Senate Week in Review: Aug. 5 – 9, 2019

McHenry, IL. – In this report, my first legislative newsletter hit the mailboxes during the week, new affordable housing for vulnerable populations opened in McHenry, the “Cold War” license plate bill is signed, state public health officials are raising concerns about teen vaping and, in the wake of recent mass shootings, the public is being asked to be wary and report suspicious activity.

Spring Session Newsletter
My first legislative newsletter, which hit mailboxes during the week, is a rundown of the spring session. It focuses on two local government consolidation issues, property taxes, veterans’ legislation, taxes and more. It also includes a short survey, which I hope you will fill out and return to my district office. The survey asks questions about who should be in charge of drawing legislative boundaries, government consolidation and public pension costs. The survey also asks you to rank the importance of the big issues that dominate Illinois politics today. 

Pearl Street Commons
A 25-unit apartment complex(left) was built with state and federal dollars for veterans and persons with disabilities. It opened August 5. It was a pleasure to be there(bottom right) and tour the specially-designed apartments for veterans and persons with disabilities. 

The Pearl Street Commons development is a collaborative effort of a number of organizations including, Transforming Lives through Service (TLS) Veterans of McHenry, Full Circle Communities of Chicago, which specializes in affordable housing for persons with special needs, the Association for Individual Development in Aurora and the Over the Rainbow Association based in Evanston

Onsite services for residents include a laundry, library and computer lab, medical screenings, therapist visits, transportation services, and health and fitness resources. An onsite case manager and community service coordinator is also there to assist. 

Governor Signs “Cold War” License Plate Bill
U.S. military veterans who served during the Cold War will now be able to purchase special recognition license plates marking their service during the nearly 50-year U.S./Soviet Union “Cold War” conflict. House Bill 2088, which I sponsored in the Senate this year, was signed into law Aug. 9. 

Under HB 2088, the Illinois Secretary of State is authorized to issue Cold War license plates to Illinois residents that served in the U.S. Armed Forces between August 15, 1945 and January 1, 1992. The plates have no additional fee attached. 

While many of these veterans during the Cold War era were not directly involved in a hostile action like the Korean conflict or Vietnam, they were in an everyday training regimen in preparation for imminent danger and the possible call to fight and protect. The plates are just a simple but well-deserved acknowledgement of the significant service of Cold War veterans that has largely gone unrecognized. 

The federal government is also recognizing Cold War era veterans. Congress passed and President Trump recently signed into law The Legion Act, which seeks to formally recognize 12 “unrecognized war eras” during our history. Among those eras is the “Cold War.” The legislation also opens up membership opportunities for many veterans to join American Legion posts across the country. 

Health Concerns About Vaping
Vaping is a popular substitute these days for smoking cigarettes, but there are also health concerns similar to those involving tobacco.
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) is reaching out to county public health departments around the state to take a close look at teenage vaping. According to the IDPH, three Illinois teens were hospitalized with severe breathing problems after vaping. 

In a press statement, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there has been a dramatic increase in vaping among teens in recent years. He’s recommending that parents talk to their children about the potential dangers. 

The agency said people who experience any type of chest pain or difficulty breathing after vaping in the weeks or months prior to these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.  

Two bills dealing with vaping were introduced this year at the Capitol. While both measures passed the committee stage, neither was brought before the full Senate for a vote: 

Senate Bill 1124 – This measure would tax the wholesale price of electronic cigarettes in a manner identical to the tax already imposed on tobacco products, which is currently 36 percent. 

Senate Bill 1864 – This legislation would ban the use of alternative nicotine products and electronic cigarettes in virtually all public places and workplaces, including offices, theaters, museums, libraries, educational institutions, schools, commercial establishments, enclosed shopping centers and retail stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs and gaming facilities. 

See Something, Say Something
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) says “Homeland Security begins at home.”  The agency created new public service announcements and a video highlighting the need to be aware and report suspicious activity. 

The awareness effort by IEMA comes at a time when there have been several recent mass shootings across the country, which resulted in 36 people being killed and dozens more injured. We’re also familiar with daily news stories about gun violence in communities around the state. 

IEMA Acting Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said, “We hope this public service announcement serves as a reminder to the public to remain vigilant, speak out if they notice something out of the ordinary and report suspicious activities in order to protect our cities and towns from unscrupulous acts of violence and terror…” 

According to IEMA, the public service spots are funded by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. They will eventually air on more than more than 30 TV stations and 200 radio stations throughout the state.  

The agency posted the announcements online for viewing and listening. The video and radio ads can be found at the Ready Illinois website. Click on the Multi Media tab and look for Homeland Security for the TV spot and Public Service Announcements for the radio ad. The effort is part of the state’s ongoing Ready Illinois preparedness campaign. 

Agriculture Disaster Declaration
On Aug. 8, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture issued a statewide agriculture disaster declaration affecting all 102 Illinois counties.

According to an announcement from the Governor’s office, the declaration will enable farmers to access low-interest Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans to “restore or replace essential property, cover production costs, pay essential family living expenses, reorganize the family farming operation or refinance certain non-real estate operating debts.”

Details about and applications for the FSA emergency loans can be found online at


Craig Wilcox

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