Senate lawmakers braved the cold to return to the Capitol January 29-31, as the Governor issued a disaster proclamation for the entire state ahead of the severe winter storm that blanketed Illinois with life-threatening wind chills.
The declaration meant a variety of state resources would be made available to communities, if needed. The state opened the State Emergency Operation Center and mobilized personnel and assets to help local governments with disaster response and recovery.
The National Weather Service indicated wind chills could reach -55 in northern Illinois, -35 in central Illinois, and -25 in parts of southern Illinois.
Joint committee discusses future of College Illinois!
A tax-advantaged college savings plan designed to encourage families to set aside funds for future school costs is up for discussion at the Capitol. A joint hearing before the state Senate Appropriations II and Higher Education committees was held Jan. 29.
Eric Zarnikow of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission gave a presentation to committee members, outlining the College Illinois! program and sharing what he claims it could need in order to stay afloat. Zarnikow said the unfunded liability by the end of the fiscal year last year was more than $300 million. He believes the state will need to provide $81 million before 2026 in order to meet the moral obligation clause.
Opioid Alternative Pilot Program launches
Individuals looking to register for the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP) can now do so online through the Illinois Cannabis Tracking System. The OAPP, which is part of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), was created through the Alternative to Opioids Act of 2018.
The program allows access to medical cannabis for individuals who have or could receive a prescription for opioids as certified by a physician licensed in Illinois. It was designed to provide people with an option to manage their pain. Opioids can be highly addictive in a very short period of time and this program offers qualifying individuals an alternative.
Potential participants can register on entellitrak. More information about the OAPP and the MCPP can be found on the Illinois Department of Health website.
Firearm bills going too far?
Some Republican Senators are sharing concerns over recently introduced legislation (House Bill 888) that would force law-abiding citizens to give the state access to their personal social media accounts for merely considering exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm.
Also worth watching is Senate Bill 107, which calls for a ban on the sale or the unregistered possession of dozens of semi-automatic firearms dubbed “assault weapons.” Senate Bill 107 would also force law-abiding gun owners to pay additional fees and consent to a massive government registry simply for owning these firearms, or otherwise risk penalties such as steep fines and hard time.
Numerous types of widely-owned semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns are included in the bill based solely on their appearance rather than how they function. Both pieces of legislation can be viewed at ilga.gov.
Deer hunting season results are in
Illinois hunters harvested a preliminary total of 151,577 deer during all 2018-2019 archery and firearm seasons, which concluded on January 20, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The total preliminary deer harvest for all seasons compares with a total harvest for all seasons of 147,695 deer in 2017-2018.
During the 2018-2019 deer seasons, hunters took 45 percent does and 55 percent males. See the full report and breakdowns at illinois.gov.
Senator Weaver working to reduce inmate recidivism
Senator Chuck Weaver has introduced legislation to provide soon-to-be-released inmates more tools to find jobs in an effort to keep them from returning to jail or prison.
“We all know it’s appropriate that people convicted of crimes serve their appropriate time. We also know that if people cannot find work when they get out of jail or prison, then there is a very high likelihood of another crime that results in another victim and also results in re-incarceration,” Senator Weaver said. “I have introduced legislation that will provide more resources to help inmates find jobs as they are getting into a re-entry facility.”
The 37th District Senator says Senate Bill 156 addresses a real need in the Illinois Department of Corrections, and is in response to requests from a re-entry facility in Peoria and the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center.
“This bill would give inmates in re-entry facilities the right to access Jobs Search Web sites. Their Internet access would be limited to appropriate sites – that can definitely be done with today’s technology,” Senator Weaver said. “This will help inmates find out what jobs are available while they are in the process of being released.”
Senate Bill 156 directs the Director of Corrections and the Secretary of Innovation and Technology to jointly adopt a rule or best practices protocol that permits each committed person in a Department of Corrections institution or facility to access specific and approved job search and career building websites within a specified period before the person’s release from the Department of Corrections institution or facility.
“It is good for the individuals, as well as society, to help inmates get re-employed and become wage earners and taxpayers. Compare that to the fiscal and social costs of them being sent back to jail or prison because they cannot find work,” Senator Weaver said.
Golden Apple Scholars program helps teachers
Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois is a teacher preparation and scholarship program that identifies talented high school seniors, as well as first- and second-year college students who have the promise and drive to be excellent teachers in schools-of-need throughout Illinois.
The program helps prepare them for immediate and lasting success in the most challenging teaching environments.
The Scholars Program is now recruiting for the Class of 2019. More information is available at https://www.goldenapple.org/golden-apple-scholars.
Golden Apple Scholars commit to serving in a school-of-need for five years after college graduation and receive the following:
- Tuition support, up to $23,000
- Paid residential Summer Institutes that include extensive classroom/work experience
- Academic and social emotional support
- Job placement assistance
- Ongoing mentoring from award-winning teachers throughout college and during the early years of teaching
Help affording insulin
Insulin assistance programs outlined on the American Diabetes Association website at https://insulinhelp.org/ are a resource for people who may need help affording their insulin.
Assistance programs are open to anyone who has difficulty affording their insulin medication. There are three insulin manufacturers who offer immediate assistance and long-term solutions.
Be sure to have all of your information ready before you call. Available options are based on your income, insurance, and the type of insulin you need.