Bennett

  • Bennett moves to strengthen protections for vital Central Illinois natural resource

    bennett 050219SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced a plan through the Senate today to secure protections for the Mahomet Aquifer, the primary water source for 50,000 Central Illinois residents.

    Senate Bill 2027 would direct the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to prioritize landfills overlying the Mahomet Aquifer for inspection. The bill would encourage the IEPA to use existing information available from the State and federal agencies to identify unknown, unregulated, or under regulated waste disposal sites that overlie the Aquifer and may pose a threat to surface water or groundwater resources.  

    “If we don’t take action now to protect this resource, our future generations will not have clean drinking water,” Bennett said. “This bill will help complement our ongoing efforts to maintain the quality of the groundwater and help us ensure the long-term health and safety of these residents.”

    The bill also seeks to establish a pilot program at the Pekin Metro Landfill to identify potential and current threats to the water quality of the Aquifer from the landfill.

    The proposed legislation comes from the recommendations of the Mahomet Aquifer Protection Task Force, a bipartisan coalition of central Illinois lawmakers from both chambers of the General Assembly, including Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) and Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). The task force, chaired by Champaign Mayor Deborah Feinen, also includes scientists from the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Illinois State Geological Survey, the Illinois Water Survey and the IEPA.

    SB 2027 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

  • Bennett advances measure to promote renewable energy projects in Illinois

    Solar PanelsSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced a plan through the Senate this week to help facilitate solar projects statewide.

    Senate Bill 211 will allow a State purchasing officer or a State agency to enter in to an energy conversation program or energy savings contract or lease for up to 25 years. Currently, construction agencies can enter renewable energy resource contracts and leases that do not exceed 10 years.

    “Everybody shares the same goals of lower energy costs, reduced pollution and more jobs in Illinois, and this bill is a good first step in achieving that,” Bennett said. “Extending the time limit for these contracts will help the solar industry create jobs in Illinois, bring down energy costs and build a homegrown, renewable energy supply in our state.”

    The proposal was supported by the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. In the past, universities have found it difficult to explore solar energy contracts, which are typically longer than the current 10 year limit prescribed in the current law. Bennett’s bill would align with the solar module warranty length and make projects more appealing to universities.

    SB 211 passed out of the Senate and moves to the House for Consideration.

  • Senate approves Bennett’s plan to create agricultural teacher training program

    ag ed 032619SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed legislation this week to create a hands-on agriculture teacher training program in Illinois high schools.

    Senate Bill 1498 would require the Illinois State Board of Education to develop an Agricultural Education Pre-Service Training Program to prepare high school students for a college career aimed at becoming farm sciences teachers.

    “The importance of agricultural education spreads further than the classroom,” said Bennett, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This program would help students develop problem-solving skills and agricultural literacy they’ll need in order to teach the next generation of farmers how to produce the food we eat, the fuel we use and the fiber in our clothes.”

  • Bennett measure to add protections to Mahomet Aquifer, ensure water safety

    Clean waterSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation this week to strengthen protections for the Mahomet Aquifer, the primary water source for Central Illinois.

    Bennett sponsored Senate Bill 2027, which would direct the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to identify potential hazards to groundwater and focus further study on those that pose a hazard to surface water and groundwater resources.

    It would also establish the Pekin Metro Landfill Pilot Project to allow for the identification of potential and current threats to the water quality of the Mahomet Aquifer from the landfill.
    “After the detrimental impacts of the Peoples Gas Leak, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect this vital resource,” Bennett said. “This bill will help us ensure that 500,000 people in Central Illinois know the water coming out of their faucets is clean and safe to drink.”

    This proposal comes from the legislative recommendations of the Mahomet Aquifer Task Force, established last year to help maintain clean water and determine any action to protect the natural resource.

    SB 2027 was approved by the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee and is scheduled for consideration in the Senate.

  • Senators welcome FFA Day visitors

    Senators welcome FFA Day visitors

    SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Illinois State Senate met with FFA students from around the state today to have conversations about the importance of agriculture and the need for quality agriculture education in Illinois.

    More than 1,000 FFA students and their vocational-agriculture teachers came to Springfield for the 49th annual Illinois Agriculture Legislative Day. Initiated in the 1920s, FFA's primary activities center on agriculture education including scholarships and leadership and personal development.

    “For decades, FFA has been fundamental to agricultural education in Illinois and across the country,” said State Senator Scott Bennett, the Senate’s Agriculture chairman. “Today’s FFA not only trains future farmers, it also helps prepare the next generation of scientists, veterinarians and businesses. It is always a pleasure to meet these bright and talented young men and women.”

    This annual advocacy day brings FFA students, farm, agricultural commodity organizations and other agricultural interest groups to Springfield to meet state lawmakers, share the agricultural community’s priorities for the year and offer feedback about policies concerning agriculture, business, conservation, education and more.

  • Bennett moves to protect privacy of sexual assault victims

    Senator BennettSPRINGFIELD – A plan by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) would protect the identifying information of a victim in the middle of a sexual assault investigation.

    “Privacy and confidentiality matter for victims of sexual assault,” Bennett said. “In this case, transparency can actually be a barrier to keep people from coming forward about sexual assault. This bill will help maintain confidentiality so that victims have peace of mind while they seek justice.”

    Senate Bill 2133 intends to change the definition of “private information” in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include the name and any identifying information of a victim in a sexual assault investigation. Currently, the private information of a victim is not protected from private attorneys and media submitting FOIA requests.

    As a former prosecutor, Bennett has used his experiences to push for legislation to assist survivors of sexual assault. He is also the sponsor of a 2017 law that eliminated the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children.

    SB 2133 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for consideration in the Senate.

