* Finally, some good news for Pembroke Township…
This afternoon, State Rep. Jackie Haas (R-Kankakee) presented her first bill before committee for the first time as a lawmaker. House Bill 3404 specifically addresses the energy accessibility concerns of Pembroke Township. Upon the bill’s passage, Rep. Haas released the following statement:
“I am pleased to report that this important legislation was approved by the House Public Utilities Committee. The bill has bipartisan support from local, state and federal government officials because it makes a decades-old dream of extending a natural gas pipeline into Pembroke Township a reality. Residents lack utilities and services that so many of us take for granted. Currently, they rely on propane, wood-burning stoves and electrical space heaters. Natural gas is both an economic driver for underdeveloped communities—keeping residential fuel costs affordable and attracting new businesses–and environmentally, a major contributor to global emissions reductions. Providing safe, reliable and clean energy to Pembroke Township presents a unique opportunity to chart a better trajectory for our neighbors who have to this point been left behind.”
Next, the bill will be considered by the full chamber on the House floor.
* Pembroke Township is located in the eastern section of the 79th legislative district, on the Illinois-Indiana border. It is a rural area known to have many disparities—limited access to jobs, services, little to no economic development, and food deserts chief among them.
* According to 2019 Census estimates, there are about 1,700 residents with a median income of $18,900.
* A steering committee headed by Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge has met for nearly two years to address the following issues: energy accessibility, economic development, infrastructure, funding and grants, and broadband connectivity. Committee stakeholders include State Rep. Haas, State Sen. Patrick Joyce (D-Park Forest), Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Nicor Gas, county elected officials and chambers of commerce, local business owners and residents.
Politicians have promised improvements to Hopkins Park for years and nothing much has ever really happened. George Ryan wanted to build a prison there in order to finally get sewer, water and gas service to the community, but Rod Blagojevich killed it and instead gave them some gravel for their sand roads (not a joke).
Nicor is pushing this bill, so kudos to them.
* Injustice Watch…
A bill in the Illinois Senate would require judges in the state to attend more training about issues like trauma, racial bias, and cultural competency.
The Judicial Quality Act, which was introduced by Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, passed the Senate executive committee Wednesday by a vote of 11-6, despite opposition from the Illinois Supreme Court.
The bill’s backers say the current training for Illinois judges – 30 hours every two years – is insufficient, and that judges need more focused education on topics like domestic violence, child abuse, racial bias in sentencing, the impact of trauma on brain development, and the LGBTQIA community. […]
The Illinois Supreme Court, which oversees training for judges and other court personnel through the Illinois Judicial College, opposes the Judicial Quality Act.
“The educational opportunities for Illinois judges are among the very best in the nation,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “(The Judicial College) continues to develop excellent and diverse programs and I am very proud of how the Judicial Branch pivoted during COVID to move educational programming from in-person conferences to our eLearning portal.”
* Center Square…
A new bill has been filed that would give water customers a say before their public utility goes private.
Marking World Water Day 2021 on Monday, state Sen. John Connor said his bill would require private water companies to give taxpayers an individual vote before their city or village sells the public water system.
The Citizen’s Utility Board said Illinois’ two largest private water companies have hit consumers with more than $220 million in higher water bills to cover a shopping spree as it bought up 34 water and wastewater systems around the state.
* Press release…
A bill that would install a public health approach to drug use in Illinois today cleared a key House Committee in Springfield. Rejecting the failed policies of the “War on Drugs,” House Bill 3447 reduces penalties for small-scale drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. Testimony before the Committee demonstrated the compelling need for shifting the State’s approach to drug use. The vote in favor of the bill was 12 to 7.
“Over just three years 20,000 people were convicted of felonies in Illinois for possessing small amounts of drugs and 7,500 were imprisoned,” the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Carol Ammons (Urbana) told the committee.
Representative Ammons was joined at the hearing by a diverse panel of witnesses who argued that the measure would address fundamental problems in our criminal legal system and make communities safer by connecting people who need treatment for substance use disorders with community-based services instead of jail. Experts agree that a public health approach is proven to work better to address the harms associated with drug use.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg championed the bill, telling committee members, “People dealing with addiction need their safety net of support reinforced, not taken from them through incarceration. Unfortunately, this is exactly what stiff criminal penalties associated with lower-level drug possession offenses do. Our communities deserve investment in recovery services and not steep involvement in the criminal justice system when an addiction crisis affects our community members.”
Committee members also were told that Illinois voters agree with a change of approach in our state. In a poll conducted for the ACLU of Illinois last year, voters made clear that they support changes to punishments handed down for those arrested for possessing illegal drugs. A commanding 79% of voters support making possession of small amounts of drugs a misdemeanor and decreasing sentences for all drug offenses. 84% of voters agree that the state should provide mental health and substance use disorder treatment on demand in Illinois.
The bill now moves to consideration by the full House of Representatives. Advocates for the bill said today that they hope to secure passage in both chambers of the legislature by the May 31st session end.
“New policies around drug sentencing allow us to break the cycle in which punishment and incarceration, rather than treatment and support, are the default responses to substance use disorders,” said Ben Ruddell of the ACLU of Illinois. “This bill builds pathways to community-based treatment for those who need it, and includes expungement and resentencing provisions that will help people with past convictions move on with their lives.”
The polling information released today is drawn from a poll of 600 voters in Illinois conducted by Global Strategy Group from October 27 - November 4. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.0% and was conducted online using a voter file match. Care was taken to ensure the poll represented the registered voter universe.
…Adding… Sen. Ram Villivalam…
“Last week in Atlanta, a gunman murdered eight people, six of whom were Asian American women. Earlier that same week in Chicago, two people were killed in a mass shooting at a party that wounded 13 other people. And, last night in Colorado, a gunman murdered 10 people, including a police officer, in a grocery store.
“Hate-fueled mass murders in the United States aren’t slowing down. In 12 months we figured out how to prevent COVID and are taking steps to do so. But how is it possible that, despite hundreds of mass murders throughout the decades, we still haven’t done enough to prevent mass gun violence?
“We know how to do it. We need to pass House Bill 3245, which requires background checks and obtains fingerprints so that guns are purchased only by responsible FOID holders. In states that have already passed similar laws, gun violence decreased by 40%.
“This legislation is supported by hundreds of stakeholders, ranging from law enforcement like the Illinois State Police to violence prevention organizations like Chicago CRED, as well as faith-based and health care organizations.
“The Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker need to act to ensure the safety of the people we were elected to serve. There is nothing political about safety. It’s time for lawmakers to join me in working to block illegal gun ownership.”
* Other stuff…
* Illinois bill looks to make curbside and dropbox voting permanent
* Illinois Association of School Boards director on restraint and isolation ban: It’s a challenge