Senate Weeks in Review: Oct. 14 – 25, 2019

McHenry, IL – The Capitol is getting ready for the return of the Legislature for the upcoming fall veto session, during which lawmakers generally take actions on bills vetoed by the Governor, the Illinois Department of Transportation unveiled an ambitious $23.5 billion transportation construction and Illinois’ opioid abuse crisis is the focus of a special Senate Committee. 

Meanwhile, we held successful local events including a Property Tax seminar October 15 and Medicare seminars October 22 and 24. Plus, the state improves educational opportunities for both students and teachers. 

Veto Session 2019
The first week of the two-week fall Veto Session starts Monday, October 28. There are a total of eight legislative measures, which received total or partial vetoes by the Governor following the spring legislative session. Those issues include the Affordable Care Act, education and gambling. Senators and Representatives could be asked to consider a significant pension proposal during the Veto Session, which begins October 28.

The second week of Veto Session is scheduled for Nov. 12-14. 

Because there are so few bills on the agenda, there is the possibility new issues could be raised. One issue that has been mentioned is a proposal to consolidate local police and fire fighter pension plans. The plan from the Governor’s office would affect 650 suburban and downstate pensions. However, no specific legislation has been filed as of the date of this report. 

Billions for roads and bridges
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) took the wraps off a multi-year, $23.5 billion transportation construction program Oct. 21 that proposes to spend more than $3.7 billion in the current fiscal year alone. The six-year plan includes projects worth more than $300 million for the 32nd Senate District. 

Local projects on the 2020 Fiscal Year list include:

  • $10.96 million – Miscellaneous improvements to Grant Highway (U.S. Route 20) at West Union Road and at Coral Road; at the creek, a half-mile west of Beck Road and; Marengo-Beck Road at South Union Road. Improvements include channelization, culvert replacement, and construction engineering and intersection reconstruction.
  • $10.35 – Land acquisition along Seminary Street (Illinois Route 47) from north of McHenry Avenue (Illinois Route 120) to U.S. Route 14 in Woodstock; road rehabilitation on Main Street (Illinois Route 47) in Hebron, from State Line Road to Maple Avenue (Illinois Route 173). Improvements include standard road overlay, new shoulders, ADA improvements and a milled rumble strip and; plan preparation on Illinois Routes 47 and 176, from U.S. Route 14 to south of Illinois Route 176 in Woodstock.
  • $8.5 million – Initial construction of pavements for a new interchange on Illinois Route 123 at Interstate 90 (Jane Addams Memorial Tollway).
  • $4.08million – Land acquisition along Illinois Routes 47 and 176 at the North & South Junction (Illinois Route 176) and at Pleasant Valley Road; land acquisition on Illinois Route 176 from Deerpass Road to Dean Street and; plan preparation along Illinois Routes 47 and 176 from south of Illinois Route 176 to Reed Road in Lakewood.
  • $3.5 million – Intersection improvements and traffic signal installation on Illinois Route 176 at Haligus Road at Mt. Tabor Road in Crystal Lake.
  • $3.22 million – Road preservation on Elm Street (Illinois Route 120), from Illinois Route 47 to Martin Road in McHenry and Woodstock. Improvements include standard road overlay, ADA improvements, a milled rumble strip and drainage.
  • $3.45 million – Plan preparation, preliminary engineering and surveys on Front Street (Illinois Route 31) from south of Belvidere Road (Illinois Route 120) to north of Terra Cotta Avenue (Illinois Route 176) and drainage ditch, four miles south of US. Route 12. The project affects the communities of McHenry, Prairie Grove, Crystal Lake and Ringwood and; road preservation on Illinois Route 31 from Shamrock Lane to north of Edgewood Road in McHenry and Prairie Grove. Improvements include standard road overlay, new shoulders and a milled rumble strip.
  • $1.44 million – Rehabilitation of two miles of pavement on Main Street (U.S. Route 12) in Richmond from Kenosha Street (Illinois Route 173) to Tryon Grove Road.
  • $500,000 – Construction engineering on Grand Avenue (Illinois Route 132) from Munn Road to Deerpass Drive in Lindenhurst.

A detailed look at all of the projects on the six-year plan and a road map can be found at http://www.idot.illinois.gov/Assets/uploads/files/Transportation-System/Reports/OP&P/HIP/2020-2025/ilsenate/sdist32.pdf.

Combating Illinois’ opioid crisis
For nearly two years now, Illinois has been working to implement the State of Illinois Opioid Action Plan (SOAP) to reduce the number of opioid overdose deaths. The Senate’s Special Committee on Opioid Crisis Abatement learned during a hearing Oct. 21 that there is some improvement. 

Jenny Epstein, Director of Strategic Opioid Initiatives at the Illinois Department of Public Health, told Senators that deaths from opioid overdoses decreased in 2018 for the first time in five years, from 2,202 in 2017 to 2,167 last year. 

