Senators Return to Capitol, Begin Vetting Bills
This week the Illinois Senate turned a significant corner in its ability to conduct state business. With COVID-19 testing protocols in place, Senators returned to the Capitol and held a full schedule of committee hearings using a hybrid in-person and virtual platform. While a limited number of reporters were granted access, citizens and lobbyists were not allowed to attend. In the coming weeks and with similar COVID-19 protocols in place, Illinois residents and lobbyists will also be granted access to the building. Things appear to be getting back to some semblance of normalcy at the Capitol.
To help ensure Illinoisans have access to their state government’s activities, I have been posting regular meeting announcements on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/senatorjohncurran). All committee hearings are streamed live, and Illinoisans can watch or listen to hearings at https://www.ilga.gov/senateaudvid.asp.
After a truncated session schedule in 2020, nearly 7,000 new bills have been introduced this year that create new laws or change existing laws. Our committees are currently working their way through the vetting process, and you can see the list of legislation introduced this year at http://www.ilga.gov. This year I am personally serving as the Chief Senate Sponsor of 20 different bills. You can view my specific legislative agenda at https://www.ilga.gov/senate/SenatorBills.asp?MemberID=2915.
As mass vaccination site at United Center limits access to Chicago zip codes, collar counties continue to struggle with inadequate vaccine supply
I am in regular contact with local health department officials across the 41st District, and all are frustrated with the lack of transparency and guidance coming from the Illinois Department of Public Health regarding vaccine rollout. On Thursday I joined other Will County Senators for a Zoom meeting with leaders from the Will County Health Department for a lengthy discussion about the county’s ability to receive and administer vaccinations to residents who qualify under the Governor’s Vaccine Administration Plan. Additional information about the vaccine rollout can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) web site.
Legislators have been assured that vaccine distribution will increase significantly in the suburbs and downstate in the coming weeks, but our county health department officials need clarity and consistency now so they can adequately plan at the local level, and move qualified Illinoisans through the vaccination process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I serve on the Senate’s Health Committee, and on Monday we will continue our discussion of the vaccine rollout. IDPH Executive Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike is expected to attend the meeting. I look forward to asking pointed questions about the ongoing disconnect between IDPH and county health departments, and how a lack of transparency and information is interfering with vaccine rollout capabilities in the counties I represent. The Senate Health Committee meeting is scheduled for 2:00 PM on Monday, March 15, and you can tune in and listen or watch live at https://www.ilga.gov/senateaudvid.asp.
Late yesterday, IDPH announced the launching of a toll-free number that people can use if they qualify for the vaccine but struggle to use technology to secure an appointment. This new phone line should help bridge the digital divide that is keeping some Illinoisans from being able to book appointments.
As we continue to move through the vaccination phases, the following links may be helpful for those who have questions:
IDNR launces news platform
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recently announced a new user-friendly licensing, registration and reservation platform to be used by outdoorsmen and women throughout Illinois. According to IDNR, outdoor enthusiasts can visit the newly created platform for assistance and information on hunting and fishing licensing and permitting, watercraft and snowmobile titling, registration and renewals, and campground reservations. There is also a 24/7 call center (866-716-6550) available for customer service support.
While new users will need to create a username and password, the streamlined system will house all previous profiles, licenses, past purchase information, and active campground reservations for current users. The new platform, which features a variety of new information, can be accessed through ExploreMoreIL.com and Camp.ExploreMoreIL.com.
IDNR to accept grant applications
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is now accepting grants for four different programs beginning March 5.
IDNR is now accepting applications for the following:
- Volunteer Fire Assistance Program: Grants would provide federal funding to fire departments serving populations of 10,000 or less for equipment and training.
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Facilities Program: Grants would offer up to $2,000 per year per project in state funding for improvements to rehabilitation facilities that are licensed to care for endangered and threatened species.
- State Furbearer Fund: Awards grants to non-profits or universities for projects improving furbearer habitats, projects for purposes of furbearer surveys or investigations, and projects for educating hunters, trappers and the general public about furbearers.
- Coastal Management Grants Program: Awards grants up to $150,000 in federal funds to non-profits and local governments in the Lake Michigan coastal region.
According to IDNR, each grant program has specific criteria and guidelines that must be met for eligibility. More information on these grant opportunities can be found at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website at https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/grants/Pages/default.aspx.
DuPage County Park Districts
Recently, I joined fellow DuPage Area Legislators and Executive Directors of all DuPage County Park Districts to discuss the current legislative session and the effect COVID-19 has had on the operations and mission of Park Districts throughout DuPage County. Our Park Districts continue to be critical providers of healthy exercise and activity options as outdoor recreation has experienced increased usage during this pandemic.