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  • bennett giffordSPRINGFIELD- Homeowners in Gifford, Washington and Brockport have made progress in rebuilding their homes after the Nov. 17 tornadoes in 2013.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) moved legislation today to help those rebuilding and repairing their homes receive relief from an unknown technicality.

    “The devastation left by the Nov. 17 tornadoes created unplanned expenses for Gifford homeowners,” Bennett said. “The cost of rebuilding and repairing is high enough without the additional expenses of higher property taxes.”  

    Senate Bill 3314 changes the Natural Disaster Homestead Exemption. Under current law, to receive the exemption a home must be rebuilt within 110 percent of its original size following destruction due to a natural disaster.

    However, many homeowners did not know about this technicality and built larger homes. Now their applications for exemptions have been denied. Bennett advanced this initiative to allow those homeowners to receive the exemption.  

    “The residents of Gifford have already been through enough,” Bennett said. “We need to do what we can to allow them to ease through the recovery process.”

    On Nov. 17, 2013, tornadoes destroyed nearly 30 homes in the village of Gifford. More than 40 other homes suffered major damage, and about 125 had minor damage. Total damage was estimated at $60 million.

    The area was denied federal disaster relief because it was determined too small to qualify.

    Senate Bill 3314 passed the Senate’s Committee on Revenue and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

     

  • bennett 042718SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) measure to address the sale of counterfeit airbags was approved by the Senate this week.

    Senate Bill 560 increases the penalty for fitting a car with any device instead of an airbag from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class 4 Felony. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail, whereas a Class 4 Felony is punishable by one to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and up to two-and-a-half years of probation.

    “This measure is a step in the right direction to cracking down on organized criminals who are selling dangerous counterfeit airbags to consumers and suppliers with little to no regard to their deadly consequences,” Bennett said. “Increasing the penalty will deter criminals from selling these defective devices.”

    Bennett said that due to the significant cost of modern airbags, their design and the technology involved in making them, scammers have taken to producing counterfeit and/or nonfunctional airbag replacements. These products often go unnoticed because airbags are only opened in the event of a collision.

    “Airbags are critical in helping to protect drivers and passengers,” Bennett said. “We need to make sure that everyone has the appropriate equipment that meets proper safety standards to keep them safe in the event of a crash.”

    SB 560 passed with bipartisan support and will now move to the House for consideration.

  • bennett 040616SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation to improve responses to sexual assault and abuse cases in Illinois.

    Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Each year, there are approximately 293,000 victims of sexual assault.

    “Our number one goal is to end cases of sexual abuse and assault,” Bennett said. “However, if a case occurs, we must have clear and concise guidelines to give victims a comprehensive path to justice.”

    Senate Bill 3096 is the result of the work done by the Joint Sexual Assault Working Group. The goal is to improve responses to sexual assault and abuse cases with victim-centered policies and practices that have been demonstrated to minimize traumatization and encourage victim participation in the criminal justice process.

    Senate Bill 3096 does two things.

    First, it outlines the information that must be included in a police officer’s report, as well as what information needs to be made available to victims.

    Secondly, the initiative outlines procedures for collection of sexual assault kits from hospitals to ensure victims’ rights are protected.

    Senate Bill 3096 passed the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Justice with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

  • mapgrant moneySPRINGFIELD- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed legislation to fund state college assistance grants.

    Under Senate Bill 2043, the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants will continue to make college an option for students across Illinois.  This state assistance provides need-based aid to help pay for tuition and fee costs to help eliminate excessive college loan debt.

    “Illinois students shouldn’t be discouraged from attending one of our public universities or community colleges due to financial need,” Bennett said. “The legislation we passed today will help more students obtain a college education without further jeopardizing their financial health.  

    The Illinois Student Assistance Commission estimates that under Senate Bill 2043, that 125,000 to 130,000 eligible students will be approved for MAP grant assistance.  

    “We need an educated workforce to continue to grow our economy,” said Bennett. “The investments we make in education will provide Illinois with a well-trained and competitive workforce.”

    Last year, 6,697 students, approximately 25 percent of undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana received MAP grant assistance.

    Senate Bill 2043 passed the Senate 37-0-14 and now moves to the House for consideration.

  • bennett 032318DANVILLE –Danville School District 118 will receive more than $2.1 million in new money through the education funding overhaul passed by the Senate last year, announced State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

    Under the school funding reform plan, schools will continue to receive the same state assistance they previously received.  However, the new formula is designed to ensure the most state assistance will be directed to school districts most in need.

