Rep. Stephens November Legislative Update

As we enter this Thanksgiving month, I am grateful for this year and all it has brought. I encourage you to reflect on the good things in your life. We should also all come together to help others in need during this time and always.

This month, we are returning to Springfield for our fall veto session! We will be in session in two weeks and the week after Thanksgiving. Feel free to contact my office at any time by calling (773) 444-0611 or emailing with your thoughts on legislation and issues our state and district face.

I wish you all happy Thanksgiving celebrations! Safe travels to all visiting family and loved ones either in Illinois or around our country.

Electronics Recycling Event THIS WEEKEND

This Saturday, I’m hosting an Electronics Recycling Event, Shred Truck, and Prescription Drug Drop Off at my district office (5515 N. East River Rd., Chicago). Find acceptable and restricted items on my website here, and please enter off Gregory Street. We’ll be there from 9 – 11 AM!

Photo from Chicago Sun-Times

AT&T Illinois to Pay Fine, Admit Guilt, as Former President Charged in Madigan Corruption Probe

AT&T Illinois has agreed to pay a $23 million fine for trying to illegally sway former House Speaker Michael Madigan by steering $22,500 to a Madigan ally as key legislation moved through Springfield. Former AT&T Illinois President Paul La Schiazza also now faces charges for conspiring to influence Madigan. It was then announced that a federal grand jury leveled a superseding indictment against Madigan. He and longtime confidant Michael McClain now face an additional conspiracy count alleging the corrupt scheme with AT&T Illinois.

In related news, Madigan’s former chief of staff, Tim Mapes, made his first in-person court appearance on charges stemming from the ComEd bribery probe. Mapes walked into the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in October for a status hearing on charges he lied to a federal grand jury investigating the alleged ComEd scheme.

SAFE-T Act Update

New concerns are being raised about the SAFE-T Act. From a fiscal standpoint, Republicans say it’s unfunded mandates associated with the law at the heart of the matter. This includes costs that local police departments and courts will incur because of the law, which could then fall on taxpayers. Republicans contend counties will have to raise property taxes to pay for some of the requirements of the law.

Governor Pritzker showed his ignorance on television in October where he once again refused to detail any proposed changes to the act. He signed the law and repeatedly defended it, but now admits that changes are needed.

More than one-half of Illinois’ 102 state’s attorneys have filed lawsuits against the pending enforcement of the Act. These cases will be consolidated into a lawsuit that will be heard in Kankakee County and all plaintiff state’s attorneys are reported to have agreed to the consolidation. Making this into one lawsuit will reduce the possibility of different courts issuing cross-cutting opinions on the points of law raised by the state’s attorneys and law enforcement. The court of jurisdiction has the power to issue a stay on the SAFE-T Act, prior to its January 1st implementation date. Staying enforcement of this Act would enable the concerns raised in these lawsuits to be heard and prevent the date set in the Act from pre-empting the due process of law.

Illinoisans can raise their voice against this dangerous new law and stand with the House Republicans who are fighting to repeal the unsafe SAFE-T Act.

Cook County Mass Exodus of Career Prosecutors

In Cook County, a “mass exodus” of career prosecutors is taking place. Experienced prosecutors who are departing the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney describe a dysfunctional workplace that has begun to demand its remaining professionals take on impossible or degrading workloads.

When four Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys resigned from the office’s Felony Review Unit, the unit assigned to practice executive command and control over some of the most violent and lethal crimes on the county’s police blotter, they stated professionals in their office had been asked to put in emergency time at a local traffic court.

From July 2021 to July 2022, more than 235 people have resigned from the office. These resignations mean longer delays in moving each Cook County criminal case from booking to trial, which add to the urgency expressed by remaining prosecutors over the pending implementation of the so-called SAFE-T Act throughout Illinois. Under it, more defendants awaiting trial will be released to their own custody.

Illinois School Report Card Shows Steep Declines in English and Math Test Scores

Numbers from standardized tests administered last spring show steep declines in the percentage of students who met or exceeded state standards in English language arts and math compared to 2019. These were reported in the latest state report card, released last Thursday by the State Board of Education. Overall, only 27.4% of third graders in Illinois met or exceeded state standards in reading. This is down from 36.4% in 2019.

This is considered an important metric because third grade reading skills are a strong indicator of future success in schools. A 2010 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found students who aren’t proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who are proficient.

Members of Congress Ask Illinois to Repay $1.3 Billion Debt, Illinois Unemployment Worst in Nation

The red ink borrowing was an emergency loan granted by the federal government under the provisions of Title XII of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) so Illinois could pay unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The State has made several large payments to Washington, but over $1.3 billion is unpaid and payment is due on November 9th. The October letter contains warning provisions and was signed by U.S. House Ways and Means Committee member Illinois Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap) and the Committee’s ranking member, Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

Additionally, despite sustained job growth recently, the unemployment rate in Illinois is now the worst in the nation. Illinois’ unemployment rate remains 4.5%, a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 3.5%. The state’s sluggish recovery from the pandemic is putting the state in a precarious position as economic uncertainty and recession fears continue to increase.

New Outbreak of Coronavirus at LaSalle Veterans Home

The troubled Illinois group-care home for U.S. veterans and their spouses was the site of a deadly outbreak of coronavirus two years ago, when 36 veterans died from the virus. Now a variant has once again broken out there—23 staff members and 42 residents have tested positive in recent days for COVID-19. Residents of Illinois veterans’ homes include combat veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs operates the home; the Department came under severe criticism for its LaSalle operations in an audit report released earlier this year.

Holiday Cooking Safety

While we look forward to delicious food at the end of the month, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, with Christmas Day and Christmas Eve ranked second and third. In 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,400 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving. Find some fire safety tips when cooking to keep in mind this Thanksgiving holiday online here.

The NFPA also strongly discourages the use of turkey fryers. Here is a video demonstrating the fire dangers of turkey fryers. While enjoying time with your loved ones this Thanksgiving, take some steps ahead of time to keep you, your families, and first responders safe!

Screenshot from WMBD

Be Aware Around the State: Cougar Sightings

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is currently monitoring a cougar reported in western Illinois in early October. According to IDNR, there have been eight confirmed cougars in Illinois since 2002, including as close as Roscoe Village!

Recently, a cougar has been tracked near Springfield and a cougar was struck and killed by a car on I-88 by DeKalb. It’s always good to keep safety tips in mind in case you are traveling to see family downstate for the holidays. IDNR has information on what to do if you see a cougar to help keep Illinoisans safe online here.

Illinois Flashback: History from the Prairie State

  • Supplying armies of the republic: During the Civil War, the north would have to call upon its superior manpower and industrial base to save the Union. It would be helped along in no small part by the burgeoning economic powerhouse that was the state of Illinois.

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