AROUND THE DISTRICT
Graduates learn valuable jobs skills
The Weaver Team was pleased to participate in a Graduation Ceremony resulting from a joint effort between Black Hawk College Business Training Center, the American Job Center, and Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center.
Seven former inmates of the Kewanee correctional facility, now students, graduated from Black Hawk College with a welding certificate. It was a joyful event with several of the graduates speaking. Several of them already have jobs and are anxious to become participants in a productive society. The students thanked all in attendance for their support and the newfound opportunities that await.
Special thanks to Warden Charles Johnson; Jennifer Parrack, Assistant Warden of Programs; Dr. Betsey Morthland, Executive Dean of the East Campus of Black Hawk College; welding instructors Mark Helderman and Michael Johnson; and Mark Lohman, Director of the American Job Center, who are leaders in this effort.
The Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center is doing amazing work in providing skills that help decrease recidivism, and is a model for the state and nation. We proudly support their programs.
While in Kewanee, Weaver Team District Director Diane Vespa enjoyed a tour of the newly opened Courtyard Village of Kewanee – a retirement and assisted living facility – with our friend and marketing director Rae Nolan. The property is beautiful and it is great to see our senior citizens receiving such wonderful care.
It was also good to stop in and check on the Kewanee Realtor community. Diane visited with Kewanee Association of Realtors President Will Sagmoen and agent Tracy Interial.
Will and his wife Sue own Heartfelt, a gift and novelty shop on the square, which has many beautiful items to purchase (pictured below right).
AT THE CAPITOL
Senate Republicans push for fair maps amendment
With the U.S. Census and the redrawing of Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly legislative maps fast approaching, the Senate Republican Caucus voiced their support Feb. 6 for a fair maps amendment on the upcoming statewide ballot.
The ballot initiative, which has garnered bipartisan support, would grant the control of the redistricting process to a nonpartisan, independent committee to draw the districts, rather than trusting the task to entrenched politicians.
The people of Illinois have the opportunity to voice their support for fairer maps in Illinois by visiting http://senategop.state.il.us/ and signing the fair maps petition. A petition is also available on my legislative website at http://senatorweaver.com/.
The Illinois Constitution establishes how our state government is supposed to work for the residents of Illinois, as well as to prevent elected officials from abusing their power. However, our current system of drawing legislative district boundaries clearly favors the politicians instead of the people. We have the ability to fix this problem. Working together, we can put a bipartisan redistricting referendum on the ballot for the next election so the people of Illinois can decide this question for themselves.
Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 4 gives voters the opportunity to amend the Constitution to create a new, non-partisan system for drawing maps. It would establish an independent redistricting commission, increase transparency in the process and provide for public hearings to allow Illinois residents to weigh in.
Minimum wage hike would hinder business
On Feb. 7, the Senate voted 39-18, along party lines, to advance a Democrat plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour – a plan that could have huge repercussions for employers across the board, including public universities, school districts, and not-for-profit organizations. I am aggressively working for the $15 wage to apply only to the Chicago area, where the cost of living can be between 25 percent and 65 percent higher than downstate counties.
My concern with this measure is the effect of its one-size-fits-all hourly wage on downstate Illinois. Chicago currently has a minimum wage of $13.00, so an increase to $15.00 is not as big an issue for them over six years. Downstate, those who need opportunities the most will be damaged, as the likely result will be the lowest-skilled workers being dropped out of the bottom of the workforce.
In the workforce, we have seen employees ages 16 to 19 go from being 45 percent employed in the 1980s to being 31 percent employed today. If they are not employed by age 19 and have not learned basic work skills, there is a good chance they will not get into the workforce easily. At $15.00 per hour, these young people will not have the skills that justify an employer hiring them.
I have also seen and confirmed that robotics have become so effective and inexpensive that I have had employers tell me that they can switch to robotics when employees’ wages go higher than $12.80 per hour. That is an eye-opening statistic. I truly believe employers want to hire local residents, but they cannot be competitive on a global basis if robotics are being used elsewhere.
Senate Bill 1 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Prevent campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and legislators
In an effort to target campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and state legislators, new legislation filed in the Senate aims to prohibit lobbyists with political campaign accounts from donating to members from that account.
Under current law, there are no regulations to prevent newly registered lobbyists who have access to a campaign account from donating campaign funds to members of the Illinois General Assembly. Senate Bill 128 would specify that donations to members from campaign accounts are strictly prohibited, and will remain forbidden for two years after the individual’s lobbyist registration expires.
Senate Bill 128 is currently awaiting a Senate Committee assignment.
Government consolidation could help reduce property taxes
Legislation to allow the dissolution of unnecessary drainage districts passed out of the Senate’s Local Government Committee during the week, which presents a proactive and valuable opportunity to reduce the property tax burden in Illinois.
Senate Bill 90 particularly targets suburban regions of Illinois that used to be farmland, and are now residential areas and paying taxes to both the municipality and the drainage district. These circumstances are costly and duplicative for the taxpayer, as the municipality is already taking on the drainage responsibilities for those areas, rendering the drainage district unnecessary.
Senate Bill 90 will now move to the Senate for consideration.