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Bennett’s new law will require background checks for Illinois carnival workers

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 02:59 PM

carnivalCHAMPAIGN—Starting Jan. 1, 2019, Illinois law will require carnival companies to conduct criminal background checks of all employees.

The new law, sponsored by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), will increase fines for amusement park companies that fail to check the criminal history of new hires. Right now, only ride operators must undergo background checks.

“These additional background check requirements will increase public safety,” Bennett said. “If a carnival company is bringing someone into our community to interact with our children, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are operating a ride or a carnival game; they should have a background check to make sure they are not a criminal.”

The measure was a response to a 2014 tragedy in Farmer City, when Blayne Benefield was killed by two brothers who were employees of Big H Amusements, formerly known as A & A Amusements. While the amusement ride company was required to perform background checks on employees that operate rides, it did not have to do so for other employees.

Bennett said this is an important distinction because Big H Amusements claimed that the brothers were not considered ride operators, but photo evidence taken the night before the murder shows the older brother operating a ride. Both brothers had criminal records, with the younger one pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a minor one year before the murder.

“What happened to Blayne Benefield and his family was a tragedy,” Bennett said. “This law is overdue, but I am relieved that we now have safeguards in place to hold carnival companies accountable and protect our communities.”

Senate Bill 3240 passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.

Murphy presents recognition to George Washington Elementary

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 02:54 PM

murphy 041718PARK RIDGE – State Senator Laura Murphy (D – Des Plaines) was at George Washington Elementary school in Park Ridge Tuesday to present the school with an official Senate recognition honoring the district for being named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Ensuring the youth in our state receive a quality education is one of the most important tasks that my colleagues and I have as legislators,” Murphy said. “I am thrilled to be able to present this recognition to George Washington elementary for displaying an outstanding commitment to educating students, and I hope to be able to hand out more of these to other schools in the coming years.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools program was started in 1982 as a way to recognize public and private elementary, middle and high schools that either promote a high level of academic excellence among their students or exhibit signs of positive progress in closing achievement gaps between subgroups of students. George Washington Elementary was one of 349 schools named to the program in 2018 by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

George Washington Elementary was the only public school in Murphy’s district to be named to the National Blue Ribbon School program in 2018. In total, 24 schools in Illinois received the honor this year, and over 100 Illinois schools have received it since 2013.

Hastings keynotes wreath-laying ceremony

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 11:19 AM

Hastings wreath laying 121918DANVILLE — State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) gave the keynote speech at the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Danville National Cemetery last week.

Hastings is a West Point graduate who served in the Army from 1998 to 2008, served in Iraq and the borders of Iran and Syria.  Hastings lost friends in combat and emphasized the value of keeping their memories alive in his speech at the 12th annual event.

“Our brave veterans sacrificed their lives to protect our democratic values and freedoms,” Hastings said. “We should find ways in our daily routines to recognize their sacrifices and achievements to guarantee we continue to honor and remember their memories.”

Danville National Cemetery has almost 11,000 grave sites. The cemetery serves veterans within a radius of 75 miles.

“I sincerely appreciate being part of this heartwarming event. It was great to see the City of Danville and Vermilion County come together to honor our brave comrades during this holiday season,” Hastings said.

Wreaths were laid in honor of the US military branches and groups: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA. Family members also placed wreaths in honor of fallen service men and women.

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992.

The organization’s mission is to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” Every year the organization emphasizes their mission by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,200 veterans’ cemeteries and other locations across the nation each December.

 

PHOTO CAPTION: State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) gave the keynote speech at the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Danville National Cemetery last week. (Left to Right: State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), 2018 Georgetown Fair Queen Billi Jo Shank and Hastings). 

New ethics watchdog backed by Senator Link

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 11:14 AM

link 042618SPRINGFIELD – Senator Terry Link offered his support for Judge Carol Pope to be the next Illinois Legislative Inspector General, the top ethics watchdog for the General Assembly and its employees.

“Judge Carol Pope has a long career in public service and the experience, qualifications and character that are necessary for the important role of Legislative Inspector General,” said Senator Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat. “The people of Illinois can trust Judge Pope to investigate and take proper action regarding any cases that come through the office.” 

Link is a member of the Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission that is recommending Pope be hired.  

Judge Pope currently serves as a member of the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, which provides ethics advice to judges throughout Illinois. Pope previously served seven years as a State’s Attorney in Menard County, 17 years as a Circuit Court Judge and nine years as Appellate Justice in the Fourth Appellate District.

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