IDOT suspends some construction for July 4
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently announced changes to construction operations across the state for the 4th of July holiday weekend.
IDOT has announced that lanes previously closed for construction will reopen, where possible, in an effort to minimize travel disruptions.
Beginning at 3 p.m. on July 2, non-emergency closures will be suspended until 11:59 p.m. on July 5.
Keeping July 4 Safe and Fun for Everyone
As the July 4 holiday weekend approaches, the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Police are asking that drivers be responsible and drive sober.
As part of their ongoing “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, drivers are encouraged to wear their seat belts, obey the law and do their part to put an end to impaired driving.
To help ensure a safe holiday for all, consider following these tips:
- Ask a sober friend or family member for a ride, call a cab, take public transportation, use a ride-sharing service or stay where you are until you're sober.
- Don't let others with you drive impaired.
- Promptly report impaired drivers to law enforcement by pulling over and dialing 911.
- Make sure everyone in your vehicle wears a seat belt. It is your best defense in a crash.
New Laws Taking Effect July 1
As July begins, some new laws take effect in the state of Illinois. These new laws range from fines for texting while driving, to school curriculum changes and laws to preventing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Below are the new laws you should be aware are taking effect this month:
Seizure Smart School Act (HB 1475/PA 101-50): Creates the Seizure Smart School Act to ensure that current federal laws and regulations regarding epilepsy are more consistently enforced in Illinois schools.
Texting While Driving Accident Fine (HB 2386/ PA 101-90): Provides that when a person violates the state law prohibiting the operation of an electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle, and the violation results in an accident causing great bodily harm to any person, the operator shall have his or her driver’s license suspended for a period of one year, and shall be assessed a fine of at least $1,000.
Pyrolysis or Gasification Pilot Project (HB 2491/PA 101-141): Allows for the creation of a pilot project for a pyrolysis or gasification facility in Will County or Grundy County.
Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Prevention (SB 75/PA 101-221): Addresses sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, protects hotel and casino employees from sexual harassment by guests, and updates government ethics laws.
LGBT History Curriculum (HB 246/PA 101-227): Requires that, in public schools, the teaching of history must include a study of the roles and contributions of LGBT people. Provides that textbooks authorized under the textbook block grant program must be non-discriminatory as to any characteristics under the Illinois Human Rights Act and must include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Civics Mandate (HB 2265/PA 101-254): Mandates one semester of civics education in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Applies only to public schools.
Dry-cleaning Fees (SB 171/PA 101-400): Increases the fees for dry-cleaning solvents and for licensure of dry-cleaning facilities. Extends the Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Program until Jan. 1, 2030. Transfers duties of the Drycleaner Response Trust Fund Council to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Human Rights Employer Definition (HB 252/PA 101-430): Amends the Employment Article of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Changes “employer” definition to any person employing one (currently 15) or more employees within Illinois during 20 or more calendar weeks within the calendar year of or preceding the alleged violation. Exempts places of worship from “employer” definition. Adds an effective date of July 1, 2020.
Right-of-Way Violation License Suspension (HB 2383/PA 101-470): Provides that a violation of a right-of- way where an accident causes bodily harm or death at a crosswalk or crosswalk in a school zone shall also include a driver’s license suspension for a period of one year.
IMRF Document Posting (HB 3263/PA 101-504): Directs the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) to post certain documents on its website. Requires municipalities with a website to post a link to the IMRF information on their website.
Dry-Cleaning Fees Trailer (SB 718/PA 605): Makes technical changes to SB 171/P.A 101-400.
License to Work Act (SB 1786/PA 101-623): Creates the License to Work Act which removes provisions from the Illinois Vehicle Code that allow for the suspension of a driver’s license for certain violations. Under this legislation licenses will no longer be suspended for; failure to pay 10 parking tickets, or other fines resulting from certain local vehicle violations; failing to pay 5 tolls or penalties for tollway violations; failing to pay fees to the Illinois Commerce Commission; motor fuel theft; being adjudicated a "truant minor" who is "in need of supervision, addicted, or delinquent;” an offense committed by a juvenile to further the criminal activities of an organized gang involving the use of a driver's license or permit; damaging, removing any part of, tampering with, going into, on or working or attempting to work on a vehicle without authority to do so unless the person exercised physical control over the vehicle such as caught driving; being convicted of criminal trespass to a vehicle if the person was not in actual physical control; being adjudged to be afflicted with of suffering from any mental disability or disease; certain violations of the Liquor Control Act of 1934 if the person was not an occupant of the vehicle.