    “For far too long, many downstate school districts like those in Danville were being left behind by the state,” Bennett said. “Now, for the first time we have a funding formula that provides fair and adequate funding for students throughout the state.”

    The distribution is based on detailed enrollment figures, district-specific student learning needs, available local resources and other data. No schools in Danville will receive less state funding than they do today.

    “Every school in Danville is a winner under this plan,” Bennett said. “This new money is a good first step in giving students, teachers and parents in Danville the equitable and fair funding level that they deserve.”

  • bennett 040218CHAMPAIGN – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is condemning Governor Bruce Rauner’s baseless remarks against Champaign-Urbana.

    During a radio interview in Chicago last Friday, Rauner criticized Champaign-Urbana’s workers and transportation systems.

    “Champaign-Urbana is wonderful,” Rauner told WGN AM-720. “But it’s very hard to keep a company of more than six people there. There’s no convenient transportation, not much of a workforce, and it’s very hard.”

    Bennett is surprised and disappointed in Governor Rauner’s claims against the workforce.

  • bennett 052517SPRINGFIELD – The budget passed by the Illinois Senate includes funding for a popular program managed by the Illinois National Guard, according to one Illinois state senator.

    The Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy, funded through the Illinois Department of Military Affairs, is a youth intervention program based in Rantoul at the former Chanute Air Force Base. The academy seeks to help high school dropouts gain job and life skills that will lead to a better future.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) represents Rantoul and voted for the budget in large part to keep programs like the ChalleNGe Academy open.

    “Some of the young people who go Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy just need a second chance,” Bennett said. “The best way for the state to guarantee at-risk youth have a future chance at success is to invest in programs like the Academy that give them the necessary skills to do so.”

    Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy was started as a pilot program after the passage of the 1993 National Defense Reauthorization Act. Currently, 29 states have ChalleNGe Academies.

    The Rantoul-based facility will also receive funding to prevent another shutdown of their facility upgrade, saving taxpayers the expensive costs of restarting the project. The academy employs a number of people in Rantoul.

  • 2017 Miss Illinois Abby FosterSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) welcomed 2017 Miss Illinois Abby Foster to the Illinois State Capitol today.

    A Danville native, Foster competed in the Miss America beauty pageant last September where she was voted as “America’s Choice” and finished in the Top 15.

    “Abby really has done a terrific job as Miss Illinois,” Bennett said. “She is an impressive young woman, a tremendous student and a very involved and visible member of our community. We could not be prouder of how she has represented Danville, Vermilion County and our state.

  • 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.

  • bennett 041218SPRINGFIELD – People with certain criminal convictions on their record would be banned from working at a carnival, amusement park or fair under a new measure by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

    Senate Bill 3240 will allow the Department of Labor to penalize and fine a person, firm, corporation or other entity that owns or operates a carnival, amusement park or fair that fails to conduct a criminal history check. The measure passed out of a Senate committee this week.

    “Families go to fairs and carnivals to enjoy themselves and have fun,” Bennett said. “This bill ensures that members of our community can feel safe and protected doing just that.”

    Under current law, all ride operators at Illinois carnivals are supposed to pass a criminal background check. However, state law says those checks should be entrusted to carnival operators, not the state.  Inspectors from the Department of Labor are only supposed to make sure that the checks were done.

    In 2014, Blayne Benefield was killed in Farmer City by two brothers who were employees of Big H 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, however, 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 is a commonsense way to prevent this from ever happening again. It’s a matter of public safety and we need to hold operators accountable to make sure that they are conducting proper criminal history checks and doing everything they can to keep our communities safe.”

    SB 3240 passed the Senate Licensed Activities and Pensions Committee and will now be considered by the full Senate.

  • bennett 040218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is working with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to protect student loan borrowers from losing professional licenses as they work to pay off their debt.

    Senate Bill 2439 would prevent Illinois licensing agencies that regulate 38 professions from denying, revoking or suspending licenses to individuals who are in default on their student loans .

    “There are many things we can do to collect debt for student loans, but taking away someone’s livelihood is counterproductive, to say the least,” Bennett said. “This bill will end this punitive practice and protect licensed professional from becoming trapped in insurmountable debt.”

