Senate Week in Review: November 12-16

Springfield, IL –  Governor Quinn is targeting an early January lame-duck legislative session as a possible time to push through pension law changes, State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rezin said several businesses, organizations, and community colleges were honored with sustainability awards.  And, as Thanksgiving approaches, so does the holiday shopping season. Advocates for small businesses and locally-based retailers are undertaking promotions such as “Small Business Saturday” to try to capture a share of the business.

In recent days Gov. Quinn has said he wants the legislature to take up pension changes in January, most likely during an extended lame-duck legislative session before new members of the General Assembly are sworn in. Legislative leaders have scheduled a 6 1/2 day lame-duck session beginning Jan. 3 and running through the weekend to mid-day Jan. 9, when a new General Assembly is to be sworn in.

However, the timing and emphasis on the lame-duck session is a cause for concern to some legislators. Sen. Rezin said two years ago, majority Democrats used the lame-duck session to impose a 67% income tax increase on Illinoisans. Some lawmakers are concerned the upcoming January session will be used to push new costs onto local school districts that could lead to massive property tax increases.

The pension cost shift has been strongly opposed by suburban and downstate legislators who argue that it would simply result in high property tax bills for homeowners without reducing pension costs, Sen. Rezin explained. Chicago Democrats have argued that city property taxpayers already pay for most of the pension costs for Chicago public school teachers. But others say that is offset by formulas that have been skewed to give Chicago more money than its schools would be entitled to under a fair distribution of school aid, including poverty and special education formulas.

Sen. Rezin has maintained that she is committed to working with her colleagues in the Senate to find a solution to pension reform.

A pair of environmental recognition programs joined together recently to recognize various businesses, colleges and cities for their efforts in improving the environment, and sustaining the future. Winners of both the Governor’s Sustainability Awards and the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact Awards Program were recognized in Oak Brook on Nov. 9.

Twenty-one Illinois companies and organizations were honored with Governor’s Sustainability Awards presented by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC). This was also the first year college campuses were considered. Nearly two dozen community colleges, colleges and universities were recognized.  Recipients included Will County and Kankakee Community College.  

Any Illinois public or private organization is eligible to apply for an award. Organizations winning for the first time receive the Sustainability Award, while organizations who have won in the past are awarded the Continuous Improvement Award.

The ISTC is a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. Since 1987 they have presented the Governor’s award to organizations in Illinois that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence through outstanding and innovative sustainability practices that will also save money and help the economy.

As Thanksgiving approaches, along with the prime holiday shopping season, advocates of small and local businesses are urging shoppers to spend part of their gift-giving budget with them.

November 24, or “Small Business Saturday,” is an initiative to encourage consumers to do a portion of their holiday shopping at smaller retailers. The promotion, first launched in 2010, is timed to follow the “Black Friday” sales promotions of national retailers.

Illinoisans are painfully aware that the state’s economy is still shaky. Small businesses make up 60 to 80 percent of the net new jobs created in Illinois. A U.S. Labor Department study in 2009 showed that if half the buying population spent $50 a month at locally-owned businesses, it would generate an additional $42.6 billion in revenue.

Another organization, called the 3/50 project, is an enterprise that is “saving the brick and mortars our nation is built on.” The group provides marketing and strategy tips to smaller companies to help them build their customer base and expand employment opportunities.

The 3/50 project has a listing of independent businesses in Illinois that are participating. To find the list visit: Marketing materials and other promotional assistance for business are also offered through the 3/50 project website.  To see more about “Small Business Saturday,” visit:

Illinois State Police trooper, Mike Kindhart, has some advice that may not come naturally when faced with a deer in the headlights.  

According to the officer, accidents are often worse when individuals attempt to swerve to avoid hitting a deer. His advice? Slow down, maintain control of the vehicle and hit the deer.

Officer Kindhart told the Quincy Herald-Whig to, “apply your breaks rapidly and hold on to the steering wheel. If you can’t avoid the deer, drive straight through it.”

He offers a few other suggestions to help scare off a deer in the road including, honking your horn and flashing your high beam lights.  He noted that deer whistles, which are installed on the fronts of vehicles, can have an effect on deer.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that deer related vehicle accidents were up in 2011 at 18,039 from 2010’s tally of 17,135 accidents.

During deer season it is important to stay alert, especially at night, for deer on roadways. Deer often travel together and there may be more crossing after one has been spotted.  If you are involved in a deer related incident, like any motor accident, be sure to call 911.

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