Epstein said there are three “pillars” to the SOAP program: Prevention, Treatment, and Response. Prevention includes safer prescribing and dispensing of prescription opioids and better access to information about the effects of opioid addiction. Treatment involves improved access to care for the addicted. The Response part of the plan involves increasing the number of first responders and community members who are trained and have access to naloxone, also known by the generic name of Narcan, an effective antidote that can immediately reverse the effects of an overdose. 

The effort to address opioid addiction was begun in 2017 by then-Governor Bruce Rauner, who issued an Executive Order creating the Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force, which was asked to develop, approve, and implement a comprehensive Opioid Action Plan. 

The latest edition of the SOAP report is available at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/sites/default/files/publications/final-soap-implementation-report.pdf.

Prescription opioids disposal
Meanwhile, there are resources available to dispose of unwanted medications, including controlled substances. 

Illinois-based Walgreens recently announced its success with providing disposal sites for unwanted medications. Its safe medication disposal kiosk program has collected and safely disposed of more than 885 tons of unwanted prescriptions as of Aug. 31. Walgreens can also dispense naloxone, including FDA-approved Narcan nasal spray, without requiring a prescription. Naloxone is a lifesaving medication that if administered in time can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

More information about these efforts is available at Walgreens.com/combatdrugabuse

Second Drug Take Back Day of 2019
Saturday, October 26, is the “Second Drug Take Back Day of 2019,” sponsored by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The IDHS is partnering with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and substance use prevention providers across the state to give the public an opportunity to prevent prescription drug abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. You can use the collection site locator at
www.DEATakeBack.com to find a site near you for pill disposal, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

If you can’t take part in the event on Saturday, there are locations available to drop off your unwanted prescription drugs on a daily basis, including county health departments, police stations, sheriffs’ departments and medical facilities and pharmacies. Again, the site locator for collections is at www.DEATakeBack.com. The Illinois EPA also has a complete list of Medicine Collection Programs at their website page: https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/waste-disposal/medication-disposal/Pages/default.aspx.

Last fall Americans turned in nearly more than 937,000 pounds of prescription drugs at nearly 6,300 sites operated by the DEA and nearly 5,000 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 17 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in more than 11.8 million pounds—approximately 5,900 tons—of pills. 

Local Events 
Property Tax seminar
About 15 residents came out on Tuesday, Oct. 15 for a free property tax seminar at the Village of Prairie Grove offices. I want to thank McHenry County Chief Assessment Officer, Robert Ross for his time and providing us with detailed information about tax exemptions and how they work, and how to file an appeal of your tax assessment. We also had an interesting question and answer session too. As many of you are well aware by your own property tax bills, Illinois has one of the heaviest property tax burdens of any of the 50 states. In fact, some analyses rank us second-worst right behind New Jersey. 

Property Tax is also a very hot topic at the Capitol. I am serving on the Statewide Property Tax Relief Task Force, which has been conducting hearings and taking testimony from residents and business owners for months. Our Task Force is looking for solutions to address high property taxes. We are working toward a goal of a final report on the issue by the end of the year. We are to present our findings to the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2019. 

Medicare seminars
Oct. 22 and 24
A couple dozen residents attended both Medicare seminars in Fox Lake on Oct. 22 and in Harvard on Oct. 24. Thanks to the Illinois Department on Aging and the AARP’s Courtney Hedderman (pictured right) for their involvement.

Representatives from both presented information about Medicare eligibility, available health care coverages, the enrollment process and how to get help with out-of-pocket expenses. Those who attended received a detailed understanding of the federal program. 

Principal for a day
I had a great time on October 24, spending the day at Edgebrook Elementary School in McHenry as “Principal for a Day.” Thank you to Principal Michelle Reinhardt (pictured left) for hosting.

It’s always a neat experience to see so many bright-eyed and intelligent children eager to learn, and teachers who love their vocation. We have excellent local schools and the Principal for a Day program is very rewarding. 

Illinois offers dual credit endorsement for teachers, and students benefit too
In an effort to support the rapidly growing number of students earning college credit while in high school, the state is now offering opportunities for qualified high school dual credit teachers to seek a special endorsement on their Professional Educator License.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) announced Oct. 23 the endorsement will help meet the growing demand for dual credit teachers as more and more students seek to earn college credit while in high school.

Dual credit courses allow academically qualified high school students to enroll in a college-level course, and upon successful course completion, earn both college credit and high school credit at the same time.

According to the ISBE, participation in dual credit courses is growing. Illinois students in the 10th through 12th grades took more than 165,000 dual credit courses from 2016 to 2018. Enrollment in dual credit courses also increased by more than 3,000 courses between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. 

Teachers interested in applying for the endorsement can learn more at www.isbe.net/Pages/Dual-Credit-Endorsements.aspx

###

Want to stay up to date with Senator Wilcox?

Sign up for his E-Newsletter below: