I want to first want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you in the Illinois Senate. I love this job, and I couldn’t serve better people in a better district.
While you and I share a lot frustrations with how things went in Springfield in 2017, I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the good things we accomplished this year. Before I do that, I want to thank everyone who has offered me their opinion on legislation, offered a suggestion on new legislation, or provided me valuable information on issues both in Springfield and in the district. So, I can’t stress this enough that the following accomplishments are because of all of us – working together.
Helping Flood Victims: In November, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a tax credit bill I co-sponsored worth up to $750 for property owners in 18 Illinois counties where flood damages were sustained in July, including the Quad Cities region. The bill creates a natural disaster credit that eligible, affected property owners may apply to their 2017 Illinois income taxes. Included counties are Cook, Lake, Kane, McHenry, Alexander, Clinton, Jackson, Marshall, Union, Woodford, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson and Whiteside — all of which were declared state disaster areas by the governor last summer.
Farming: Illinois farmers were given additional latitude to harvest crops in an effective and efficient way this year when Gov. Rauner declared a harvest emergency. That was allowed because of legislation I sponsored that was signed into law in August. I know many farmers utilized this new law in the late fall. It provided a special permit to be issued that allowed a truck transporting agricultural commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat to carry additional weight during the harvest emergency. Any time we can take common-sense action, and create laws like this that support our farmers and the agriculture industry as a whole, it’s a win for all of the people of Illinois.
Health: Earlier this month, I announced that a $329,250 grant for the Whiteside County Community Health Clinic would be released by the Illinois Capital Development Board. This is great news considering a grant for construction of the 5,000 square foot, $1,022,000 building was issued in 2014. Construction started in 2015, and the building started serving patients in 2016. However, due to Illinois’ budget situation, the final payment has not yet been received. Access to quality healthcare is vital in every community, but in rural areas where there are less options, it is paramount. The releasing of these funds for the Whiteside County Health Department will go a long way in helping the citizens of this area.
Mental Health: In June, Gov. Rauner signed into law legislation I sponsored that allows Rock Island County and the Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region to exchange out-of-state mental health services for those subject to involuntary admission. When a family member or a friend is suffering from mental health issues, especially those that might warrant involuntary admission to a treatment facility, you want to ensure they have access to the best care possible. This provides that extra access that ensures that people have the care they need.
Hunting: We were able to pass legislation out of the Senate in April that would allow hunters to use a crossbow to hunt coyotes at any time it is legal to do so with a bow and arrow. In recent years, coyote populations have increased and we have seen an uptick in sightings of these animals in more heavily-populated areas. Coyotes create problems for farmers and for people with pets. This legislation would provide hunters with additional tools to help control this growing problem. While the legislation is stuck in the House, it passed overwhelmingly in the Senate. So, it’s my hope we can get this sent to the Governor in 2018.
Energy and Jobs: It was just a little more than a year ago when Gov. Rauner signed into law the Future Energy Jobs Bill. This was the most important piece of legislation I sponsored in my time in the Senate, working for two years with so many great people and negotiating in good faith with all different interests. It can’t be underscored enough that this groundbreaking legislation kept more than 800 people in the Quad Cities area working at the Cordova nuclear power plant and Exelon has since added more jobs at the facility. Clean, reliable, and cheap energy in nuclear power is vital to our power grid, businesses, and everyone who turns on a light switch. Equally important, this shows that positive things can happen when local communities come together and leaders listen and follow through.
Local Students, Future Leaders: Also in December, I hosted dozens of high school students from across the 36th Senate District. They participated in a unique, hands-on experience in public policy, state government, and leadership in Moline, as part of my Youth Advisory Council. It’s always so encouraging to see so many young people take an interest in public policy and see their passion when discussing issues important to them. The future of our country, state, and communities will need great leaders – political, business, non-profit, teaching, and everything in between – that not only understand what it takes to be a dynamic and influential leader, but that also have the talents, knowledge, and courage to make where we live and work even better. I saw those future leaders in my Youth Advisory Council.
Honoring Our Heroes: I sponsored legislation that now gives a special designation to the Centennial Bridge in Rock Island: the "Master Sgt. Stanley Talbot Memorial Bridge.” It honors Illinois State Police Master Talbot who died in the line of duty in 2001. Master Sergeant Talbot was a man who spent his life serving our community with integrity and honor. This bridge serves as a visible reminder of his sacrifice, but his true legacy will live on through his children who followed their father into law enforcement.
We have a lot to be proud of in 2017. Thank you again for your support and helping make our area an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. I look forward to 2018 and hopefully, we can start to make progress on the other important issues facing our state.
Have a great Christmas season and a Happy New Year!