Senate Week in Review: March 2 – 6, 2020

Springfield, IL. – Legislators received an update March 5 on the status of Coronavirus (COVID-19) from state Public Health officials who are encouraging the public to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

The Capitol was a busy place during the week with visitors from all over Illinois, including the McHenry County Environmental Defenders. I also had the opportunity to speak to the members of the Illinois FFA who were in Springfield for their 50th Agriculture Legislative Day.

Also during the week, legislation has been introduced to reduce costs for volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTS). 

In other news, residents across Illinois will soon begin receiving invitations to fill out the 2020 census forms. This count of our nation’s population provides critical data that is used to provide resources to communities and determine the number of seats each state will have in Congress. 

Officials encourage public to help prevent spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Illinois Department of Public Health briefed lawmakers, including myself, on COVID-19 at the Capitol March 5, providing an update about what the agency is doing to monitor the situation in Illinois (pictured right).

It should be noted, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are proactively reaching out to anyone who may have had contact with these individuals to test for the virus. 

IDPH also has a statewide telephone hotline and email address you can use for questions, or concerns about symptoms you may be experiencing. Dial 1-800-889-3931 or email

You can also visit the IDPH website at 

The CDC website for information is 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Currently, the virus has not been found to be spreading widely in the U.S., and the risk to the general public remains low. Residents are encouraged not to alter their daily routines.  

However, public health officials are encouraging the public to remain vigilant about keeping germs from spreading. The CDC has some useful tips to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Local group visits the Capitol
The Capitol is a busy place on legislative session days. Not only do Senators and Representatives spend time considering legislation in their respective chambers, but there are usually several committee hearings going on throughout the building. And, we get a lot of visitors too. 

On March 4, I visited with the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County in my Capitol office (pictured right).

I presented them with a Senate Certificate of Recognition for their 50th Anniversary. The groups is very involved in the area working on a variety of environmental issues including water, the natural landscape, reducing plastic pollution and education and awareness. 

Illinois FFA members come to Springfield
On March 2, I spoke to members of the Illinois FFA who gathered at the State Library in Springfield for their annual lobby day (pictured left).

As the Minority Spokesman on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I take every opportunity I can to stay in touch with our agriculture community. I thanked our farmers for their hard work and resilience, and their innovation and perseverance in feeding the world. Farmers are the original conservationists, and protectors and nurturers of planet earth. My remarks also included thoughts and prayers for the Nashville victims of the recent tornado, and I promised Illinois would act to support Illinois Agriculture as we adjust to what Mother Nature has in store for us.

Agriculture is Illinois’ number one industry that accounts for about one in every 17 jobs in the state. It’s an industry worth tens of billions of dollars to our state economy, and programs such as FFA and 4-H ensure a strong future for Illinois. 

Reducing costs for volunteer firefighters and EMTs
New legislation is pending in the Senate to help volunteer firefighters and EMTS with expenses they incur as part of the public service they provide their communities. 

Senate Bill 3224 creates a $500 tax credit that qualifying volunteer firefighters and EMTs can claim when they file their Illinois income taxes. Because it’s a credit and not a deduction, it will provide a direct reduction in the amount of taxes owed, and could potentially increase their tax refunds. 

Volunteer firefighters and EMTs put their lives on the line to serve their communities every day. However, even though they are volunteers, they often have out-of-pocket costs for such things as medical and fire equipment, training, licensure, and even insurance. Supporters hope by reducing the financial burden of volunteering, the legislation can help local fire departments recruit new volunteers and bolster their efforts at protecting the public. 

U.S. Census starting soon
Soon, homes across the 32nd Senate District and the rest of Illinois will begin receiving invitations to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census. 

The Census provides critical data to the federal government, which in turns impacts each of us by helping determine the where billions of dollars in federal funding goes to schools, hospitals, roads, public safety, and other vital programs each year. It also helps determine a state’s representation in Congress. The number of Representatives to the U.S. House is based on population. 

This year, for the first time, you can take the census online! Links to Census resources, including how to respond and a sample questionnaire, are available at my legislative website. Click on the 2020 Census tab on the top, right side of the homepage. 

Residents should begin receiving an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census between March 12 and 20. 

Mandated by the United States Constitution, and required by law, the Census is a count of the United States population that takes place every ten years. The 2020 Census will be the 24th census conducted since 1790.  


Craig Wilcox

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