The Legislature returns to the Capitol on Tuesday, February 6, at that point committees will begin vetting the hundreds of bills that were filed for 2024.
A pressing issue we must address this year is the arrival of people into our communities that cannot take care of themselves, and the impact their arrivals are having on those who are currently in Illinois and cannot take care of themselves. I view this as a humanitarian crisis, and I recognize we have a certain level of responsibility for new arrivals in our state and communities. I recently did a radio interview on this important topic. Click here to listen to that interview.
I currently sit on the Senate Appropriations (budget) Health & Human Services Committee. I am concerned, that since there has not been an increase in budget allocation to this budget area, important funds will be diverted away from those who cannot take care of themselves that have lived in Illinois for a long time, and toward those who are newly arriving. With a limited amount of financial resources available, I fear funds, and therefore services, will be diluted.
So far, the Governor has chosen to address the situation through a series of disaster proclamations that provide him with broad power to move budget money around without any legislative oversight. For this reason, there is no way to know exactly how much has been reallocated toward food, housing, healthcare, and other wraparound services for new arrivals, but we do know through the Governor’s own admissions the amount is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
An example of what I’m trying to describe is that recently the Governor and his Department of Human Services (DHS) tried to cut funding for the intellectually and developmentally disabled by $90 million. Legislators and advocates put pressure on the Administration and I am glad to report we were successful in delaying cuts that would directly affect approximately 10,000 people living in IDD group homes like Ray Graham House.
It is issues like these that I will continue to look out for as the budget process continues.
Senator Lewis Files Legislation Recognizing Hindu American Heritage Month
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, and Illinois is home to a large community of those who practice this religion. In fact, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is located in the 24th District.
On January 24 I filed Senate Resolution 717, which designates the month of October as Hindu American Heritage Month in the State of Illinois. During the month of October, we will celebrate the culture, history, traditions, achievements, and contributions of Hindus.
Hindu Americans have made many positive contributions to society, including in the fields of science, business, spirituality, and politics.
Concerning Legislation Filed by Legislators with Progressive Views
I want to make you aware of a bill that was filed last week. House Bill 4603 would actually prohibit police from pulling motorists over or issuing citations for a variety of infractions, including:
- Failure to display registration (license) plates or stickers
- Having an expired registration sticker
- Speeding (except in extreme cases)
- Improper lane usage
- Failing to comply with certain requirements concerning vehicle lamps
- Having excessive tint on windows
- Having defective mirrors
- Having an obstructed windshield or defective windshield wipers
- Having defective bumpers
- Having excessive exhaust fumes
- Failing to wear a seat belt
As you can imagine, pushback on this legislation was immediate and severe, and as a result, the sponsor has said he will not move it through the legislative process this year. It remains active, however, so the sponsor could change his mind at any time. I will continue following this bill.
Another bill I am watching is Senate Bill 1768, which would make the position of Police Chief an elected position rather than a hired one. I believe strongly that our police chiefs must be subject to a rigorous interview and vetting process so the best applicant can be selected to serve in this incredibly important position. It should not be left to chance on an election ballot.
These are just two examples of the kinds of bills that are being filed with increased regularity by those in the General Assembly with a progressive mindset. I remain extremely concerned about the possibility of measures like these advancing, and will vehemently oppose them if and when they come up for votes.
Still Time to Participate in Sen. Lewis’ Valentines for Seniors Program
The submission deadline for my second annual “Valentines for Seniors” card drive is this week. To brighten the days of seniors and make sure they know they are a valued part of the community, I am hoping to receive many more homemade cards and drawings that will be delivered to assisted living centers, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities across the 24th Senate District during the week of Valentine’s Day.
It just takes a few minutes to make a card or write an encouraging note, and that small gesture will make a big difference to our area’s seniors. Cards, poems, and other well-wishes will be collected through the end of this week at my Carol Stream office and through the office’s Bartlett PO Box. The street address for Sen. Lewis’s district office is 962 W Army Trail Road, and the mailing address is PO Box 8547, Bartlett, IL, 60103-8547. Those dropping off cards in person can place them in the Valentine mailbox outside of the office.
