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Harris: Time for contingency plans, tough decisions

harris 030917SPRINGFIELD — After two years of holding the Illinois budget hostage for political gain, Gov. Bruce Rauner now is faced with cutting an astounding $5 billion worth of state programs and services to balance the budget he presented to taxpayers last month.

“We live in the real world where we have to be realistic. We need to think about contingency plans and moving forward,” said Senator Napoleon Harris III, a Harvey Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee. “From day one I have said we must work together to fix these issues. It’s going to take tough decisions by all to get this done.”

Gov. Rauner has proposed a budget that is unbalanced by nearly $5 billion – a figure that was reinforced this week when the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accounting released an analysis that suggests the state’s revenues are $329 million lower than the governor’s February budget estimate, pushing his budget proposal further into the red.

Yet during a series of Senate committee hearing this week, agency directors under the Rauner administration were unable or unwilling to identify cuts to personnel or programs that could enable the governor to bridge the gap. That includes representatives of the Illinois Department of Natural of Resources and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, both of whom appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“We posed a simple question to these agencies: Where in your agency’s budget can you cut to help fill this $5 billion hole in the governor’s proposed statewide budget?” Harris said. “They were stonewalling, or they’ve never given it a thought. Either way, it’s a problem for the people of Illinois who deserve answers.”

Murphy looks to help residents secure home soundproofing

murphy 021617SPRINGFIELD – The office of State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) is working to help contact eligible Park Ridge homeowners in efforts to help them soundproof their home.  Senator Murphy’s office was recently provided over 100 letters to 28th District constituents in Park Ridge from the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) offering sound proofing that went unanswered.

The Residential Sound Insulation Program (RSIP) is a program instituted by the Federal Aviation Administration and the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission to help reduce aircraft noise coming into eligible homes by installing acoustical mitigation equipment at zero cost to the homeowners. Park Ridge homeowners are eligible under phase 17 of the Residential Sound Insulation Program.

“The Residential Sound Insulation Program (RSIP) is a preventative and cost-effective way to mitigate noise pollution from the effects of O’Hare.  I implore all eligible residents to take advantage of this public service program,” Murphy said.

Phase 17 closes very soon.  If you believe you have received a letter from the CDA outlining your eligibility for soundproofing, please contact the CDA program office at (773) 894-3626 no later than March 17 to begin the process of soundproofing your home. 

Tom Cullerton advances measures to combat veterans’ suicide epidemic

Senator Tom Cullerton
SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) has started tackling obstacles found during the Veterans Suicide Taskforce hearings.

Cullerton advanced Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.

“We need to get to the cause of veteran suicide,” Cullerton said. “The only way to tackle the problem is to have a complete picture. This is a simple way to collect statistics and honor Illinois’ veterans.”

The idea was suggested by DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgenson, who indicated that veteran suicide was under reported since Illinois death certificates do not include information on the history of U.S. military service.

“These are our nation’s heroes. They took care of us, now it is our time to take care of them,” Cullerton said. “Every life we save is priceless.”

Cullerton also advanced Senate Bill 866 to require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to provide information and education on service animals to veterans.

Under current law, the DVA isn’t required to provide information or resources on how a veteran might obtain a service animal.

“The DVA should be a one-stop shop for our veterans,” Cullerton said. “There is a stigma within the veterans’ community on receiving traditional treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We haven’t been able to explore the effects of using service dogs as alternative treatments since there is a lack of awareness in the veterans’ community.”

Cullerton hopes this small step will help make service dogs readily available to veterans to cope with PTSD. There is a high demand from returning veterans for service dogs as alternative treatment. However, trained dogs can be difficult to find.

“Using service dogs as treatment for PTSD could one of the keys to ending the veteran suicide epidemic,” Cullerton said.

Senate Bill 866 and Senate Bill 1693 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs with bipartisan support.

Bennett joins Attorney General in fight for victims’ rights

Senator Scott Bennett, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Scott CrossSPRINGFIELD — Victims of sexual abuse and assault as minors will no longer have to worry about their abuser walking free due to the statute of limitations under a plan being pushed in the Illinois State Senate.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), who introduced Senate Bill 189, said it would remove the statute of limitations for sex crimes committed against minors.

“Victims of sexual assault and abuse deserve a pledge that justice does not have an expiration date,” Bennett said. “With this legislation, we can deliver a message of hope to victims everywhere by guaranteeing their abusers won’t get away because time ran out.”

In previous hearings Bennett held on this legislation, the Attorney General was joined by one of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s victims, Scott Cross, who called for a review of the existing laws.

The crimes included in the legislation are criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual abuse.