State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) kicked off the start of a new year by visiting a number of Southern Illinois-based businesses.
Beginning the week, Sen. Fowler visited the Nationwide Glove Company in Harrisburg. The Glove Company has been in Saline County since 1962, employing approximately 65 people. According to the Glove Company, their business is the oldest Department of Defense contractor in the US. The company produces over 3400 pairs of gloves a week for the Department of Defense.
Sen. Fowler also visited Wilson Kitchens Inc. in Harrisburg, a local custom cabinetry family-owned business. Wilson Kitchens produces custom cabinetry for commercial, public, residential and military use, shipping to over 40 states and overseas. They proudly boast quality products at competitive prices. Wilson Kitchens employs approximately 60 individuals, some having been with the company for more than 30 years!
Later in the week, Sen. Fowler visited the 3 Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN) headquarters in Thompsonville. After doing an interview with the network, Sen. Fowler learned more about the Southern-based broadcasting affiliation. The television and radio network consists of eight television stations and five radio channels produced in five different languages.
In other news, Sen. Fowler joined the public in recognizing Jan. 9 as National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. The awareness day is dedicated to honoring the hardworking law enforcement officers who serve, sacrifice and protect to keep their communities safe.
Sen. Fowler is also sharing an upcoming opportunity for those seeking part-time or temporary employment. Currently, the Census Bureau is recruiting of hundreds of thousands of temporary workers for the 2020 Census. These are well-paying jobs with flexible hours for those interested in earning extra income. Those interested in learning more should visit 2020census/jobs or call 855-JOB-2020 and select option 3 for more information. Additional information on pay rates for field and clerical jobs can be found at 2020census.gov/jobs/pay-and-locations.
Seclusion rooms face public scrutiny
Following a public outcry about the investigation released by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica detailing the use of isolation rooms throughout the state’s public schools, lawmakers held their first hearing about the controversial practice.
The scathing report described overuse of physical restraint and isolated timeouts, prompting state lawmakers to gather on Jan. 7 for a joint hearing in Chicago to discuss legislation to ban the use of solitary confinement rooms.
According to the report, more than 20,000 incidents of isolation were used in schools in less than two years.
Until the report, students could be isolated or restrained if they were deemed a safety threat to themselves or others. After the report was released, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) took action to ban “isolated seclusion” in schools.
Further investigation is being done by the ISBE to gather data on public schools’ seclusion practices and incidents. Meanwhile, two bills—Senate Bill 2315 and House Bill 3975—have been introduced to ban schools from placing a student in seclusion.
Comptroller pumps brakes on red-light camera debt
In the midst of ethical probes into the Illinois Statehouse, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza recently announced that her office will no longer assist municipalities in collecting fines for violations caught by red-light cameras.
The red-light camera industry and contracts with local municipalities and political officials have recently come under scrutiny as federal investigations continue.
In 2012, the General Assembly authorized municipalities and other local governments to use the Office of the Comptroller to help collect debts resulting from unpaid traffic tickets. Outstanding debts were collected from violators by withholding state income tax refunds or other payments. According to the Comptroller, this method of collection has been used to recover unpaid child support, overpayment of benefits, and other types of debt.
The Comptroller’s assistance with unpaid traffic tickets from red-light cameras will come to an end on Feb. 6, 2020.
Senate Republicans anticipate red-light cameras being a topic of discussion during the spring legislative session. Legislation has been filed to analyze the use of the cameras and to ban red-light cameras.
Tax credit offered to small businesses in the wake of minimum wage hike
The start of the New Year brought about the beginning of Illinois’ controversial minimum wage hike. Effective Jan. 1, Illinois’ minimum wage increased from $8.25 per hour to $9.25 per hour, putting additional cost burdens on small-business owners across the state. Wages will continue to increase incrementally to $15 per hour by 2025.
To help offset increased costs to the state’s business community, Illinois Senate Republicans are encouraging small businesses to take advantage of a tax credit available to businesses and nonprofits with 50 full-time equivalent employees or fewer.
The Minimum Wage Credit will allow small businesses a maximum credit of 25 percent of the difference between the new minimum wage and what each employee was paid previously. The percentage allowed each proceeding year will decrease before it sunsets in 2026. Businesses can begin to claim the credit on their quarterly Illinois Withholding Income Tax Returns.
Senate Republicans recognize that while this is not a long-term solution for small businesses, it will provide a measure of relief to employers as they face the hardships imposed by the minimum wage increase.
For more information on the Minimum Wage Credit and how to calculate this credit, visit tax.illinois.gov.
Stay safe as you keep warm this winter
As temperatures drop, the Office of the State Fire Marshal encourages residents to have their furnaces checked and to make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working properly.
Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes, which accounted for 15 percent of all reported home fires in 2012-2016 and 19 percent of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Furthermore, failing or unmaintained heating equipment can also lead to accidental carbon monoxide fatalities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is found in fumes produced when you burn fuel in places such as fireplaces and furnaces.
"Carbon monoxide fatalities rise during the winter months, and these alarms, when working, will give you a warning and let you know to leave your home when levels are too high. Never use a gas generator, grill, oven or range to heat the inside of your home," states Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez.
To help keep your home safe this winter, consider these winter heating safety tips provided by the Office of the State Fire Marshal:
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional; change furnace filters frequently. • Have a qualified professional to install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturers' instructions.
• Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before being placed into a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month and be familiar with the sounds they make.
• Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
• Remember to turn off portable or space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
• Carbon monoxide detectors have a limited life span, so check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on replacement.