• Bennett ensures Senate budget includes funding for Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy

    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.

  • Bennett passes measure keeping memory of Air Force base alive

    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: Permanent property tax freeze would squeeze local schools

    bennett 053116SPRINGFIELD – A permanent property tax freeze from Springfield will only squeeze local schools and park districts according to one Illinois State Senator.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) says that while the freeze may be a good talking point, in reality it squeezes school districts that have been shortchanged by Springfield for years.

    “Before the governor demanded a permanent property tax freeze, he never met with the Illinois State Board of Education to determine what it would do to local school districts,” Bennett said. “I don’t know how you make a decision that consequential without talking to your own experts.”

    In a hearing on Thursday at the Senate Appropriations Committee, Bennett challenged the assertion that Springfield’s freezing of property taxes permanently will amount to returning control to taxpayers.

    “Springfield does not spend or collect a single dollar of property taxes,” said Bennett. “Property taxes are set locally by people we elect, that is the very essence of local control.”

    Bennett later said that while he agrees that the property tax burden is large, he believes the Senate’s bipartisan plan to temporarily freeze property taxes will bring stability and predictability.

    “What we have proposed in the Senate is to freeze property taxes for a few years so we can see the results,” Bennett said. “If there are no negative effects and the voters are happy with the freeze, they will be more than able to decide to extend it.”

  • Urbana's Courage Connection losing ability to shelter, counsel domestic violence victims: Bennett

    dvpanel 040417 2SPRINGFIELD – For many abused women, domestic violence shelters are the last refuge from which they can begin to rebuild their lives. These very shelters, however, are now on the verge of closing due to the state’s historic budget impasse.

    One such shelter is the Urbana-based provider Courage Connection. The facility is the only domestic violence shelter in Champaign-Urbana. In December, the provider learned that the $600 million in the state’s stopgap budget did not include its funding.

  • Bennett: Let victims decide when they are ready to seek justice

    Senator Scott Bennett, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Scott Cross

    SPRINGFIELD – Legislation removing the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes against minors passed the Illinois Senate yesterday. By a vote of 54-0, members of the Senate sided with victims still struggling to come to terms with the crimes committed against them.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pass the measure.

    “Survivors of these horrific crimes should not be forced to seek justice before they are ready to do so,” Bennett said. “This legislation is a beacon of hope to victims all over Illinois that an arbitrary deadline won’t stand between them and justice.”

    Attorney General Lisa Madigan has made protecting the victims of sex crimes a top priority of her office.

    “For a child survivor of sexual assault, reporting their crime can be unimaginable because these crimes are usually committed by an adult they know well,” Madigan said. “We must ensure that we can seek justice whenever a survivor comes forward to report the crime.”

    The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

  • 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.

  • Senate Democrats react to governor's State of the State address (VIDEO)

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  • New Senate session: swearing in, getting to work with term limits


  • Scott Bennett outraged at Illinois students’ tuition burdens

    bennett cmteCHAMPAIGN- A survey released by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) illustrates a real picture of the state budget impasse’s impact on college students.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is outraged that some state community colleges and universities are requiring students to pay back their need-based state tuition assistance to continue their education and  receive their transcripts.

  • Lawmakers call on governor, AFSCME to continue labor negotiations (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Bennett, Bertino-Tarrant discuss plan to ensure justice for sex abuse victims


  • Grave marker belonging to World War I veteran to be returned to gravesite

    VeteranCemeteryRANTOUL – George Haworth was perusing through a St. Joseph antique shop last year when he discovered a grave marker belonging to a World War I veteran.

    While the back of the grave marker listed the veteran’s name, military unit and day of his death, it did not contain any further information.

    “I didn’t know where the marker belonged, but I knew at that moment I wanted to do everything I could to return it to its rightful place,” Haworth said.

    After searching to no avail, Haworth contacted State Senator Scott Bennett and State Representative Chad Hays’ office for some help. It was discovered the marker belonged to Clyde E. Maham, a veteran who is buried at Maplewood Cemetery in Rantoul. Maham served in the Marine Corps from March 1917 until his discharge in December 1919.