  • bennett careertechSoon local municipalities across Vermilion and Champaign counties will receive their overdue gas tax money to help prepare for winter storms and patch pot holes.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (Champaign) passed Senate Bill 2039, which would free up gas money for local municipalities. State transportation officials haven’t provided exact numbers on how much these communities are owed, but last year, Champaign, for example, received more than $2 million in gas tax money.

    “This is local money that needs to be in the hands of local people,” said Bennett. “This compromise is an important step in bridging our current budget stalemate. We need to continue to work together to pass a responsible budget that fulfills our responsibility to the people of Illinois.”

    Other Champaign and Vermilion County communities received the following amounts in 2014: Urbana, more than $1 million in funds; and Danville, $817,647.

    Additional information about how much local communities are owed in gas tax money is available at www.IllinoisSenateDemocrats.com.

    Bennett says while Governor Rauner has said he supports this compromise, the budget impasse began when he vetoed similar proposals back in June.

    SB 2039 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and now moves on to the governor’s desk.

  • bennett 053018SPRINGFIELD – Legislation to honor two officers and a civilian killed in a gunfight in 1979, along with another officer wounded in the battle, was adopted by the General Assembly this week.  

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored House Joint Resolution 21, which designates the overpass where Ford County Road 200 North crosses Interstate 57 South of Paxton as the McCarter-Caisse-Vice-Hale Memorial Overpass.

    “I am very proud to sponsor this legislation,” Bennett said. “Even though their service and sacrifice occurred years ago, time should not diminish the impact of their deaths and the importance of their lives.”

    On April 7, 1979, the three officers and one civilian were involved in a gunfight with members of a Michigan family after a traffic stop on I-57 south of Paxton.

    Illinois State Police Trooper Michael McCarter, Paxton Police Department Patrolman William Caisse and civilian, Donald Vice, were shot and killed. Larry C. Hale of the Paxton Police Department was wounded.

    “I am very glad that there is now a memorial to honor these brave men who gave their lives protecting our community,” Bennett said. “My hope is that this memorial will inspire future generations of dedicated public servants as they serve and sacrifice.”

  • bennett 040318SPRINGFIELD – Local tourism groups will get some state funding to help cover overhead under a plan by State Senator Scott Bennett that passed the Illinois Senate this week.

    Senate Bill 2899 would reduce the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) ability to reserve and use 10 percent of the local tourism funds for administrative costs to three percent.

    “We all know how valuable our local tourism programs are, especially in Illinois’ bicentennial year,” said Bennett (D-Champaign). “This bill is a great opportunity to get some more funds into local tourism groups to help better promote our communities as destinations and bring money back to Illinois.”

    Under current law, DCEO uses 10 percent of the revenue from the Hotel Operators Occupation Tax for the operational costs of local tourism programs. However, due to state’s backlog of unpaid bills, the Comptroller has not been sending out the full payments, causing local tourism groups to make cuts in their budget. 

    Bennett said that this has harmed local tourism groups such as Visit Champaign County and others, which have been forced to cancel events, cut advertisements, leave positions unfilled and send fewer people out on the road to promote their cities.  

    “These are small things that add up over the course of a fiscal year that impede our ability to showcase Illinois as a true tourist destination,” Bennett said. “We have so much to offer and right now, we need to focus on getting that money out of Springfield and into local offices where they can do the most good.”

    SB 2899 passed with bipartisan support and will now move to the House for consideration.

  • Tuskegee Airmen - Circa May 1942 to Aug 1943SPRINGFIELD – Rantoul-area museums displaying exhibits from the closed Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum will have access to funds purposed for the exhibits under a law passed by the Illinois Senate today.

    Champaign County was previously home to Chanute Air Force Base until 1993. Originally opened in 1917, the base was one of the Army Air Corps’ original training schools for pilots. The site was chosen due to its close proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad and the University of Illinois.

    During World War II the base, then called Chanute Field, was home to the first training classes for the officers of the 99th Pursuit Squadron. The squadron was an all-black unit that would eventually be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

  • bennett cmteSPRINGFIELD- Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Each year, there are approximately 293,000 victims of sexual assault.

    To prevent this, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed a measure that was signed into law today that will improve responses to sexual assault and abuse cases in Illinois.

    “Our number one goal is to end cases of sexual abuse and assault,” Bennett said. “However, if an assault occurs, we must have clear and concise guidelines to give victims a comprehensive path to justice.”

