic offense. As part of the Nonresident Violator Compact, Illinois does not take the driver’s license of an out of state resident.
Under SB 3313, anyone who installs a private business phone switching service must ensure that an individual dialing 9-1-1 is connected directly with EMS-related agencies and does not have to “dial out” to reach them.
Rural emergency services
Two bills designed to help improve emergency response services in rural areas also became law.
House Bill 5828 will allow rural firefighters who are trained as paramedics to have better access to the equipment and supplies needed to utilize their skills in an emergency, while House Bill 4523 allows ambulance providers in rural areas to be upgraded to the highest license of any person staffing that ambulance, including registered nurses.
Both of these measures will allow greater access to life-saving equipment and supplies needed by first responders in rural areas.
Under HB 5828, specialized emergency medical service vehicles and alternate response vehicles, such as those used by fire departments, can receive service-level upgrades similar to those received by ambulances, which will allow the trucks to carry supplies and equipment that might otherwise only be available on an ambulance. Many rural communities do not have an ambulance service, but most are part of a fire protection district.
House Bill 4523 allows an ambulance-service provider serving a rural population of 7,500 or fewer to request to upgrade the vehicle’s in-field service level based on the certification of a pre-hospital Registered Nurse staffing the ambulance. Previously, only an EMT license certification could be used to upgrade the ambulance’s service level.
Disabled Veterans’ parking
Permanently disabled veterans would not have to continue to reapply each year in order to have their handicapped parking stickers, plates or placards renewed under SB 3255. Once a doctor has determined a veteran to have a permanent disability, veterans could renew their placard or special license plate without submitting a doctor’s determination each year.
Other recently signed bills
Property Tax Rates (SB 347/PA 98-0863): Provides that property tax rates may be calculated beyond 3 decimal points to allow extensions to get closer to a levy requested. Currently, rates are rounded up to the next higher mill (1 / 1000). Counties could make the choice to continue rounding up.
Auto Arbitration - Litigation (SB 644/PA 98-0864): Adds to the state law which mandates arbitration for auto insurance disputes under $2,500, by stating that nothing shall prohibit a party from seeking resolution in court after a decision is made in arbitration. Current law mandates arbitration, but states that parties can only go to court if it is mutually agreed upon. This amendment will allow each party the choice to go to court without mutual agreement.
Mental Health Treatment (SB 1724/PA 98-0865): Provides that when a person is admitted for treatment under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, they shall receive copies of the petition and a statement of rights.
Fiduciaries & Trusts (SB 2002/PA 98-0866): Makes it clear that a trustee may participate in a virtual representation agreement to create a directed trust and still be an excluded fiduciary under the terms of the statute.
Law Enforcement Misconduct (SB 2695/PA 98-0867): Provides that an employee of a law enforcement agency commits official misconduct when he or she knowingly uses or communicates, directly or indirectly, information acquired in the course of employment, which obstructs, impedes, or prevents the investigation, apprehension, or prosecution of any criminal offense or person. Specifies that the defendant must have had intent to disrupt the case.
Education Surrogates (SB 2782/PA 98-0868): Allows a judge to appoint a parent or legal guardian as the education surrogate or early intervention program surrogate after issuing an order for temporary child custody because of abuse or neglect. An amendment was added to clarify that federal law, not state law, governs the appointment of educational surrogates and early intervention program surrogates.
Gold Star Plates (HB 5475/PA 98-0869): Expands the list of surviving family members that are eligible for “Gold Star” license plates to include a son or daughter of a deceased solider.
Bus Shoulder Program (HB 5664/PA 98-0871): Makes the PACE bus on the shoulder pilot program permanent.
School Superintendents (SB 2972/PA 98-0872): Provides that the holder of a Professional Educator License can qualify for a superintendent endorsement if they have had at least two years’ experience employed full-time in a general administrative position, among other qualifications. Currently, the superintendent endorsement can be affixed if the individual in question has had at least two years of experience employed as a full-time principal, director of special education, or chief school business official. This bill opens that endorsement up to "general administrative positions" which is not defined.
Vehicle Emergency Lights (SB 927/PA 98-0873): Allows for vehicles under the authority of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to be able to be equipped with flashing, oscillating, or rotating lights, under certain conditions. In January an Illinois Tollway worker was killed in a traffic accident while performing a highway emergency call. This legislation is an attempt to provide workers with extra protection while performing such duties.
Workplace Safety (SB 1103/PA 98-0874): Repeals the Safety Inspection and Education Act and the Health and Safety Act and in its place creates the “Occupational Safety and Health Act” to be administered by the Department of Labor.
Mental Health Services (SB 2586/PA 98-0878): Deletes a current law requiring the Governor to convene a working group to identify needed services in different areas of the state, and instead requires the Governor’s Office of Health Innovation and Transformation to oversee a process for identifying needed services for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse disorders in the different geographic regions of the state, as well as financing strategies to develop those needs.
Covered Farm Vehicle (SB 3398/PA 98-0882): Defines “covered farm vehicles” as a straight truck or articulated vehicle equipped with a special license plate identifying it as a farm vehicle for law enforcement personnel, and further provides that when trailers registered as farm trailers are hauled by a motor vehicle of the second division that is 12,000 pounds or less that is not registered as a farm truck, that truck is subject to privileges and limitations on use as though it were registered as a farm truck.