Tom Bennett column sig

After months of negotiations, the House met on Thursday and passed a comprehensive energy bill which keeps Illinois’ nuclear power plants operating, protects Illinois jobs and ensures continued reliable electricity.

The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 83-33 Thursday night.

As with any compromise there are aspects of the bill to like and to dislike. But if the legislature had not acted, Illinois nuclear plants would have begun the shutdown process next week. The closure of these facilities – which provide power to millions of Illinois homes – would have cost thousands of jobs and devastated the communities, public safety agencies and school districts which rely on these plants for economic activity and tax revenue. Illinois residents would have seen their electricity bills go up because we would have been forced to buy power from out-of-state plants.

This legislation will save those jobs throughout Illinois by keeping these plants operating and producing reliable, carbon-free energy. The alternative was to close the plants, lose these jobs and have a less reliable electricity grid.

The bill now goes back over to the Senate which must agree to the changes made in the House. The Senate passed a similar bill last week. If this bill passes the Senate it will go on to the Governor for his signature.

Another missed opportunity on ethics reform

This spring the House and Senate passed a watered-down ethics reform bill that barely scratched the surface when it came to cleaning up Illinois’ ethical problems. I reluctantly voted for it, as did many members from both sides of the aisle, because we felt that some reform was better than none.

But then circumstances changed. Over the summer the Legislative Inspector General (LIG), the top ethics watchdog for the General Assembly, abruptly resigned in protest of the legislature’s bill and its seeming failure to take ethics reform seriously. Many members asked Governor Pritzker to issue an amendatory veto of the ethics bill, removing some provisions which made it harder for the LIG to do her job. He made a few cosmetic changes, but the bill still fell far short of what is needed.

So last week when the amended ethics bill came back to the House for a vote, a large group of Republicans and Democrats refused to accept it. I support a package of reforms that would move us forward in the fight against corruption. Unfortunately when the House met yesterday the same bill was put up for another vote, and this time it passed on a party-line vote with no additional reforms.

We still need significant ethics reform, and I and other members will continue to speak out for it. This issue is not going away.

Remembering 9/11

On Saturday we marked 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America. This anniversary reminds us of the sacrifices so many made that day, and every day since then. Thank you to our heroic first responders, to the men and women of our armed forces and their families for all that they do to keep us safe.

We must never forget the terrible events of that September day 20 years ago, nor those we lost. May God continue to bless America and those who serve.

On the move

My Pontiac district office has changed locations. You can find us at 305 W. Madison Street: just off the corner of Madison and Plum, right across the street from the post office. The phone number for the office will remain the same: 815-844-9179.

We’re working to get the new location fully up and running and we expect to have an official grand opening sometime soon. Please drop in and say hello!

September is National Preparedness Month

Illinois has seen its share of natural disasters, and this month the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging Illinois families and businesses to have a plan for what to do in the event of an emergency. As part of National Preparedness Month, IEMA is helping Illinoisans find the information they need to make a household emergency plan, which includes such elements as designating a meeting location and a contact person, as well as what to include in an emergency supply kit.

Some overlooked parts of emergency planning can be the most important. IEMA recommends that everyone identify two different escape routes from your home in the event of an emergency like a house fire, and also recommends that you know the location of your gas main and other utilities. You should also have backup copies of all your important documents. For more information on National Preparedness Month, click here.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,708,977,281 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.6 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.

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