Recently I was able to advance legislation that could expand our state's veterans court program. I've always believed that we need to do what we can to help those who have given so much for us, and I believe this is another step in that direction.
Veterans courts are designed to give judges more flexibility in cases involving veterans. Many of our brave men and women return from war suffering from conditions such as PTSD, and that can lead to drug abuse, homelessness, or other run-ins with the law. Don't get me wrong, I'm not excusing bad or criminal behavior, but our service members deserve the full benefit of being judged on all the circumstances that led to their situation.
In addition, I just passed legislation that would bar employers from punishing employees who are volunteer firefighters and paramedics if they receive emergency texts or calls while at their job. These men and women volunteer their time to save lives everyday, and I want to ensure we enable them to do just that.
I'm also still working on a bill to help improve rural internet service for our families who live out in the country. We can't let companies take our money with a promise of high speed internet that isn't delivered.
These types of bills won't end the budget impasse, and they aren't a magic fix to what ails Illinois. But I think one thing they have in common is that focus on what is important to us, helping those who have sacrificed for us, and helping our families get a square deal. I think that this kind of logic can help get us out of the mess we find ourselves in, but there haven't been enough people who are truly focused on watching out for what matters.
I truly believe that if most of the members of our General Assembly and our state constitutional officers could keep their priorities where they need to be, our state could be turning the corner very soon. Hopefully, we will be able to get more people to see their jobs this way and we can find a way out soon.
In the meantime, if there is anything I can help you with, please don't hesitate to contact my office at 217-782-8206 or SenatorMcCann@gmail.com.
State Senator Sam McCann
Senator McCann welcomed students from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) to the Illinois Senate. Senator McCann has been a strong advocate for both ISVI and the nearby School for the Deaf, both located in Jacksonville.
4-H members visited Senator McCann at the Capitol to advocate for the future of their program.
Senator McCann welcomed Triopia High School students to the floor of the Illinois Senate.
Senate Week in Review
Nurses get to keep their jobs
Not long after Senator McCann passed legislation that would block the Illinois Department of Corrections from laying off 124 nurses (so that they could see their jobs outsourced) the Governor's administration recinded the layoff order. IDOC officials said they will be returning to the negotiating table to work with the nurses on a new contract.
"I'm glad that the administration has come to believe what so many of us did, that issues with these nurses should be settled at the bargaining table," said Senator McCann. "We can't fire hard working, tax paying Illinoisans just to replace them with lower paid workers from an out-of-state company. I hope this is the last we hear of these layoff plans."
Innovative school funding reform plan gets hearing
Every lawmaker under the Capitol Dome believes Illinois needs to reform the way it funds elementary and secondary education. After years of debate, special commissions and studies, the Senate Education Committee heard testimony May 4 on a fairer method to fund schools based on known and unique economic facts of each district.
Senate Bill 1124 is an evidence-based school funding plan that would reallocate more than a half-billion dollars in funding to help school districts meet financial adequacy targets, without requiring an increase in state funding. The evidence-based approach uses 27 different known variables to indicate a fair funding level for each school district. Under this approach, funding would be based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics. While the legislation removes the Chicago Block Grant for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), it is tied to another piece of legislation where the state would pick up CPS’ pension costs, something the state currently does not pay.
Senate Bill 1124 is based on the findings of Governor's School Funding Reform Commission, a group of bipartisan lawmakers who were tasked with providing solutions to fix Illinois’ current school funding system.
The committee also heard testimony on Senate Bill 1125, which would provide schools with significant mandate relief, as well as Senate Bill 1, which is similar to Senate Bill 1124 but provides no mandate relief and contains funding for the Chicago block grant.
Senator McCann has worked to advance several proposals to help fix the state's broken school funding formula, and remains hopeful that this is the year that lawmakers are able to pass real, substantive reform into law.
Helping DCFS investigate child abuse
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) would be allowed to access certain prescription drug records of families with children in custody, under legislation passed by the Senate April 26. The goal is a more thorough investigation into cases of child abuse and neglect especially when opioid use and abuse could be a factor.
With the rise of opioid use in the state, Senate Bill 892 would help DCFS when investigating cases by allowing select DCFS employees to access the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database. The PMP collects information on controlled substance prescriptions dispensed in Illinois and would be used as another tool when child abuse and child neglect investigations are performed.
The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.
Veteran suicide prevention
Another bipartisan effort is underway to address veteran suicide. A 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that, on average, 22 veterans take their lives every day in the United States. Awareness of the problem prompted the creation of the Illinois Veteran Suicide Task Force, which identified potential causes and possible solutions. Ultimately, the Task Force’s recommendations became the foundation for House Bill 2647, which received preliminary approval during a hearing May 3 by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. House Bill 2647 would improve coordination between the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense and improve services for, and outreach to, returning vets.
The Senate also took action on dozens of bills during the week, with some measures receiving Senate Republican support, and others not. Legislation approved by Senate this week included:
Transparency for property taxpayers
Senate Bill 1072 requires local property tax bills to clearly indicate when a local taxing body chooses not to collect the full amount of property taxes for that year, giving taxpayers the opportunity to clearly see which units of government are returning their hard-earned money. The proposal requires every property tax bill to list the total dollar amount that would have been due if no decrease was given, the dollar amount of any "abatement" or tax reduction, and the total reduced tax bill that is actually due.
Financial protections for the elderly
Senate Bill 1409 would strengthen laws against the financial exploitation of the elderly or disabled. The measure also makes a technical change in current Illinois law expanding the legal venue for bringing prosecutions in financial exploitation cases. There are frequent instances, under current law, when a suspect lives in a different county or state from the victim, which creates an impediment to prosecution.
Concealed carry permits for active-duty military
Senate Bill 1524 would allow active-duty military personnel who are not residents of Illinois, but permanently stationed in Illinois, to obtain an Illinois Concealed Carry Permit. Supporters argue that by the very nature of their service to our country, members of the military are qualified and capable of meeting the responsibilities that go with carrying a concealed firearm. The legislation received full bipartisan support.
Fallen police officers honored
Hundreds of police officers from across Illinois came to the Capitol May 4 to honor the lives and the service of those officers, from years and decades past until today, who gave their lives during the line of duty. The Police Memorial Statue is located on the Capitol grounds, but because of inclement weather, a ceremony marking the event was held at the State Library adjacent to the Capitol. The names of 12 officers were added to the memorial this year.
Illinois Parks Day at the Capitol
Park districts and lawmakers gathered in the Capitol Rotunda May 2 to celebrate Illinois Parks Day. During their visit, representatives from park districts across the state had the opportunity to talk with their local legislators about their communities and priorities. The event also included the Illinois Association of Park Districts Annual Legislative Conference, which featured five lawmakers invited to participate on a legislative panel discussion. One of those lawmakers, Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) is a former member of the Mt. Sterling, Illinois Park Board, and was asked to share her perspective on Illinois’ fiscal future, and its potential impact on the funding for parks, recreation and open space.
Illinois responds to flooding
Prolonged periods of rain continued to pound Illinois, prompting Gov. Rauner to activate the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on May 2. Several more inches of rain fell on the state following the previous weekend’s heavy rain, causing rivers and creeks to swell. The decision to open the Springfield-based Operations Center puts state agencies, personnel and equipment in place for quick deployment to assist local communities in their response to flooding threats. For flood updates visit the Ready Illinois website at www.ready.illinois.gov?.