  • Bennett honors Schlarman Academy champions at the Capitol

    Sen. Bennett congratulates Schlarman Academy Basketball Team on state championshipSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) welcomed the players and coaching staff of the Schlarman Academy girls’ basketball team to the Illinois Capitol today to recognize their second consecutive state title.

    Bennett was joined on the Senate floor by the players and Head Coach Keith Peoples as he presented the team with a special tribute honoring their accomplishment.

    “Two consecutive championships is an outstanding achievement,” Bennett said. “I am honored to recognize these incredible young women who have put in a tremendous amount of hard work this season on and off the court. They have not only played hard, but they have represented Danville and Vermilion County with dignity and respect, and have raised the bar for future teams.”

  • Bennett resolution supports strategy to protect water quality from chemical runoff

    bennett 030719SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) was joined by Illinois Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan today to address the issue of farm chemical runoff polluting Illinois waterways.

    “We are on the right path, but more work remains to be done,” Bennett said. “With a science-based model as a guide, I am hopeful that we can make even more significant water quality improvements.”

    Sullivan provided testimony in the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee to support Senate Resolution 52, sponsored by Bennett. It calls for further steps in a plan to protect water quality by limiting nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural operations – nutrients with important beneficial effects in farming but with potentially harmful environmental consequences.

  • Bennett’s new law will require background checks for Illinois carnival workers

    carnivalCHAMPAIGN—Starting Jan. 1, 2019, Illinois law will require carnival companies to conduct criminal background checks of all employees.

    The new law, sponsored by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), will increase fines for amusement park companies that fail to check the criminal history of new hires. Right now, only ride operators must undergo background checks.

    “These additional background check requirements will increase public safety,” Bennett said. “If a carnival company is bringing someone into our community to interact with our children, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are operating a ride or a carnival game; they should have a background check to make sure they are not a criminal.”

    The measure was a response to a 2014 tragedy in Farmer City, when Blayne Benefield was killed by two brothers who were employees of Big H Amusements, formerly known as A & A 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, but 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 law is overdue, but I am relieved that we now have safeguards in place to hold carnival companies accountable and protect our communities.”

    Senate Bill 3240 passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.

  • Hastings keynotes wreath-laying ceremony

    Hastings wreath laying 121918DANVILLE — State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) gave the keynote speech at the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Danville National Cemetery last week.

    Hastings is a West Point graduate who served in the Army from 1998 to 2008, served in Iraq and the borders of Iran and Syria.  Hastings lost friends in combat and emphasized the value of keeping their memories alive in his speech at the 12th annual event.

    “Our brave veterans sacrificed their lives to protect our democratic values and freedoms,” Hastings said. “We should find ways in our daily routines to recognize their sacrifices and achievements to guarantee we continue to honor and remember their memories.”

    Danville National Cemetery has almost 11,000 grave sites. The cemetery serves veterans within a radius of 75 miles.

    “I sincerely appreciate being part of this heartwarming event. It was great to see the City of Danville and Vermilion County come together to honor our brave comrades during this holiday season,” Hastings said.

    Wreaths were laid in honor of the US military branches and groups: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA. Family members also placed wreaths in honor of fallen service men and women.

    Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992.

    The organization’s mission is to “Remember, Honor, Teach.” Every year the organization emphasizes their mission by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,200 veterans’ cemeteries and other locations across the nation each December.

     

    PHOTO CAPTION: State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) gave the keynote speech at the Wreaths Across America ceremony at the Danville National Cemetery last week. (Left to Right: State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), 2018 Georgetown Fair Queen Billi Jo Shank and Hastings). 

  • Bennett renews push for Vermilion County casino

    bennett 040218Quick work needed to pass a package to boost economy, add funds to schools

    DANVILLE – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) today renewed his commitment to ensuring that any state gaming expansion include a facility in Danville, not just Chicago as suggested by its mayor, Rahm Emmanuel.

    “A Chicago casino cannot be a stand-alone proposal,” Bennett said. “Vermilion county is ideal ground for a facility to create jobs, fund local schools and become a draw for patrons from across the state border. I remain determined to including our region in a final gaming plan.” 

    In an address to the Chicago City Council last Wednesday, Emanuel disclosed that he has been talking with top legislative negotiators to craft a 2019 plan to include a casino for the south side of Chicago.

    Under Emanuel’s plan, the revenue generated from the facility would help pay down the city’s pension debt that has accumulated after decades of underfunding. Bennett said gaming revenue from a Vermilion county casino should be dedicated to funding local schools, not retirement fixes for Chicago.

    “In Springfield, we’re going to have to bring diverse voices together to quickly develop a gaming package that includes directing revenue where each region wants or needs it most,” Bennett said. “Our area schools need the investment that can come from a new facility, and that’s my priority.”

    Bennett stressed the need to act quickly to his Senate colleagues since gaming efforts are ramping up in Indiana. 

    “For a long time, the ink has dried on construction plans for Vermilion County,” Bennett said. “But Indiana’s competitive focus on gaming should be a signal to all of us to act quickly. There are great opportunities for economic growth in the area, if we can get to work with speed.”

  • New Bennett law will prevent criminals from working at carnivals and fairs

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  • Bennett defends Champaign-Urbana from Rauner’s attacks

    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 passes legislation to honor fallen officers involved in gunfight

    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 passes legislation to support local tourism

    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.

  • Bennett measure to protect college graduates approved by Senate (VIDEO)

    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 advances legislation to increase penalties for sale of counterfeit airbags

    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 hosts Miss Illinois Abby Foster at the State Capitol (AUDIO)

    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.

  • Bennett welcomes Schlarman Academy state champions to the Capitol

    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.

  • Bennett legislation prevents criminals from working at fairs and carnivals

    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.