Brian's Column 12-30-2015

New Year’s Resolutions & New Laws for Illinois

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 brought you and your families love and joy and that 2016 brings good health and prosperity for everyone.  The change of the calendar year symbolically closes out a period in our lives and begins anew another chapter yet to be written.  As tradition holds, it is proper to partake in establishing New Year’s resolutions to work towards throughout the year.  Instead of heavily weighting short term goals, I’ve always found “working goals” to be more effective guidelines for myself because they allow me to track my progress all year long.  I’ve made several goals this year and I am resolved to improve upon our results from years past.

First, I want to further my office’s constituent outreach efforts.  Since I have taken office, just over two years ago, we have responded to thousands of constituent inquiries.  The office phones can ring off the hook, and when a hot button issue comes to a vote, my email can amass a few hundred new emails in under an hour.

That passive approach to constituent service was not the legacy of my predecessor nor shall it be for me.  Last year alone, I and the Stewart staff canvassed dozens of municipalities and over 7,500 households throughout the 89th District.  After soliciting your feedback and talking to thousands of constituents throughout 2015, I believe this effort should only be expanded.  Look out for the Stewart staff and myself in your area throughout the year.

Another goal for our office is increasing our education outreach efforts.  This includes connecting the right entities to state grants and programs, helping businesses navigate incentive programs for expansion or relocation, and informing the public about State resources available to themselves or family members.

For example, the Illinois Finance Authority administers approximately 25 bond, loan, and guarantee programs for businesses.  Many of these relate to the agribusiness industry, which is an economic powerhouse across the 89th District.  Think of it this way: If I can help one person by informing them of a program and it allows them to start a new business or create even one job more – I believe that’s good government in action.  You can’t ask the right questions if you’re not involved or informed, so as you hear from us this year, please keep the feedback rolling in.

Finally, my goal for constituent involvement is to increase our Internship Program and increase the overall participation in state and local government.  I don’t care if we agree, disagree, or agree to disagree, but having the conversation is the start of changing the status quo and after talking to so many of you, I know you want to help and have solutions to offer.  I will be increasing the number of town hall meetings I conduct and the number of households we canvass throughout 2016.  I look forward to hearing from all of you, and furthering our dialogue.

January 1st also brings new laws that passed in 2015 which will take effect. You may find a complete list at HERE.

Limitations On Creation Of New Units Of Government (P.A. 99-0353, HB 228)
Prohibits the creation of new forms of local government in Illinois and prohibits the General Assembly from dividing units of government.  This does not affect the creation of local special districts such as road districts, water districts, sanitation districts, school districts and park districts. This law will sunset in 4 years.

Creation of “Scott’s Law Day” (P.A. 99-0146, HB 246)
Designates December 23 as "Scott's Law Day" to honor public safety workers and to remind motorists to slow down, change lanes away from a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, and proceed with due regard to safety and traffic conditions.

Expansion of Timeframe for Criminal Prosecutions of Sexual Assault Cases (P.A. 99-0252, HB 369)
Amends the Criminal Code of 2012 to provide that the period within a prosecution must begin does not include the time period during which sexual assault evidence is collected, submitted and analyzed

Financial Exploitation Protections for Seniors And The Disabled (P.A. 99-0272, HB 1588)
These enhanced protections enable elderly or disabled victims of financial exploitation or abuse to promptly proceed in court with a civil case, rather than first awaiting the outcome of a criminal case. It also provides for victims to recover three times the actual financial loss along with reasonable attorney and court fees.

Long-Term Care Facility Electronic Recording (P.A. 99-0430, HB2462)
Allows for residents of long term care facilities to use an audio or video surveillance system in his or her room at the resident’s expense.

I wrote earlier of resolutions and it reminded me of quote from Abraham Lincoln who said “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”  And for you fans of the latest release of the Star Wars movies, “May The Force Be With You in 2016.”