I hope everyone had a happy holiday season and is enjoying the new year thus far. I had a wonderful time seeing my family together again and hope you found a similar joy.
New Laws for 2018
The Illinois General Assembly passed over 200 laws last year. Many of them took effect on January 1st. This includes one of the bills I worked on to ensure that dogs and cats used in research labs get a chance to be adopted. Some of the bills are fairly inconsequential and may not impact you, such as the law that designates corn as the state grain. However, many are important for our communities, like laws that will ensure our police officers are properly trained to handle PTSD and domestic violence. Others will help to make our state more secure from those that would do us harm, like a new law to require state employees to undergo cybersecurity training so that your information is better protected.
You can learn more about the new laws here.
Invest in Kids
Illinois’ new scholarship program, Invest in Kids, gives low- to middle-income students opportunities to attend non-public schools that best meet their educational goals. Governor Rauner announced that the program attracted more than $36 million in pledged contributions on January 2nd, the first day the state began accepting applications.
Taxpayers can contribute up to $1.3 million to eligible organizations and receive an income tax credit equal to 75 percent of their approved contributions. The state caps total yearly contributions at $100 million.
Taxpayers wishing to contribute to Invest in Kids may apply online through MyTax Illinois, the Illinois Department of Revenue’s free online account management program. For more information on the Invest in Kids income tax credits, including bulletins, FAQs and a list of approved scholarship granting organizations, visit Investinkids.illinois.gov.
Incidents of Legionnaires’ disease have been rising in the US. In Illinois alone, there were 300 reported cases in 2017 involving a wide range of private and public health facilities. Particularly disturbing, however, has been the outbreak that occurred, and continues to persist, at the Quincy Veterans Home. The outbreak, which first occurred in 2015, resulted in 12 deaths that year. Five more people contracted the disease in 2016; fortunately, no one died. However, last fall 3 more were sickened, resulting in the death of another veteran.
The disease can be contracted when people inhale infected water vapor through showers, sinks, and fountains. Since 2015, the state has imposed new treatment protocols and spent nearly $6.4 million on emergency upgrades to the complex’s water treatment system.
In December the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its most recent report on the outbreak noting that:
• Since 2015, IDPH and IVHQ staff have committed considerable time, effort, and resources to implement a water management program that has reduced both the number of Legionnaires’ disease cases associated with IVHQ and the amount of detectable Legionella in the water systems.
• Complete eradication of Legionella in any large, complex building water system may not be possible. Therefore, some risk for Legionnaires’ disease may remain in spite of a fully operational and optimized water management plan, especially for susceptible individuals exposed to building water that contains Legionella.
The full CDC report can be found here.
The unnatural death of any veteran on our watch in unacceptable, but I feel confident that our departments and the Governor’s office is doing the best they can. The Illinois General Assembly will hold hearings this week to ensure that we are doing everything we can to address this issue.
We owe our state’s veterans the best treatment and care possible. We must work together to find a permanent solution to ensure the health and safety of our veteran’s at the Quincy Veteran’s Home. I stand ready to help provide the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Illinois Department of Public Health with anything they need to do so.
I would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who donated to my holiday diaper drive. We surpassed last year’s drive and were able to give even more to moms and babies in need.
The Illinois House of Representatives returns to Springfield to resume the 100th General Assembly on January 23rd. If you have any comments on current legislation or have a legislative proposal you would like me to bring forth, please contact my office.