    Senate Bill 3096 is the result of the work done by the Joint Sexual Assault Working Group. The goal is to improve responses to sexual assault and abuse cases with victim-centered policies and practices demonstrated to minimize trauma and encourage victim participation in the criminal justice process.

    Senate Bill 3096 does two things.

    First, it outlines the information that must be included in a police officer’s report, as well as what information needs to be made available to victims.

    The initiative also outlines procedures for collecting sexual assault kits from hospitals to ensure victims’ rights are protected.

    “Sexual assault is a devastating crime that is rarely reported to law enforcement. Our Working Group spent more than a year taking a comprehensive look at why and how our criminal justice system can better respond, investigate and support survivors,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Illinois will now require police to undergo specialized training and follow specific protocols for incidents of sexual assault that should encourage more survivors to come forward and receive justice. These are significant changes to improve our response to sexual assault crimes.”

    Senate Bill 3096 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and was signed this afternoon.

  • bennett 040616CHAMPAIGN – Illinois taxpayers will benefit from a new law that encourages state pension funds to regularly review their rolls for deceased recipients.
    The measure, an initiative of Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), gives the funds until Jan. 1, 2017, to implement a process to identify deceased annuitants at least once a month.

    “We need to do whatever we can to end the waste of taxpayer dollars,” Bennett said. “This is one simple way for the state to save money and promote the responsible use of funds.”

    It is unclear how many state pension payments are made to deceased annuitants in Illinois because each pension fund tracks death-related overpayments differently. 

    Under the new law (House Bill 6030), the review process can include using a third-party company, Social Security Administration data or other available data, as well as any other method that is commonly used by other state retirement systems.

    In 2015, Better Government Association published a report that alleged various Illinois public retirement systems were paying annuities to deceased people.

  • map grant mrCHAMPAIGN- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is circulating a petition to urge Illinois lawmakers to pass funding for an important state aid program.

    “I urge legislators to put politics aside. These students are real people with real lives. We cannot afford to jeopardize their futures,” said Bennett.

    Monetary Award Program (MAP grants) cannot be given to students until there is a state budget. More than 100,000 students across Illinois rely on MAP grants to afford higher education.

    Some schools are unable to absorb the tuition cost while the budget impasse continues and are asking students to pay partial fees upfront as they wait for the budget impasse to end. Bennett doesn’t want students discouraged from returning to campus due the lack of promised financial aid.

    “If these students could afford to absorb tuition costs and fees, they wouldn’t have qualified for state assistance in the first place,” said Bennett. “College affordability is a defining component in our state’s policies. We need to be working toward giving our young people the tools to graduate with success, not forcing them to miss out on valuable opportunities.”

    Lawmakers will return to Springfield to take up legislative action on Wed., Aug. 19. Bennett will work with lawmakers to authorize funding for MAP grants.

  • flood aidCHAMPAIGN- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 87 counties in Illinois, including Champaign and Vermilion counties, as primary natural disaster areas due to damages and losses by the unprecedented rain and flooding over this summer.

    “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “It is important for us to work together to help farmers through these difficult times. Local farmers keep the state’s economy going and growing.”

    Farmers who believe they may be eligible for assistance should contact their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.  

    Here is the contact information for Champaign and Vermilion County residents:

    Champaign County Farm Service Agency:

    2110 West Park Ct., Suite A
    Champaign, IL 61821-2986
    (217) 352-3536 ext 2
    (855) 240-6623 Fax

    Vermilion County Farm Service Agency:

    1905A US Route 150
    Danville, IL 61832-5396
    (217) 442-8511 ext 2
    (855) 688-3986 Fax

    Loan applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. The extent of losses, security available and applicant's repayment ability will determine eligibility. Farmers who have questions can contact their county service agency or the state FSA at (217) 241-6600.

    If residents need further assistance, please contact Senator Scott Bennett’s constituent office at (217) 355-5252 or visit www.SenatorBennett.com.

  • Sen. Scott Bennett with the Schlarman Academy girls’ basketball team, Class 1A State ChampsSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) welcomed the much-accomplished Schlarman Academy girls’ basketball team to the Illinois State Capitol today.

    Last month, The Lady Hilltoppers dominated the Class 1A state title game, easily defeating Stockton 53-31 to claim the program and Danville’s first-ever state championship.

    Their win capped a magical 33-1 season for Schlarman as the Hilltoppers ended the season on a 19-game win streak.