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The Illinois House of Representatives adopted a resolution Wednesday to encourage the continued use of vaccines for children, adolescents and adults to ensure the safety and health of the citizens of Illinois. The bill, HR 184, was introduced and sponsored by Deputy House Minority Leader and State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale).

“Immunizing children and adolescents helps protect the health of our communities throughout the State of Illinois by slowing down or stopping certain disease outbreaks,” Rep. Bellock said. “I grew up during the era of the polio epidemic, when thousands of children and adults suffered lifelong paralysis. The advent of the polio vaccine virtually eradicated the disease from the United States, as did the vaccines for measles and other communicable diseases.” Read more.

Budget work begins
General Assembly starts work on FY16 budget. The budget reform work necessary to finish up Fiscal Year 2015 and start FY16 remained on the table this week as Illinois House committees began to hold hearings on Illinois spending plans. The first hearings by the House appropriations committees began on Thursday, February 26.

In the first committee hearing, the new heads of three of the State’s biggest-spending agencies – the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) – introduced themselves to the House of Representatives. All three were appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner. Major work will be necessary to develop a spending program that does not flow money out faster than it comes in. DHFS, in particular, is a department of key interest to budget watchers. It handles the multi-billion-dollar Illinois Medicaid program. Controversial decisions and hard choices are expected to be made. Representative Patti Bellock has taken the lead in working pushing for Medicaid budget reforms. A DHFS overview of the implementation of the reforms so far enacted, and the current budget status of Medicaid, can be found here.
A tiny little republic with a population of 100 sits in the middle of southern Illinois corn and soybean fields. Their GDP is tea sourced from around the world.

In reality, California-based The Republic of Tea  is a privately held purveyor of premium organic and exotic teas, with its major production and pick-and-pack facility situated in the unlikely location of Nashville, Illinois.  It is also a major employer in the area with a workforce of 100 “ministers.”

After selling their interests in the original Banana Republic stores, Mel & Patricia Zielgler along with Bill Rosenzwig founded The Republic of Tea in 1992 and then sold the company in 1994 to Ron Rubin. Under Rubin’s guidance the business has grown into a nationally recognized brand. Which means good things for the people in Washington County Illinois who count on the good paying jobs that high quality tea offers.

“Who would have thought that in the middle of dairy and soybean country a company like The Republic of Tea would thrive,” said State Rep. Charlie Meier who toured the facility a few years back. “If it wasn’t for the Enterprise Zone designation we may have never found out.”

Rep. Meier credits the economic development tool with securing the socially responsible company with its 100 jobs.

Oped by Rep. Barbara Wheeler.

Last fall, I reported progress on halting an appalling practice that is much closer to home than most of us realize, human-trafficking. Human-trafficking is a modern-day version of slavery that is thriving in the United States and sadly, in some our own communities. Every day, human beings are bought, sold, or smuggled so that others can profit from their forced labor or sexual servitude. While every state criminalizes at least some forms of trafficking activity, legislators across the nation continue to explore new ways to combat traffickers and provide support for victims.

Most of us are unaware, but human-trafficking is a lucrative business right here in northern Illinois. In this area, human traffickers are using the massage parlor industry as a cover and method for connecting sex-trade customers with mostly East Asian women, both documented and undocumented, who are being forced to perform sex acts. Operators of these parlors locate in communities where zoning laws do not specifically address licensure, lighting, dress codes, and hours of operation for massage parlors. Read more.
State Representative David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) has authored HB 2508, better known as the Right to Try Act, to allow terminally ill patients access to experimental treatments. If the legislation becomes law, it would make Illinois a national leader by allowing patients who have exhausted all other treatment options the ability to utilize promising treatments that are still awaiting final FDA approval.

“Sadly, terminally ill patients often lose their struggle for life because they cannot wait several years for the FDA to approve a potentially life-saving treatment,” said Harris. “While testing new medical treatments is hugely important to ensuring their safety and effectiveness, it is reasonable to allow someone who has been diagnosed as terminally ill to use one of those treatments with the recommendation and supervision of their doctor."
The newly formed bipartisan Violence Prevention Task Force met for the first time on Monday.

Charged with finding ways to keep students safe and prevent the types of attacks that occurred at NIU, Sandy Hook and Columbine, lawmakers heard testimony from educators, law enforcement and mental health professionals on what needs to be done to keep students safe.

First Lady Diana Rauner testified that early childhood programs could help prevent potential acts of violence by identifying vulnerable children. But, more needs to be done to help them after they are identified. Mrs. Rauner is president of the nonprofit Once of Prevention Fund.

Others testified that much more should be done to help children before they turn to violence and protect children from that violence.

Given a report that showed opportunities were missed to treat the 20-year-old who killed 26 people, including children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who attended the task force hearing, agrees that lawmakers must do more to protect families from violence. “Acts of violence occur all too often in our communities. Sadly, mental health and crime are increasingly intertwined, and a comprehensive approach by the Legislature is timely and necessary,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said.

Rep. Bennett was raised on a small farm near Gibson City IL, today he works as an IT manager for a national insurance company.  Rep. Bennett has a BS in Education and in Applied Computer Science, He also earned  MBA, and a Doctorate of Business Administration. He and wife have two grown children and three wonderful grandchildren.

Rep. Bennett served on the House Committees for Elementary & Secondary Education & Higher Education Appropriations, Consumer Protection, Higher Education, Renewable Energy & Sustainability and State Government Administration.

Read more about Rep. Tom Bennett.