SPRINGFIELD, IL – This week, State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) reported that November’s food and clothing drive with Passages Hospice was a success. Also, in the ongoing state pension reform discussion, a coalition of public employee unions gathered on Dec. 19 to offer a solution of their own, hoping to find a compromise between all involved.
Additionally, Sen. Sandack reminded constituents that January 1st doesn’t just mark the advent of the New Year—it is also the day more than 150 new Illinois laws take effect. A few days later on Jan. 4, the state’s high-security prison Tamms is set to close. Lastly, with much of the state experiencing a first taste of winter weather, the Illinois Department of Transportation reminds motorists to take caution when getting behind the wheel.
Passages Hospice clothing and food drive a success
Sen. Sandack said that the clothing and food drive with Passages Hospice during the month of November was a success. Over 175 pounds of food and approximately 300 items of clothing, taking up six big tubs and boxes, were collected.
Sen. Sandack partnered with Passages Hospice to promote the food and clothing drive throughout the month of November. The items donated will be given to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and Goodwill of Naperville.
Sen. Sandack expressed his thanks to all who participated in the Passages Hospice Food and Clothing Drive, saying that the response from the community was wonderful.
“My deepest thanks to those who took the time to drop off food or clothing at Passages Hospice,” Sen. Sandack said. “At the holidays and the colder winter months, we’re reminded how fortunate most of us are and how there are others in the community who are in need of some food or warm clothes. It is always touching to see members of our community help others who could use it. I’m pleased we were able to collect so much for the three locations.”
Public employee unions gather to offer their own pension solution
With unfunded pension liabilities growing each day and several proposals being floated by lawmakers, a coalition of public employee unions gathered on Dec. 19 to offer a solution of their own to the pension crisis. They proposed eliminating several corporate tax benefits as well as implementing new taxes and having workers and teachers pay 2 percent more toward their retirement. Part of the proposal would be contingent on receiving a guarantee that the state would fund its pension obligations fully, which the unions say could be helped by the new taxes.
The two current plans, one already passed by the Senate and one just recently introduced by lawmakers in the House, are opposed by the coalition of unions. They call them “problematic” as it cuts cost-of-living increase and increases retirement ages.
Gov. Quinn has said he wants lawmakers to accomplish pension reform before the new General Assembly is sworn in on January 9, 2013. However, the coalition of unions called for a summit with Quinn and legislative leaders once the new General Assembly begins in order to find a solution.
Sen. Sandack said that the proposal offered by the unions falls short of making a meaningful dent in the unfunded liabilities of the system, but he is hopeful that it has created a platform for meaningful discussion.
More than 150 new laws to take effect Jan. 1
On January 1st, more than 150 new Illinois laws take effect. While many of the measures are relatively mundane, others target serious criminal activity, increase fees, and seek to protect employee privacy.
These laws include initially contentious legislation such as (HB 1645/PA 97-1035) that creates an annual surcharge to be paid by all live adult entertainment facility operators in Illinois. Most of the proceeds from this surcharge will be directed into the Sexual Assault Prevention Fund. Also going into effect is (SB 1566/PA 97-1136) which will stimulate revenue for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The new law will eventually lead to $32 million in new revenue for DNR through the creation of entrance fees, use fees, shipping fees, consultation fees, and increases to current fees—including a $2 surcharge on license plate renewals.
Lawmakers also focused on measures that will increase protections for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. This spring, the legislature approved “Caylee’s Law” (SB 2537//PA 97-1079) in response to the nationally-covered case surrounding the death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony, whose mother, Casey, failed to report her daughter missing and then lied about circumstances surrounding the child’s disappearance and death. The new law will increase penalties for a parent, guardian or caretaker who fails to report the death or disappearance of a child 13 years or younger within 24 hours, or one hour if the child is younger than 2.
Protecting the state’s elderly residents was also a top priority for state lawmakers, who approved legislation (HB 5266/PA 97-864) that expands the list of people and state agencies that have access to any records generated in response to a report of elder abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or self-neglect investigations. Now, law enforcement agencies, fire departments and fire protection districts can be given a list of at-risk adults from relevant state agencies, to ensure local first responders are aware of possible past abuse and are better able to protect these senior citizens.
On a lighter note, Illinois employees worried their boss may try to view their personal social media content can rest easy as of Jan. 1. A new law (HB 3782/PA 97-875) will prohibit employers from requesting or requiring any current or prospective employee to provide any account information, including passwords, in order to gain access to the employee’s social networking site(s). Though obviously intended to protect Illinois workers’ reasonable rights to privacy on the Web, the bill also protects employers, who are not allowed to ask employees or job applicants about age, sex, race, or sexual orientation—all information that could be easily gleaned from a social networking site.
These are just some of the laws that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. A full list of the Jan. 1 new laws can be found here.
Court order clears the way for prison closure
The New Year will also bring the closing of the state's "supermax" high-security prison in Tamms along with Dwight Correctional Center for women, and juvenile justice centers in Joliet and Murphysboro. The closures will proceed after a recent Illinois Supreme Court order cleared the way as well as the legislature’s failure to overturn Gov. Quinn’s veto of the funding for the facilities.
The closing date has been set for Jan. 4 for Tamms. About 200 inmates remain at the prison after 25 inmates were transferred on Dec. 20. Just over half of the remaining prisoners were high security prisoners housed in a single-cell isolation portion of the prison, while fewer than 100 were minimum security prisoners.
Wintery weather forecast calls for caution behind the wheel
With temperatures dropping and forecasts looking grim, Sen. Sandack is reminding Illinois motorists to be cautious when driving in snow or when roads are icy.
Safety experts at the Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) say that when it comes to driving in wintery conditions, the first question motorists should ask themselves should be: “Is this trip absolutely essential?” Often travel can be delayed until the wintery conditions abate, or roads have been cleared by snow plows.
If travel is necessary, motorists are encouraged to check road conditions along their planned route so they know what to expect. Road condition reports for Illinois’ interstates and freeways are updated every two hours and made available to the public at 1-800-452-IDOT, at www.dot.il.gov, and at Interstate rest stops.
Motorists are encouraged to inform someone that they will be traveling, and to make plans to “check in” once they arrive at their final destination. Be sure to fill the gas tank before leaving, and frequently re-fill the tank while traveling.
Once on the road, IDOT officials stress the importance of buckling seatbelts, keeping windows clear of snow and ice, and adjusting speed for the weather conditions and to match the flow of traffic.
If the pavement is snow or ice covered, start slowly and brake gently; begin braking early when approaching an intersection. If the vehicle starts to slide on ice or snow, ease off the gas pedal or brakes. Steer into the direction of the skid until traction has been regained, then straighten the vehicle.
For more information on what to do if winter conditions force you off the road, visit the IDOT winter driving tips web page. There are also helpful tips on what to include in a winter emergency survival kit and more on how to drive in inclement weather.
Winter Driving Tips Website: http://www.dot.state.il.us/winter.html