Week-in-Review: Nov. 4 – 8, 2019

Before legislators return to the Capitol on Nov. 12 for the final week of the fall Veto Session, State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) stayed busy in District.

This week, Senator Fowler hosted his annual Trucking Advisory Committee, bringing members and representatives of Southern Illinois’ trucking industry together for an update and discussion.

The annual event, which is hosted through a partnership between Sen. Fowler and the Illinois Trucking Association, serves as an opportunity for members of the trucking community to provide feedback on the issues most important to those in the field and help highlight their needs from the Statehouse.

“The trucking industry is critical to the safe transportation of goods throughout the region, and I know how hard those in the industry work each-and-every day. It is essential that lawmakers take note of the critical role trucking plays in the economy and be a voice for their needs in the Capitol,” said Fowler.

Sen. Fowler welcomed over 25 representatives from the industry to the meeting. The Illinois Department of Transportation was also in attendance to provide an update on ongoing infrastructure improvements throughout the region.

“One of the biggest issues mentioned by those who attended was the need for truck drivers in the industry,” said Fowler. “Members of the committee noted that there are dozens of driver openings available just within the companies present at the luncheon. This is what I consider to be an unrecognized opportunity in the region for good, well-paying jobs.”

Also mentioned were educational opportunities for people interested in earning their CDL license. Currently, Southeastern Illinois College offers truck driving classes where students can earn their CDL license, opening the door for future career opportunities.

In other news, Sen. Fowler recently attended a quarterly meeting the Mississippi and Ohio River Confluence Economic Alliance (MORCEA) in Kentucky. MORCEA is a new four state initiative which focuses on economic development in the region. Member states involved in the collaborative initiative include: Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Sen. Fowler provided an update on ongoing economic development projects in the region, including the highly-anticipated Cairo River Port Project. 

The River Port project was also the focus of a recent visit from the Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-chairman Chris Caldwell. Sen. Fowler and other community leaders welcomed the Co-chairman to Cairo for a listening session and site tour of the port project location.

State News:

Second Week of Veto Session

Senators and Representatives return to the Capitol Nov. 12-14 for the second and final week of the fall Veto Session. Nearly two dozen committee hearings are scheduled for the week on a variety of issues, including red-light cameras, minimum wage, education, public health, taxes and the environment.

Ethics reform continues to be the hottest issue before lawmakers. Several legislative proposals have been introduced since well-publicized allegations and indictments involving corruption began making headlines. Those measures remain on the front burner, and could be the number one action item. 

Among the proposals is a Senate Republican measure, Senate Bill 2297, which is a serious effort addressing ethical shortcomings at the Capitol.

Under SB 2297, the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) would have the authority to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC), a panel of Senate and House members. Taking politicians out of the equation gives the LIG the independence necessary to do his or her job. 

This dynamic reform seeks to end the current “fox guarding the henhouse” process when it comes to investigating allegations of wrongdoing. It gives the Legislative Inspector General true watchdog authority.

Tax Amnesty Program Nears End 

Individuals with unpaid tax liabilities need to act quickly to take advantage of the state’s Tax Amnesty Program. The deadline is Nov. 15, 2019 to make full payments on outstanding tax debt without penalties.

Taxpayers who did not file their state taxes during the original filing period will be required to file an original return in addition to paying the full tax due. Residents will also have the opportunity to report changes to previously filed returns by submitting an amended return and paying the tax debt in full. This is a one-time amnesty.

The Tax Amnesty Program covers taxes owed from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2018. More information about the program can be found at the Illinois Department of Revenue website: https://www2.illinois.gov/rev/research/news/Pages/2019-Illinois-Tax-Amnesty-Program.aspx

Winter Preparedness 

While winter doesn’t officially start in the Northern Hemisphere until Saturday, December 21, some parts of Illinois have already seen snow, and that’s a good reminder to prepare for winter weather. November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois, and several state agencies are teaming up to provide valuable information and tips to keep warm and stay safe at home or on the road.

To help you prepare for winter, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has developed a winter weather preparedness guide. The 10-page guide is available on the Ready Illinois website at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready.

State Fairground Improvements 

The state is spending $3 million on improvements to Illinois’ State Fairgrounds. The two-phase enhancements will focus on Fairground roadways. Work begins this fall, weather permitting, with about $500,000 in resurfacing that the Illinois Department of Transportation hopes to complete before the Thanksgiving holiday. Phase two will begin next spring with $2.5 million in road improvements planned. 

Money for the projects comes from the Capital Construction Program passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. Next year’s State Fair runs from August 13 through August 23.

Dale Fowler

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