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Sullivan, Moffitt legislation allows easier fire district consolidation

052314CM1569SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Senate recently approved legislation giving voters living in fire protection districts the opportunity to consolidate with adjoining districts.

State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) and Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) sponsored the legislation – House Bill 5856 –to let local voters dissolve their fire protection districts and join neighboring districts.

"Consolidation affords the opportunity to streamline operations, improve efficiency and reduce response times. At the same time, this gives voters the freedom to decide how best to protect their homes and neighborhoods," Sullivan said.

"This legislation guarantees all citizens that there will be no lapse in fire protection since an adjoining fire district must agree to accept the fire district that is proposing to be consolidated," Moffitt said.

Under this legislation, it would take a majority of votes cast in an election to dissolve the existing district. The adjoining district's board of trustees would also need to accept the new territory before the consolidation could take effect.

House Bill 5856 is an initiative of the Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts.

The Senate approved HB 5856 with bipartisan support in both chambers. It now moves to the governor's desk.

Hunter, DCFS create new youth scholarships

HunterDCFS052814Plan to expand DCFS’ Department Scholarship Program sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) gained senate approval today. The measure requires DCFS to provide scholarships for a minimum of 53 students every year.

“Teens under DCFS’ care will have a greater opportunity to attend college without worrying about the financial strain,” said Hunter, Majority Caucus Whip. “We’ve seen the costs of college skyrocket, incomes slash and a gap widen between high school graduates and students with higher degrees. This program would help close that gap.”

The measure changes current law by increasing the number of students awarded scholarships from a maximum of 48 to a minimum of 53. The plan also increases the length students can receive assistance from only four consecutive years to at least five.

Beginning August 24, DCFS will collect data regarding the success of the program. The department will monitor the number of youth applying for and receiving scholarships, the percentage of recipients completing their degree within five years, and the outcomes five and 10 years after being awarded the scholarships.

“We are restructuring the program to ensure the dollars are used wisely,” said Hunter, while discussing the measure on the floor. “This program has been in operation for over 40 years. It’s important for us to support young people interested in attending college.”

House Bill 4652 now goes to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

Haine to Feds: Protect American-made steel

052714CM0393SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) introduced a resolution Wednesday urging the U.S. Department of Commerce and President Obama to investigate unfair South Korean trade practices.

There have been recent reports of low-quality, Korean-made steel being dumped into the U.S. market. These goods are being brought into the U.S. through deceptive trade practices and are being sold far below the fair market price.

“This cheap, low-quality steel is hurting the American economy and the federal government shouldn’t sit by while this happens. The Granite City steel works employs skilled workers who could face losing their jobs it their first-rate product continues to be undercut by shoddy foreign steel,” Haine said.

Senate Resolution 1243 urges the Department of Commerce to investigate South Korean companies' trade practices and protect the value of American-made steel.

When it is adopted by the Senate a copy of the resolution will be sent to President Obama.

IL Senate makes 2015 year of volunteerism

Hunter052814This month, the Illinois Senate passed bipartisan plan designating 2015 as the Year of Service and Engagement.   Sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), the resolution declares to strengthen infrastructure of volunteerism in the State.

“Volunteerism is a part of Illinois’ history and culture,” said Hunter, Majority Caucus Whip. “We’re a state built on the foundations of service and organized movements that have influenced the rest of the country.”

In Illinois, Senate bipartisan leadership seeks to foster volunteerism within the state by hosting a Senate forum on volunteerism. The forum will serve as a platform to rebuild the human element of the state’s infrastructure.   In 2012, Illinois ranked first among the nation’s 10 largest states in terms of volunteering. The state ranked 25th among all states with nearly 360 million hours of services valued over $8 billion.

“Volunteer opportunities have the potential to lead to jobs,” said Hunter. “They provide similar skill sets as paid positions but show a commitment to the community and self-improvement.”

Senate Resolution 1002 was adopted as amended.