Keeping you caught up with issues impacting our state and our community.
Restoring Confidence in State Government. The culture of corruption plaguing the state of Illinois has eroded the confidence of our residents. As we head into the final weeks of the legislative session, we need to make ethics reform a priority and take the steps necessary to weed out the underlying causes of corruption in our state by:
- Allowing for greater transparency in the budget-making and lawmaking processes.
- Changing the “Rules” that gives a handful of lawmakers the power to decide which bills get a public hearing, including ethics bills, and which do not see the light of day.
- Enacting stronger laws that prohibit lawmakers from serving as lobbyists, grants greater authority to the Legislative Inspector General and enacts Fair Maps to let voters select their elected officials.
We’d like to hear from you. Should Ethics reform be a priority? How can we restore your confidence in state government? Please take this survey to let us know what you think about the need for ethics reform in Illinois.
Sustaining & Protecting At-Risk Kids working group presents proposals to fix DCFS. On Thursday the group provided an update on their progress and outline their legislation:
- HB 2935 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to establish and operate a caseload tracking system which shall be designed to monitor and evaluate the interrelationship between client case plans, the Department’s case tracking system, and the work responsibilities of the Department.
- HB 2937 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to submit to the General Assembly no later than March 1 of each year a report in relation to the ongoing case files of the Department, the caseload tracking system or systems operated by the Department, the ratio of active case files to active Department personnel, and how appropriations to the Department can be structured to incentivize the Department to manage its caseload and to reduce the burden of individual case responsibilities upon individual Department personnel.
- HB 3614 – In a provision concerning foster placements, provides that prior to final approval for placement of a child, the Department of Children and Family Services shall request that the Illinois State Police conduct a criminal records background check of the prospective foster or adoptive parent, including fingerprint-based checks of national crime information databases.
- HB 3615 – Provides that the Department of Children and Family Services shall initialize, but not complete, the move of Family First functions, carried under the Act and the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act) from the Department of Children and Family Services to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
- HB 3618 – Requires the Department of Children and Family Services to develop a plan to phase in mandatory intact family services for at-risk families who are in need of continuing assistance and monitoring following a child abuse or neglect investigation.
House Literacy Working Group, Unveils Bold Legislative Package. The group has heard from educational advocates and interested stakeholders, taken testimony and built a comprehensive legislative package aimed at improving educational outcomes, advancing literacy, and addressing current teacher shortages that are harming students in Illinois public schools. They unveiled a sweeping legislative package that includes the following bills:
HB 4070 – Requires ISBE to develop a comprehensive State literacy plan that includes, at a minimum, the following:
- Developing class size goals for grade K-6 classrooms
- Developing a comprehensive reading teacher content area test
- Establishing a grant program for districts to hire reading and literacy specialists and coaches
- Establishing a grant program for districts to provide bonuses to teachers that receive the reading teacher endorsement on their current license.
HB 4067 – Provide that professional development providers may offer opportunities on reading/literacy instruction.
HR 256 – Establishes May 7 through May 13 as “Read with Your Kids” Week referencing the Dolly Parton “Imagination Library.”
HB 4069 – Creates a Temporary Teacher Apprenticeship Program as an alternative pathway to licensure and establishes foreign language endorsements for those fluent in the foreign language to teach foreign language courses.
HB 4068 – Extend the sunset date for additional return to service for retired teachers.
HB 1213 – Creates a scholarship program for teachers to get master’s degrees in order to increase dual credit courses.
HB 1297 – TRS optional credit for private school teachers.
HB 4066 – Creates the Parent Advisory Committee within ISBE to study and make recommendations on proposed teaching and learning standards. Requires school boards to have a policy in place to allow parents/guardians to review curricula and learning material.
Federal courts take action on controversial Illinois gun ban law. The new law, passed during the January lame-duck session, bars significant categories of firearms, firearm attachments, and magazines. The new Illinois statute was immediately challenged in State and in federal court. Now, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the law until the case is fully litigated. In order to grant the preliminary injunction, the Court determined that the plaintiffs, who are Illinois gun owners and Illinois federal firearm licensees have shown that the enforcement of the statute will create irreparable harm with no adequate remedy at law. In addition, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate: (i) a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, (ii) that the public interest is in favor of the relief, and (iii) that the balance of harm weighs in their favor. The Court determined that the Plaintiffs had met that burden, and issued the preliminary injunction on Friday, April 28.
The preliminary injunction stopped the enforcement of the law while the case continues to be fully litigated. During his analysis for the preliminary injunction, federal judge Stephen P. McGlynn cited the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, current case law that changed the analysis of Second Amendment cases. Judge McGlynn is a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois. Bruen held that the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons in common use. The preliminary injunction is not a verdict after a full-fledged legal proceeding to examine the constitutionality of the law. In a ruling issued on Thursday, May 4, the preliminary injunction has been stayed by a federal appellate court.
I-55 dust storm and deadly crashes. With high winds and dry weather, dirt and dust blew around central and southern Illinois this week. On the morning of Monday, May 2, driving visibility suddenly dropped to zero on a stretch of Interstate 55 near Farmersville, Illinois. A significant number of vehicular collisions, which included several Class 8 semi-trailer trucks, took place. Many motorists required medical care, including hospital care, and seven motorists were killed. The tragic incident was extensively covered on local and national television news programs as a weather disaster in Illinois.
In the wake of the tragedy, lengths of Interstate 55 were closed to traffic for extended periods. Also, the U.S. National Weather Service issued a “Blowing Dust” warning for wind-affected locations within Illinois. The warning spoke of “severely limited visibilities” caused by the weather conditions. Dust warnings have often been issued in the U.S. West and Southwest, especially in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; however, this was one of the first dust storm warnings issued by federal authorities in Illinois.
Flood crest rolls down the Mississippi River. The snowmelt-fed high waters, the runoff from heavy snows this past winter in Minnesota and Wisconsin, are moving down the Mississippi River toward the sea. On Monday, this flood crest reached the Quad Cities.
Authorities have set up sandbag walls in many Illinois towns and cities. Illinois cities along the flooding zone include Quincy, with the crest expected on Friday, May 5, and in Alton, with a similar event expected on Sunday, May 7. Based on current water patterns, south of Alton the riverbed becomes wide and deep enough to handle the added water without excessive flood activity. A once-in-a-lifetime flood, such as the Great Flood of 1993, can cause extensive danger to the riverbanks south of St. Louis.
In Illinois, flood responses are headed by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the state agency for disaster preparedness and mitigation.