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Sims initiative to require schools to teach Illinois history

Old State CapitolSPRINGFIELD—A plan to require Illinois history to be taught in schools is one step closer to becoming law.

State Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr., a democrat from Chicago, is the sponsor of the bill, which passed the State Senate Education committee on Tuesday.

“If we want to shape the future of Illinois, we have to teach our kids its history,” Sims said. “It will help them better understand society, provide a sense of identity and potentially inspire them to work to create change within their communities. Teaching state history is the foundation for a better Illinois.”

Currently, there is not a specific requirement that Illinois History be taught as part of U.S. history. The law does require the course to include a comprehensive idea of our democratic form of government, the role and contributions of African Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups and the role of labor unions.

“State government plays a major role in students’ lives in many ways, including funding their education,” Sims said. “The impact extends into adulthood. Our young people need to understand Illinois history, in addition to how our government works, so they can make informed decisions and be productive members of society.”

Senate Bill 1601 is set to be sent to the Senate floor for consideration.

Harris pushes for larger municipalities to hire more minority-owned contractors

Sen. Napoleon HarrisSPRINGFIELD – To push for greater fairness and diversity in contract work, Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) proposed new legislation setting goals for larger municipalities to include minority-owned businesses.

“We need to ensure that minority-owned businesses are not being passed over as these municipalities continue to hand out millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and a good place to start is setting contracting goals,” Harris said.

The legislation would set goals for cities which receive more than $1 million in state motor fuel taxes to hire more minority-owned and -operated businesses when awarding contracts. The measure is an effort to include more minority, veteran and woman-owned businesses in local government contracting.

Munoz expands fallen police officers and firefighters special license plate to grieving children

Police & Fire ServicesSPRINGFIELD – Children of fallen police officers or firefighters would be eligible to receive specialty license plates under a proposal sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago).

“When you’re a police officer or firefighter your family serves with you,” said Munoz, a former Chicago police officer. “We want to give those children who have lost a parent in the line of duty to know that we acknowledge their loss and give them an opportunity to commemorate their loved one.”

Currently, only the surviving spouse and parents of a fallen police officer or firefighter are eligible for the license plates.

Senate Bill 1894 allows children and step children of police officers or firefighters who have died in the line of duty to be issued deceased police officer or firefighter license plates. The measure was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

A $15 fee is charged for the first issuance of the license plate in addition to the registration fee. A $2 fee is charged for each registration renewal thereafter.

The proposal is scheduled to move to the full Senate for consideration.

Sandoval’s bill to explore high-speed rail projects passes committee

High-speed trainSPRINGFIELD – The Senate Transportation Committee passed a measure Tuesday sponsored by State Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-Chicago) to create a commission that would explore opportunities to create a statewide high-speed rail network.

Senate Bill 1988 would create an 18 member High Speed Railway Commission comprised of representatives from state government and industry organizations that would create a plan to create a high-speed rail network connecting St. Louis with Chicago. The proposed route for the railway would pass through several Illinois cities, including Champaign, Decatur and Springfield.

“High speed rail could very well be a big part of the future of transportation in Illinois,” Sandoval said. “As Chair of the Transportation Committee, I want to ensure that we study all available options to move our transportation infrastructure forward.”

The measure passed committee as the Illinois Senate considers introducing a comprehensive plan to improve Illinois’ infrastructure. At a hearing on capital infrastructure needs on Monday, legislators heard from a representative from the Midwest High Speed Rail Association about the economic benefits and increased quality of life high speed rail could provide to Illinois residents.

“High-speed rail would make travel throughout the state of Illinois far easier and would improve our economy by fostering tourism and commerce,” Sandoval said. “I look forward to hearing the commission’s findings and plotting the best path forward to introducing more high speed rail projects in Illinois.”

The bill passed the Transportation Committee unanimously. It will now go before the entire Senate.

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