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  • harmon 050516Communities in rural Illinois would face one less obstacle in acquiring broadband internet access under a measure that Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) advanced Wednesday in the General Assembly.

    Senate Bill 2237, which passed in the Senate and now goes to the House for consideration, would allow broadband internet providers to use existing highway right-of-ways for laying fiber optic cable.

    These are the same right-of-ways that water and sewer utilities use for laying pipe. The property is not productive farmland, suitable for building or used for any purpose other than roadways, nor is it subjected to property taxes.

  • windenergySPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon’s effort to correct ambiguous language in the Rauner administration’s massive Exelon bailout bill could have a profound positive effect on Illinois’ economy – to the tune of at least $2.2 billion in the short term.

    By striking seven words in the Exelon bill, Illinois can clear the way for continued investment in wind energy in the prairie state – projects already permitted but that are on hold because of the murky language. That investment includes:

    • $2.2 billion in Illinois wind farms,
    • 650 new wind towers, and
    • 1 million hours in construction work.

    Significant additional projects await the permitting process if the ambiguity in state law can be eliminated through Senate Bill 71, said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and a longtime proponent of renewable energy and clean jobs. The legislation represents the kind of sensible, business-friendly legislation that can spur economic investment in Illinois.

    “The Exelon bill created significant uncertainty that prevented investment in Illinois by the wind industry, which makes no sense,” Harmon said. “Once we learned of the problem, I knew we would need to resolve it as quickly as possible because we want Illinois to retain its place as a national leader in wind energy.”

    The legislation has bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee last week. Proponents include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Laborers’ International Union Midwest Region, the Citizens Utility Board, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and others.

    Twenty-five Illinois wind farms supply power to about 1 million homes. The first wind installation in the state went online in 2003.

    According to a 2016 report by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, wind farms support about 870 permanent jobs in rural Illinois, generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes and produce $13.86 million in yearly income for landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. Wind farms have a total economic benefit of $6.4 billion over their lifespans, according to the analysis.

    “Economic development isn’t as difficult as Gov. Rauner wants people to believe it is. As we watch demand for renewable energy increase in the coming years, it’s important that lawmakers foster the industry’s growth in Illinois and seize opportunities to protect it from unnecessary government meddling,” Harmon said.

    “These are the kinds of things that will make Illinois a business-friendly state and help us to get the economy ‘boomin’,’ as Gov. Rauner likes to say. I look forward to his support on this legislation.”

  • bobcatSPRINGFIELD – Illinois would halt bobcat hunting in most northern counties for two years to allow time for more scientific research about the animal’s population under legislation approved by the state Senate Monday.

    House Bill 3399 was sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and was the result of lengthy negotiations among Harmon, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Trappers Association.

  • gun petition 033018On March 13, the eve of a nationwide school walkout to demand gun reform, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a measure that would crack down on illegal weapon trafficking by licensing gun dealers at the state level.

    The Gun Dealer Licensing Act was the result of years of bipartisan negotiations. It passed the Senate last April and the House in February.

    Rather than listen to the wishes of his constituents – 85 percent of whom support licensing gun dealers – the governor sided with the NRA and the small percentage who oppose it.

  • Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon is calling on the gun-rights advocates and Gov. Bruce Rauner to do more to help state lawmakers and local communities curb gun violence and protect the children of Illinois.

    Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee on firearms, which heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would restore local governments’ right to control the types of weapons and ammunition allowed in their communities. Local control over such matters was taken away in 2013 when the state passed its concealed carry law.

    As with so many other proposals designed to target gun violence and the illegal gun trade, gun-rights advocates are opposed to the measure.

    “Kids are dying, and these products are causing it,” Harmon said. “It’s a crisis. Find a way to help us protect everyone, including law-abiding gun owners.”

    Harmon, who favors greater accountability standards for gun dealers to stem the tide of illegal firearms flowing into Illinois, said that in the absence of Congressional action to deter gun violence and restrict access to weapons nationally, it’s up to state officials and local communities to protect residents themselves.

    It’s not about taking rights away from law-abiding citizens who own and enjoy firearms, he added, acknowledging the state’s regional diversity when it comes to opinions about guns.

    “In my time in Springfield I’ve evolved from someone who grew up in a house without guns to understanding my colleagues across the state who represent communities where guns are common and used responsibly. I respect them and the cultural differences more than I did when I started this job,” Harmon said.

    “But kids are dying on our streets because there are too many guns, and we get no help from the gun lobby. I’m begging them to find a way to work with us rather than block our efforts and pay lip service to what we’re trying to do. We’ll protect law-abiding gun owners in the process, but we need them to help us put the bad guys out of business.”

    Rauner this week signed Republican-backed legislation that increases criminal penalties for gun trafficking in Illinois. Harmon said the measure does not go far enough to curb gun violence, nor does it offer the local oversight that communities want.

