Week-in-Review: Sept. 30 – Oct. 4

State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) spent time in district this week, welcoming veterans back from another Southern Illinois Honor Flight, presenting a check on behalf of the Illinois Senate Sportsmen’s Caucus and touring state facilities across the district undergoing improvement and renovations.

On behalf of the Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, Sen. Fowler presented a check to the United Special Sportsmen Alliance at Carrier Mills Grade School in support of the hunting and fishing wishes of youth with critical illnesses or severe disabilities and their families. This year, the group will host 12 kids for their 16th annual deer hunt. 

Sen. Fowler also attended the Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois Pre-Flight Luncheon held at the Cornerstone Church in Marion September 28. The luncheon was in preparation for the organizations 6th Honor Flight which took place on Oct. 2. This year, over 80 veterans and volunteers traveled to Washington DC to visit the monuments built to honor veterans and their sacrifice.

Veterans Honor Flights of Southern Illinois is an organization that works to honor and thank veterans by providing them a free-of-charge trip to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments constructed in honor of their service and sacrifice. The program served as the official charity for Senator Fowler’s second annual Southern Illinois Made Expo.

Sen. Fowler welcomed Colleen Callahan, the Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, to several of Southern Illinois’ state facilities undergoing renovations and improvements. Sen. Fowler and the Director visited, Sahara Woods State Park, Cave-in-Rock State Park, the Rose Hotel, Dixon Springs State Park, the Golconda Marina, and Fort Massac State Park to survey and learn more about projects at each facility.

Projects surveyed include:

Over 26 miles of trails have been cut for the OHV Park located at the Sahara Woods State Park
Lodging renovations are ongoing at Cave-in-Rock State Park
HVAC updates and deck repairs are being made at the Rose Hotel
Dredging and additional renovations are ongoing at the Golconda Marina
Recently installed slide addition and ongoing renovations to the locker rooms at Dixon Springs State Park
Anticipated construction of a new shower house at Fort Massac State Park

State News:

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

Throughout October, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology are working with local municipal agencies to raise awareness of cyber-security issues and to help educate people on how to stay safe online.

Security tips from the agencies include:

Configure your computer securely.
Use privacy and security settings in your software, email system, and web browsers.
Regularly update your anti-virus software to identify and thwart new strains of malicious software.

Keep software, and operating systems updated. Install all software updates as soon as they are available. Using the “auto-update” setting is the best way to ensure timely updates.

Use strong passwords.

Cybercriminals use automated programs that will try every word in the dictionary in a few minutes. When creating a password, use at least 10 characters, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Be cautious about links and attachments. Even communications you receive that appear to be from friends and family may contain links to malicious sites, so be careful when clicking on links in those messages. When in doubt, delete it.

For more information, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx.

Snowplow drivers wanted

The Illinois Department of Transportation is hiring temporary full-time and part-time snowplow drivers for the winter season.

Full-time “Winter Salaried Highway Maintainers” or “Monthly Snowbirds” perform all the same duties as year-round maintainers, including the maintenance, repair and upkeep of roads, bridges, and other related structures and features, but are hired monthly. The agency also hires on-call, hourly “Snow Removal Operators” or “Hourly Snowbirds,” who respond to emergency weather situations to operate snow plows and salt spreaders, inspect roadways, and remove obstacles from roadways.

Both positions require a Class A or B CDL with an X or N endorsement. To apply for either position, visit http://idot.illinois.gov/about-idot/employment-opportunities/seasonal-employment/index.

Heating assistance program begins

The enrollment period for the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) opened earlier this week. The program offers assistance with heating bills for households at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. That income level ranges from around $1,500 per month for a single person to just over $3,200 per month for a family of four.

On Oct. 1, enrollment opened for seniors ages 60 and older, as well as households that contain a member who is disabled, who receives a permanent disability benefit. On Nov. 1, enrollment expands to households with children younger than six, and homes where service has been or will soon be cut off. After Dec. 1, all other qualifying households may apply.

For more information, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/communityservices/utilitybillassistance/.

Harvest could be tough for a variety of crops

While most Illinois farmers are still waiting to begin their harvest, the USDA has released slightly optimistic news in terms of the quality of the corn crop. So far, only 4 percent of the state’s corn has been harvested, compared to 45 percent at the same time in 2018.

In terms of crop quality, the USDA is now rating 47 percent of the state’s corn as good or excellent, a slight bump from just 45 percent last week. Crop quality is still down significantly year-over-year however, as 80 percent of the corn crop was rated as good or excellent at the same point in 2018.

In August, the USDA declared an agriculture disaster for all 102 Illinois counties, in response to a request for federal aid from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, due to damage caused by heavy spring rains and historic flooding that delayed or stopped planting in many fields.

Industrial hemp growers are gearing up for harvest as well. 2019 marks their first harvest under the state’s new industrial hemp program. They are required to alert the Illinois Department of Agriculture before they begin harvesting, so that the agency can test the crop to make it sure it meets the limit of less than 0.3 percent THC content. If testing shows the content breaking the limit, the crop has to be destroyed, and that loss will not be eligible for federal crop insurance. The agency says at this point, none of those acres of hemp have been ordered to be destroyed due to THC levels.

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, 17,808 acres were licensed for hemp production this year. The total amount of acres in production could be less than that, though, because hemp growers faced the same issues as corn and soybean farmers in terms of getting their crop in during an unusually wet year.

Dale Fowler

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