Tom Bennett column sig

The U.S. Census Bureau has released the results of the 2020 Census, and the news is not good for Illinois.

The official figures confirm that Illinois lost population compared to the last census 10 years earlier. According to the U.S. Census, Illinois has a population of 12,812,508, down from 12,830,632 in 2010. The loss of population combined with gains in population in other states resulted in Illinois losing one seat in Congress for the next decade. Illinois also lost a Congressional seat after the 2010 Census.

Neighboring states like Wisconsin and Indiana added population, and they, like all five of our neighbors, kept the same number of seats in Congress. Bad economic and governmental policies have caused a years-long trend of outmigration from Illinois that has made it difficult for us to keep up with other states in the Midwest and other parts of the country.

Official Census numbers would normally be used to redraw legislative districts to ensure that they are equal in population. However this year, the Democrat majority in the General Assembly passed a highly partisan redistricting map three months ago using less accurate American Community Survey data for population instead of waiting for the actual Census results.

Gov. JB Pritzker pledged to veto an unfair partisan map, but he broke his word and signed it anyway. Now we are seeing just how unfair this map really is. Even though districts are required to be equal in population, the map has one district which has over 30,000 more people than another district. The map is now being challenged in court. We will see what happens next.

Flood cleanup continuing in Gibson City

Thank you to everyone who came to the Gibson City Council meeting Monday night to hear more about the many efforts to help the town recover from the major rainstorm and flooding last week.

The response from our local leaders has been phenomenal. Mayor Dickey, the city council, police and fire, emergency managers, the public health department, school district, American Legion, the Red Cross and Salvation Army, local churches, Team Rubicon, several local businesses, the GCMS football team and many local volunteers all have come together to help our community meet this challenge.

A Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) has been set up at the Kruse Center, located at 207 N. Lawrence St., Gibson City. This center will provide information and referrals for those affected by the flooding. More information is available from the Ford County Emergency Management Agency at 217-379-9415.

For more information on the recovery, visit the Ford County Emergency Management Agency Facebook page or the Ford County Health Department Facebook page.

Move Over Early Warning task force legislation signed

House Bill 3656, which strengthens Illinois law to protect first responders stopped on roadways, has been signed into law. The legislation passed both houses unanimously this spring.

It requires motorists to reduce speed, leave a safe distance between them and the vehicle in front of them, and proceed with caution any time they approach a stopped emergency vehicle which is displaying its flashing lights.

The law also creates a Move Over Early Warning Task Force headed by the director of the state police. The task force will be charged with finding better ways to improve implementation and enforcement of the state’s existing “move over” law to protect first responders who are stopped on the side of roadways.

Far too many firefighters, police officers, paramedics and tow truck operators have been injured or killed while rendering assistance on Illinois highways.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, Illinois owes $4,862,273,870 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.8 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.