    He called on the governor – an ardent proponent of local control of government – to express support for local gun laws and statewide violence-prevention measures, and to do more to bring attention to the public health crisis that guns are causing in Illinois.

    Harmon also appealed to gun-rights advocates to stop standing in the way of sensible restrictions that will protect people and that polling consistently shows the majority of Americans want.

    In Illinois, since 2013 the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association have objected to a host of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and protect potential victims. Proposals they’ve opposed include state licensing of gun and ammunition dealers, barring people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining FOID cards, creating a firearms registry, banning imitation and replica firearms, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, creating a gun violence restraining order, strengthening the FOID card revocation process and barring the use of three-dimensional printers to create guns.

    Meanwhile, just over halfway through 2016, gun violence in Chicago is on pace to eclipse last year’s statistics. More than 2,700 people have been shot in the city so far this year; in all of 2015 just under 3,000 people were shot.

    Among the more than 50 victims of gunfire during the past weekend was an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the wrist as she attended a vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed early Sunday in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is in Harmon’s legislative district.

    “Meet us in the middle, for God’s sake,” Harmon said in a plea to gun-rights advocates. “How many children are going to have to die while the gun lobby stands by and watches?”

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  • harmon jcar ccapSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to support working parents who cannot afford childcare State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) voted against Governor Rauner’s drastic new rules that have cut the Child Care Assistance Program for needy families. Harmon joined with the rest of his Democratic colleagues in support of these families at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules hearing, but the deep cuts prevailed, however, when Republican members sided with the governor over working families.

    “It is extremely disappointing that not a single one of my Republican colleagues was able to stand up for working families today. These emergency rules, proposed by Governor Rauner, do not respond to an emergency, but they will create emergencies for people all across the state. The legislature should have the will to stand up to the governor and check this overreach of his powers,” said Harmon.

  • Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today in response to a Republican-controlled think tank’s step toward curbing voter access in Illinois:

    “How disappointing that on National Voter Registration Day – a day intended to remind people of their right to register and vote in this country – a blatantly political effort to quell participation in Illinois elections was able to get a toehold in a courtroom.

    “Rather than seeking to scale back opportunities to register to vote in certain parts of Illinois, we should be working to expand access to the polls in all communities throughout the state.”

    Harmon was the chief Senate sponsor of the 2014 same-day voter registration initiative, which was challenged in court in August by the legal arm of a conservative political think tank that is backed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. A judge on Tuesday ruled in its favor and issued a preliminary injunction barring same-day voter registration in Illinois. It’s unclear if an appeal will be filed.

  • harmon 041818Volunteers with Moms Demand Action were at the Capitol today to urge lawmakers to seek an override of Senate Bill 1657, a measure to require licensing of Illinois gun dealers. They were joined by students and gun violence victims for a rally and visits to lawmakers' offices.

    Advocates for gun sense legislation, the group rallied in the rotunda. Senator Don Harmon spoke at the rally. Harmon is the sponsor of SB1657.

  • harmon pawnshopSPRINGFIELD – In 2010, Cook County released more than 5,000 defendants accused of drug-related crimes after determining there was no probable cause for their arrests. Many had been sitting in Cook County jail for more than 25 days awaiting their probable cause hearing. Each day these men and women sat in jail cost county taxpayers $143 – or more than $3,000 for a 25-day stay. It cost them and their families even more from lost time at work and the anguish of having a loved one in jail. Many of these offenders came from low-income families that could not afford to post bail.

    Why? Because law enforcement agencies in Cook County send recovered substances to the State Crime Lab to determine whether they are in fact drugs, which takes weeks. Police in every other county use a simple field drug test that costs little more than $1, which could have dramatically reduced the cost to Cook County and the suffering of these people and their families.

    The plan championed by Harmon creates a pilot program in Chicago to perform field drug tests for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. If it is successful, the field testing program could be expanded to the whole county. Establishing field drug testing in Cook County could also reduce pressure on the state crime lab, which currently analyzes all suspected drugs from the state’s most populous area.

    “Cook County deserves the opportunity to save taxpayer money and reduce prison crowding,” said State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “This program works in every other county in Illinois. I have high hopes that it will work here, cutting costs and reducing unnecessary jail time.”

    The legislation is House Bill 356. It takes effect immediately.

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  • harmon 020718SPRINGFIELD – Legislation giving patients access to medical alternatives to prescription painkillers passed the Senate Executive Committee today.

    Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced the Alternatives to Opioids Act to tackle the opioid crisis, an epidemic that killed more than 60,000 people nationwide last year.

    The measure would allow people who have been prescribed opioids for a medical condition to apply for a temporary medical cannabis card instead.

  • harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – The controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois would come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 1578 would require more accountability of law enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.