Legislative News from Senator Don DeWitte

More Senate Republican measures get a green light during busy week in Springfield

Though thousands of bills were filed this year in the Illinois General Assembly, many did not receive hearings prior to the March 10 deadline for bills to clear a substantive committee in the chamber or origin. Last week was an incredibly busy week in Springfield, and between Tuesday and Friday, just under 300 Senate Bills and around 320 House Bills moved through a committee. I personally have two bills that advanced through committee and are now headed to the Senate floor for full consideration:

SB 1225: Improves the system assessors use to establish or reestablish parcels that are entitled to “common area” exemptions, and helps assessors make better assessments and ensures property owners are receiving all of their available exemptions.   

SB 2320: Revises the Illinois Municipal Code to extend the opportunity for local Administrative Adjudication to all municipalities (currently only home-rule municipalities), keeping more revenues local.

A few other interesting bills sponsored by Senate Republicans that were successful at the committee level last week include:

  • Senate Bill 1468 (Senator Tom Bennett): Seeks to address the teacher shortage by allowing 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. An amendment will be filed to change it from 150 days to 120 days through 2025.
  • Senate Bill 1470 (Senator Tom Bennett): Allows schools to use remote learning days instead of emergency days, for a maximum of five days per school year to help schools maintain schedules.
  • Senate Bill 1360 (Senator Dale Fowler): Seeks to address rural food deserts by creating a program where the Illinois Department of Agriculture would establish and operate projects and strategies that focus on the distribution of fresh and nutritious food while providing education in food preparation and nutrition.
  • Senate Bill 2005 (Senator Craig Wilcox): Addresses veterans’ homelessness by requiring housing authorities to develop and implement policies granting housing preferences to homeless veterans.
  • Senate Bill 2044 (Senator Sally Turner): Requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop a mandatory continued medical education course that surrounds protocols and best practices for identifying, diagnosing, and treating tickborne diseases in Illinois.

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. SB 2322 allows residents to continue receiving essential care from their support persons despite visitation restrictions, and even under a statewide emergency.

SB 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.

I support the bill and believe 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.

Upcoming Events in the 33rd District

New events are added frequently to my community outreach events calendar. Please mark your calendars now for the following free events:

March 15: Traveling Office Hours at the Crystal Lake Public Library: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 126 W. Paddock Street, Crystal Lake. A member of my staff will be available to assist constituents with issues involving state agencies and departments.

April 3-7: Toiletry Drive to benefit the St. Charles Salvation Army and Food for Greater Elgin, Inc.: New, unused household cleaning products, hygiene products, and other toiletries will be collected.

April 5: Traveling Office Hours at the Algonquin Public Library: 9:00 – 11:00 AM, 2600 Harnish Drive, Algonquin. A member of my staff will be available to assist constituents with issues involving state agencies and departments.

Saturday, April 8: Free Shred Event and food collection drive in West Dundee: In partnership with the Northern Kane County Chamber of Commerce and State Rep. Suzanne Ness, this event will be held from 9:00 AM until noon, or until the shred truck is full. All collected food will be donated to the District 300 Food Pantry. The shred truck will be located at Century Plaza, 711 S. 8th Street, in West Dundee. Participants may bring up to 2 banker box-sized containers of documents for shredding.

April 22: Prescription Drug Dropoff Event: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Campton Hills Police Department, 40W270 LaFox Road, B in Campton Hills. Accepted items include unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medications, pet medications, and vitamins. We cannot accept liquids, creams, needles, or illegal drugs.

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 the southern Illinois community of Anna. The plan unveiled by the Governor’s Administration comes following negative news coverage involving stories of abuse, neglect, humiliation, and intimidation 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.

Ending Illinois’ ban on building nuclear plants 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 a Senate Committee this week 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, and I support ending the archaic and arbitrary ban. 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.

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