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Bennett strengthens coal ash pollution protections

bennett 050219SPRINGFIELD – To continue efforts to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) addressed unresolved issues with the legislation passed in the spring.

Senator Bennett passed legislation to keep coal ash out of our water earlier this year. This new law directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to begin a rule-making process to require power plant operators to safely dispose of coal ash or ensure that pits are properly enclosed, impose fees on coal ash pits to pay the costs of hiring IEPA staff to oversee enforcement, and require power plant operators to set aside money to pay for cleaning up pits in the event a plant is shut down or a company goes bankrupt.

“The bill itself was about being proactive for our future generations,” Bennett said. “It provides the protections, regulations and financial assurances to prevent coal ash crises from happening in Illinois.” 

Numerous negotiations took place between labor and industry, as well as the IEPA and environmental organizations. It was agreed that a trailer bill would be introduced to address some lingering issues with the bill regarding insurance and training provisions. This trailer bill indicates who is responsible for conducting cleanup in the event of a coal ash spill – and how those involved in cleanup will be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals.

“The thing that concerned me about the original coal ash bill was that there were no protections in place for clean-up crews,” Bennett said. “The improvements to this bill will create a training program that includes instruction in the operation of heavy equipment and excavation, ensuring safety for those doing the physical clean-up of the toxic sites.”

Under this measure, more insurance options are available for those that maintain the coal ash pits to allow for coal ash plants. In addition to the insurance option, a trust fund, surety bond guaranteeing payment or performance, an irrevocable letter of credit or insurance that is not self-insurance are also acceptable forms of finance assurance.

The trailer bill is Senate Bill 671, and passed the Senate 39-12-1 Thursday. The legislation moves to the House for consideration.

Bennett: Thomasboro Fire Protection District receives funds for fire trucks

fire gear 110719THOMASBORO – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Thursday that the Thomasboro Fire Protection District is one of 23 communities to receive funds to purchase fire trucks that will allow first responders to better serve the area.

“Fire departments consistently face financial burdens,” Bennett said. “This funding will allow the fire district to purchase the equipment they need, while also reducing the cost to local taxpayers.”

The Thomasboro Fire Protection District, a volunteer department, is the recipient of $300,000, which has given it the opportunity to purchase new equipment it may not otherwise have been able to afford.

“Our first responders protect the lives and property of our community members from fires and natural disasters,” Bennett said. “New fire trucks will help them to better serve our community in a safe and efficient manner.”

This funding is made possible through the Fire Truck Revolving Loan Program, which offers no interest or low interest loans to emergency responders across the state.

Bennett announces recreational facility grant in Rantoul

fitnesscenter 102119RANTOUL – The Village of Rantoul will receive a $750,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to renovate and expand the Forum Fitness Center in Rantoul, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Thursday.

“The Forum Fitness Center offers a variety of sports and workout options to residents in our community,” Bennett said. “This grant will help improve the facility and attract new members to the center.”

Improvements to the exterior of the building include installation of new windows and double doors. Building expansion will feature a 3,000-square-foot group fitness addition. Interior improvements include installation of new electrical services in the cardio room. Renovations include the installation of a new HVAC system for the gymnasium and the locker rooms.

“Funding to renovate facilities like the Forum Fitness Center in Rantoul will give residents the opportunity to take advantage of local recreation,” Bennett said. “The commitment from our state’s leadership to ensure families and individuals have access to public recreational spaces is truly outstanding.”

The Village of Rantoul has been selected to receive one of eight grants from IDNR’s Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act grant program, totaling more than $10.1 million in grants.

Bennett pushes to cap insulin prices in Illinois

insulin 053019CHAMPAIGN – To make insulin more affordable for citizens in Champaign and Vermilion counties, State Senator Scott Bennett moved to cap patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $100 for a 30-day supply.

As lawmakers prepare to return to Springfield next week for the fall veto session, insulin will be a major topic of interest. Bennett is a co-sponsor of legislation that would make Illinois the second state to cap insulin copayments. 

“The price of insulin has tripled over the span of a decade and diabetics are resorting to desperate measures due to the price spike,” Bennett said. “You can’t just cut back on insulin. Patients deserve affordable access to this life-saving prescription drug, and they can’t wait.”

The American Diabetes Association reports there are more than 30 million Americans who have diabetes, with 1.25 million having Type 1 diabetes. The condition requires daily administration of insulin to survive.

This legislation, Senate Bill 667, also directs Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to investigate reasons for rising prescription insulin costs and to ensure consumer protections in their pricing. The attorney general’s office will issue a one-time report detailing its findings and make public policy recommendations for controlling and preventing overpricing of prescription insulin.

“Nobody should be forced to decide between paying for food or their medication,” Bennett said. “I will continue to work with the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 667, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) to ensure this becomes law.”

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture (Chairperson); Appropriations II; Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Higher Education; Labor; State Government; Subcommittee on Capital.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.

Associated Representatives:
Carol Ammons
Michael T. Marron