After six weeks of continued session, lawmakers returned to their Districts this week for the scheduled two-week Easter break in the spring session calendar. Lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol on April 30.
State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) is using the time back in district to meet with constituents, continue preparations for the second-annual Southern Illinois Made Expo and meet with international investors about future economic development possibilities in the region.
On April 13, Sen. Fowler welcomed representatives from Two Rivers Fisheries to Cairo to discuss the possibility of expanding processing operations in Illinois and ongoing efforts to bring a river port terminal to the City of Cairo.
In other news, Senator Fowler and the Harrisburg and Southern Illinois Regional Chambers of Commerce are continuing their preparations to host the Second Annual Southern Illinois Made Expo on July 27 and 28.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, the Southern Illinois Expo will be in full swing. The Expo is a premier opportunity for the business community of Southern Illinois to showcase Southern Illinois made products, speak with consumers and sell their goods. Meanwhile, the public can explore what’s being produced and offered by the businesses operating locally, employing residents and driving the economy.
“As we get closer to July, I can’t help but be encouraged that this year’s Expo is going to be even bigger and better than last year,” said Fowler. “We’ve got some pretty exciting stuff in store for attendees and—given that this event benefits such an important cause as the Southern Illinois Honor Flight program—I can’t wait to see how successful this year will be.”
Also ongoing is Sen. Fowler’s Mobile Office Hours tour across the 59th Senate District, with two meetings scheduled before the end of April. On April 22 Sen. Fowler will be traveling to the Mound City Municipal Services Building. Then, on April 29, his office will be set up at the Herrin City Hall. From 12 – 2 p.m., constituents are invited bring their questions, voice their concerns and speak with Senator Fowler and District Staff about the issues important in the community. Refreshments will be available.
Senator Fowler is also gearing to release more episodes of his ongoing tourism video series, Southern Illinois Treasures. In an effort to highlight some of the beautiful attractions in Southern Illinois and encourage visitors, Senator Fowler has been traveling to local landmarks, historical sites and recreational areas across the District.
Be sure to visit Senator Fowler’s website and check out his interactive Southern Illinois Tourism Map to see the locations he has already visited. Also, be sure to reach out to his district office at 618-294-8951 if you have a location you’d like Sen. Fowler to spotlight as part of the series.
Before the Senate adjourned on April 12, a number of notable measures passed out of the Senate including: a measure aimed at increasing school safety, a bill proposed to address the Illinois’ teacher shortage and legislation that exempts school lunches from the sales tax.
Senate Approves Bill to Increase School Safety
The Senate passed legislation during the week aimed at letting Illinois schools utilize an affordable and easy-to-use option for locking classrooms to protect students in case of an intruder or other threat to students’ safety.
Senate Bill 1371 allows school districts to use door locking mechanisms that attach to the door and are lockable and unlockable from the inside of the classroom without a key. The mechanisms must be unlockable from the outside by a key or tool, and police and fire departments would be informed of the locations of the locks.
The legislation offers a way for teachers and students to lock their classroom securely from the inside in the event of an emergency.
Current regulations prevent schools from investing in such locking mechanisms. The legislation’s sponsor, State Sen. Chapin Rose, noted that his legislation corrects this “ridiculous” policy while increasing student and teacher safety.
This legislation was a suggestion of Rose’s constituent Tuscola School Superintendent Mike Smith. It’s a good example of what can be accomplished when concerned citizens actively participate in the legislative process.
Bill to Address Teacher Shortage Passes Senate
Legislation aimed at helping to relieve the current teacher shortage also passed out of the Senate during the week.
Senate Bill 1809, sponsored by State Sen. Don DeWitte aims to help students enter the teaching field, by expanding the eligibility of MAP grant recipients to include students who have already received bachelor degrees or have 135 credit hours, but are seeking to earn their teaching certificate through an educator preparation program.
The bill also requires that the recipients must teach in Illinois for three out of the next five years, and states that they can only be eligible to receive the grant for one academic year.
Senate Bill 1809 passed with a 56-1 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Legislation Exempts School Lunches from Sales Tax
Legislation to exempt school lunches also cleared the Senate during the week. Under current law, sales tax is only exempt if the school itself provides meals to the students. If a school has outside businesses provide food directly to students, however, those sales are subject to sales tax.
Under Senate Bill 1755, the lunches from outside providers would also be exempted from sales tax. The goal is to put schools on a more even ground, even if some school don’t have the ability provide meals to students.