Citizens and advocacy groups from across the state crowded the Capitol during the week, voicing their support or opposition to hundreds of bills currently being considered by lawmakers.
Senators spent many hours debating and voting on legislation – such as measures to combat the opioid crisis and to provide a more affordable alternative to medicine for treating allergic reactions – as they work to meet an April 12 deadline for the third reading of Senate bills.
Also during the week, state officials and lawmakers urged motorists to pay more attention and be more careful while driving, as distracted-driving accidents resulted in the deaths of two Illinois State Police officers in just three days.
Advocacy groups in Springfield
Hundreds of Illinois students visited the Capitol April 3 to view state government in action and talked with legislators about issues, as part of the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day. The annual event in Springfield focuses on encouraging young people, who are tomorrow’s leaders, to take an interest in state government.
Also on April 3, healthcare leaders from around the state presented information about their community programs as part of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s Quality Advocacy Showcase. The event gives local healthcare leaders the opportunity to talk with legislators about how hospitals are improving patient safety and enhancing quality care, while reducing healthcare costs.
Combatting opioid crisis
The Senate has taken another major step in combatting the opioid overdose epidemic by passing legislation to treat the deadly drug Fentanyl as seriously as heroin.
Senate Bill 199 creates a Class 1 felony penalty structure for the possession of Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs, targeted at illegal dealers and suppliers of the drug. The goal is to put Fentanyl offenses on the same level as heroin, and to help prosecute those who are engaged in the illegal manufacturing and trade of the deadly drug.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originally developed as a painkiller. Experts say the drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is now the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the United States, according to a 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Senate Bill 199 is currently awaiting action in the House after being passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Health insurance companies would be required to offer generic alternatives for EpiPens under legislation that passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate on April 4.
EpiPen is the brand name of a device that delivers the drug epinephrine, which is a life-saving medication used when someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. The cost for this drug, which can be in the hundreds of dollars range, often places it out of reach to those who need it most.
Senate Bill 2047 would require health insurance companies to offer generic alternatives for insulin auto-injectors. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Making our roads safer
State officials and lawmakers are asking the public to slow down and drive more carefully after two Illinois State Police officers were killed in recent distracted-driving accidents.
Trooper Gerald Ellis was on duty March 30 when he was killed in a head-on collision with a vehicle traveling the wrong way on Interstate 94. Two days earlier, on March 28, Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was struck and killed by a semitrailer during a roadside inspection of another truck, just west of Illinois Route 75.
Their deaths brought to three the number of troopers killed in 2019. On Jan. 12, Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed after being hit by a car on I-294 while at the scene of an accident.
Lawmakers from around the state are expressing concern about the number of troopers who have been hit by vehicles – 16 so far in 2019. In 2018, just eight troopers were hit; 12 were hit in 2017; and five in 2016.
Illinois Acting State Police Director Brendan Kelly and the Governor are urging motorists to obey Scott’s Law, which mandates that when approaching any police or other emergency vehicle stopped along the roadway, drivers must proceed with due caution, change lanes if possible, and reduce their speed.
State Police have also stepped up enforcement of Scott’s Law and are trying to raise awareness of the issue through social media.
Weaver welcomes Youth Advisory Council to Capitol
Fifty students from 18 high schools in central Illinois came to Springfield April 3 to experience first-hand the workings of their state government, as part of Senator Chuck Weaver’s Youth Advisory Council.
The students were recommended by officials from their respective schools to participate in the program, which initially met on Dec. 6 at Bradley University in Peoria.
“Bringing these fine young men and women to Springfield gives them a hands-on view of state government. They get a better idea of the lawmaking process and what is involved,” said Weaver. “This experience complements their classroom education as they see in action what they have learned about government from their teachers.”
On April 3, the students began their day with Senator Weaver and other legislative officials in the Senate Chambers, then heard presentations by different professional occupations involved in the lawmaking process, from lobbyists to legislative staff members.
Students then took on the roles of lawmakers, concerned citizens, lobbyists, and reporters in a mock committee hearing to debate and vote on a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution setting term limits for lawmakers – a topic they chose at their first Youth Advisory Council (YAC) meeting on Dec.6.
After hearing testimony from the students serving as lobbyists and concerned citizens, the students serving as lawmakers proposed an amendment to their bill before voting on the issue.
“These young people discuss and debate their issue, listen to the input of citizens and other groups concerned about the outcome of the legislation, then work together to come to a compromise,” said Weaver. “This experience also provides them with the kinds of skills that will serve them well as they continue to develop into our future leaders.”
Two of the participants from Dunlap High School, Joshua Palinkas and Megan Walters, said the April 3 YAC event in Springfield gave them unique insight into government, as well as provided professional development opportunities like public speaking and networking with students from other schools in their region.
“I wanted to come to the Youth Advisory Council because I saw it as a great way for me to not only network with politicians in my area, but gain a greater understanding of government and meet new people who have similar interests to my own,” Palinkas said. “It is important for people my age to understand the governmental process.”
When asked if he would recommend the YAC to other students, Palinkas responded, “Absolutely. Totally worth it. You learn a lot. Hands down, I would recommend it.”
Walters said the YAC expanded her perspective about the role of young people in government.
“I wanted to come to the Youth Advisory Council because in high school, we hear about these problems and we hear our parents talk about it, and our teachers talk about it, but I don’t think we ever feel like we have a voice or an opportunity to change it. So coming here and learning about the processes gives us the education to make a change … feel like we have a voice and that our opinions matter here in the State of Illinois,” Walters said.
“You see the things on the news in Springfield, or the issues in Chicago or even in D.C. seem so far away. But really, especially with social media, your state politicians are just a phone call away. They care about your opinion and they want you to be informed,” Walters added. “We are the next generation and they want us to be involved in these things.”
For more information about Senator Weaver’s Youth Advisory Council, contact his district office at 309-693-4921.
TEACHER OF THE MONTH: Jim Bixby at Peoria Regional Learning Center
We all have the teacher who we can say changed the path of our life. Jim Bixby has been that person for so many high school students.
Jim is the administrator in charge of enrollment and retention at the Peoria Regional Learning Center.
Jim graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. in secondary education and a M.A. in Guidance, Counseling and Supervision. He has served as a school principal, school counselor, director of counseling, college counselor, college instructor, college director of transfer services, college director of enrollment management and college dean of student services. He has 10 years of experience working in an alternative school environment.
When asked about Jim’s impact as an educator, one person said “For a person like me, there was a fine line between prison and success and Jim helped me understand that line and stay on the right side of it.”
Thank you, Jim, for your incredible love and passion for our youth. Your dedication is an inspiration to all!
If you are interested in nominating an educator for Teacher of the Month, call our district office at 309-693-4921.
NAWBO sponsors “Fireside Chat with Chuck” on April 17
The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Central Illinois Chapter will be hosting a “Fireside Chat with Chuck” on April 17, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Mt Hawley Country Club, 7724 North Knoxville Avenue, in Peoria.
“Fireside Chat with Chuck” is an opportunity for you to learn about what is happening in state government and our communities, ask questions and offer suggestions. Please come by and bring a friend, coworker, staff, and/or spouse.
NAWBO meetings are open to members and guests. Social/networking time begins at 5:30 pm and dinner begins at 6:00 pm with the program following.
Participants must register by April 15. For more information, please contact email@example.com, or call 309-692-2225 and leave a message.