The response to this project exceeded all expectations last year, and I am looking forward to even higher participation this year. With the community’s help, we can bring a great deal of joy to seniors living in assisted living and nursing home settings throughout the 24th District.
Grants and More Grants in the 24th District!
The IL Department of Higher Education recently announced a series of capital improvement grants, and three private colleges/universities in this region are receiving a total of $21.2 in grant funds:
- Wheaton College: $7,232,201
- North Central College: $7,356,538
- Benedictine University: $6,604,497
These funds will go far in helping offset costs for campus infrastructure improvements.
Additionally, the IL Department of Natural Resources has announced the 2024 list of Open Space Land Acquisition & Development (OSLAD) grant awardees, and close to $5 million in funds are coming to communities in the 24th District:
- Bartlett Park District: $600,000
- Addison Park District: $600,000
- Bensenville Park District: $570,100
- Bloomingdale Township: $150,000
- City of Warrenville: $600,000
- Lisle Park District: $600,000
- Roselle Park District: $600,000
- Village of Itasca: $600,000
- Winfield Park District: $600,000
A summary of the projects with descriptions can be found here.
Lewis Hosting Series of Traveling Office Hours
Following successful Traveling Office Hours events in Bloomingdale and Wheaton over the last few weeks, I will be hosting one more Traveling Office Hours event this week in Itasca.
Senator Lewis’ & Rep. Sanalitro’s Traveling Office Hours
Thursday, February 8, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Itasca Park District
350 Irving Park Road, Itasca
I recognize that it is not convenient for some District 24 constituents to travel to my Carol Stream office, so through these traveling office hours, I bring the services my office provides into my constituents in their own communities. I attend these events as my schedule permits, and have a highly-trained staff that can help residents navigate state agencies and departments, and help with all kinds of issues.
The types of service include:
- Unemployment insurance issues with the IL Dept. of Employment Security;
- Issues involving the Attorney General’s Office, the Office of Aging, the Department of Human Services, and the State Police;
- Transferring professional licenses from another state to Illinois;
- Secretary of State issues involving motor vehicles (DMV);
- Veterans’ issues; and
- Issues involving the State Board of Education or the Board of Higher Education.
We are here to help, so let our constituent services professionals assist you with issues involving state agencies and departments!
IL Tollway Switching Away from IPASS Transponders, Adopting Sticker System
The Illinois Tollway has announced it is replacing traditional I-PASS transponders with stickers this year. The stickers will be available by the end of January.
According to Tollway officials, sticker tags are being adopted by toll agencies across the country and by the Illinois Tollway as they provide a convenient, reliable and less expensive travel experience for customers. The sticker tags use radio frequency identification to communicate with toll collection technology. They will be available at customer service centers at the Tollway’s headquarters and oases. Officials said they will also be at Jewel-Osco stores and Road Rangers locations (Rockford area) at some point in February. Attendees of next month’s Chicago Auto Show (Feb. 10 through Feb. 19) will have a chance to buy the stickers as well.
Existing transponders will continue to work through their expiration dates, and customers will not be required to switch to the I-PASS sticker tag until then. Officials are asking customers to dispose of old transponders “in an environmentally sound way, not discarded in the trash.”
There is no deposit fee for the I-PASS Sticker Tags. The $10 transponder deposit will be applied to the I-PASS customer’s account once a new I-PASS Sticker Tag is registered to the account for current transponders.
Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Grants Available
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is working to give the middle sections of the food supply chain a boost, designating $6.4 million to go to Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) grants.
This allocation will go toward the post-harvest, pre-retail sale level of the food supply chain. Examples of the mid-level food supply chain are the processing, manufacturing, storing, and transporting of all non-meat food. The grants fund the cost of equipment or the expansion of capacity and infrastructure.
These grants will help the future of farming by giving assistance to smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities. These grants are the product of listening sessions with more than 300 distributors, growers, and producers on how to create a better food system for Illinois. Applications for these grants will be available from January 22 through March 15. For additional information, please visit https://agr.illinois.gov/assistance/illinoisfarmprograms/resilient-food-systems-infrastructure-program.html.