    “Millions of brave men and women have served our country in defense of our values and way of life,” Bennett (D – Champaign) said. “Whether their sacrifices were made during World War I or are currently being made across the globe, it is important to honor the dedication and sacrifices they have made to our country.”

    On Saturday, a rededication ceremony will finally return the grave marker to Maham’s gravesite at Maplewood Cemetery in Rantoul. The ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.

  • New law prioritizes agriculture education in Illinois schools

    soybeansCHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett, the new Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, is excited to announce that Illinois has a new measure to prioritize agriculture education in schools across the state.  

    Bennett’s legislation that will create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for agriculture education teachers, Senate Bill 2975, was signed into law today. 

    “Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy,” Bennett said. “We need to do whatever we can to train our future farmers and prioritize agriculture curriculum in schools across our communities.”

    Under Senate Bill 2975, if a school district creates a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth years.

    “Education is essential,” Bennett said. “When students are exploring different career paths, they need to know agricultural sciences is a possibility.”

    This law will also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education.

    Currently, only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “Let’s work together to train our future farmers,” Bennett said. “Programs like this are essential to keeping Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

  • Bennett plan to protect sexual assault victims’ rights signed into law

    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 praises measure to clean up state’s pension rolls

    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.

  • Scott Bennett’s initiative to honor Illinois veterans signed into law

    bennett 040616CHAMPAIGN- Illinois National Guard members will soon be able to receive veterans status on Illinois identification cards thanks to State Senator Scott Bennett’s initiative that was signed into law today.

    Senate Bill 2173 addresses complaints from National Guard members not being classified as veterans since they had not been called to active duty by the President of the United States, Congress or the Governor of Illinois. 

    “It’s our duty to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans regardless of their rank or what branch of the military they are in,” said Bennett, a Champaign Democrat. “This is one simple step we can take to work toward giving veterans benefits they deserve.”

    Senate Bill 2173 also clarifies that the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs will certify and verify the status of veterans for Illinois identification cards.

    “Our veterans have served to protect our values, now, in turn, it is our job to honor the sacrifices they have made,” Bennett said. “We need to do whatever we can to honor our nation’s veterans.”

    Senate Bill 2173 was signed into law on Friday, July 15 and goes into effect immediately.

  • Shared priorities, common ground yield budget action (AUDIO)

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  • Champaign County schools win under plan supported by Scott Bennett

    bennett 040616CHAMPAIGN- Local schools will receive $5.9 million more under a new plan being assembled in the Illinois Senate. 

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) supports legislation to increase education funding for Champaign County students and allow schools to open their doors on time this fall.

    Champaign County schools would see the following increases in funding:

    Champaign Community Unit School District 4             $2,420,419

    Urbana School District 116                                        $1,761,301

    Rantoul City School District 137                                 $1,197,466

    “Education funding is my top priority,” Bennett said. “It’s important that we all work together to pass a plan to give our children the best opportunity to succeed. This is a clean school funding plan to keep our schools open.”

    This proposal also fully funds agriculture education.

    “It’s important for us to educate and train Illinois’ future farmers,” Bennett said. “Agribusiness is the backbone of Illinois’ economy. We need to continue to make investments in this essential industry.”  

    The Senate will convene on Wednesday at noon to take action on pending budget measures.

  • Senate Dems work to prevent future Hastert cases

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  • Scott Bennett appointed to lead Senate committee on Statues of Limitation

    053116CM1192RCHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) has been tasked with leading the Senate’s committee on Statues of Limitation. The focus will be on evaluating statutes of limitation for felony criminal sexual abuse and sex crimes against children.

    Possible issues with Illinois’ current statutes came to light due to developments involving former Republican U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who admitted in court that he sexually abused teenage boys when he was a wrestling coach in Yorkville.

    “The committee will take some time to study and assess pending legislation to figure out whether they are fair and essential,” Bennett said. “It’s important for government to evolve with the needs of the people.”