Government Emergency Administration Act (SB 2135/PA 101-640): Creates new acts and amends several others to provide government with the tools needed to continue serving the people and better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Establishes a commission to advise and review efforts to revive the economy with members appointed by leaders of the four caucuses of the General Assembly. Allows for a study about providing free broadband Internet access to all Illinois residents. Under certain circumstances, allows for remote witnessing and notarization. Gives the Secretary of State the power to extend various expiration dates if there is a statewide disaster declaration based on a pandemic or similar emergency. Changes how museums, aquariums and zoological parks provide free access to the public. Creates a task force to study the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses and the need for changes to business interruption insurance policies. Allows for municipal appropriation deadliness to be extended during an emergency.)
Illinois entered into Phase 4 of reopening plan
Effective June 26, Illinois moved into Phase 4 of Governor Prtizker’s Restore Illinois reopening plan.
In Phase 4, a number of industries will be allowed to expand or resume full operations under approved safety guidance.
Business changes include:
- All manufacturing open with IDPH approved safety guidance
- All employees return to work with IDPH approved safety guidance; Employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees
- Bars and restaurants will open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
- All barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
- Cinema and theaters open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
- Retail stores will open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance
Additionally, gathering sizes will be increased from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people. Meanwhile, all health care providers, Pre K-12 schools, higher education, all summer programs, and child care will be allowed to open under IDPH approved safety guidance.
Illinois has been in Phase 3 of the reopening plan since May 29. Senate Republicans made repeated calls upon the Governor to revise his reopening plan to adopt a 14-day timeline between phases rather than the arbitrary 28-day timeline originally in place. However, calls from Senate Republican lawmakers went unheard.
Utility Scam Warning
Ameren Illinois is warning customers to be on alert for utility scams who are on the rise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Ameren Illinois announced an increase of scam attempts where scammers have attempted to exploit the current health crisis to steal money and personal information from Ameren Illinois customers.
In an effort to protect their customers, Ameren Illinois recommended using the following tips:
- Never give your credit card, debit card, Social Security, ATM, checking or savings account numbers to anyone who calls, sends an email or comes to your home requesting this information.
- Don't trust anyone asking for immediate payment. Ameren Illinois will never call or e-mail and demand immediate payment. If you suspect that someone is impersonating an Ameren Illinois employee, end the conversation and immediately call Ameren Illinois at 1.800.755.5000.
- Sign up to manage your account online at AmerenIllinois.com where you can immediately check the status of your account.
- Never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shut-off. In addition, never download an app to make immediate payment. Legitimate utility companies don't specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill. Ameren customers can make payments online, by phone, electronic check, mail or at in-person payment locations.
Ameren Illinois has also provided signs to be aware of with potential scam activity:
- Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell you that your utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment isn't made. Typically, the scammer will tell you that a disconnection will occur within an hour.
- Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct you to purchase a prepaid card. The scammer will ask you to return a call for immediate bill payment. When you return the scammer’s call, the scammer asks you for the number on the prepaid card. This allows the scammer to gain instant access to the card’s funds. In addition, scammers may ask you to download an app to make immediate payment, which you should avoid.
- Fake case number and/or fake truck identification number: Scammers are known to record a voice message and use it to trick customers into thinking they've called the utility company. The scammer gives a fake case number and/or fake identification number of a company truck that is in the vicinity of the customer's home.
- Equipment or repair bogus fee: Scammers may call demanding a separate payment to replace or install a utility-related device or meter.
- Overpayment trick: When scammers call claiming that you've overpaid your utility bill and need to provide personal bank account information or a credit card number to facilitate a refund.
- Power restoration rip-off: Scammers may call offering to restore power quickly or in a preferential order for immediate payment
Visit Ameren.com/stop-scams for more information.
Business Interruption Grants (BIG)
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is providing $60 million to businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. The Business Interruption Grant Program is available for up to 3,500 businesses that experienced a limited ability to operate due to COVID-19 related closures. DCEO will begin distributing funds to qualifying businesses in early July.
In the first wave of grants, priority will be given to small businesses that have been heavily restricted or completely shut down during the pandemic and are located in DIAs.
Specifically, the program includes support for:
- Businesses in DIAs - $20 million for businesses that are located in a subset of DIAs that have recently experienced significant property damage, providing 1,000 grants of $20,000 each
- Bars and Restaurants - $20 million for bars and restaurants unable to offer outside service, providing 1,000 grants of up to $20,000
- Barbershops and Salons - $10 million for barbershops and salons, providing 1,000 grants of $10,000 each
- Gyms and Fitness Centers - $10 million for gyms and fitness centers that have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19, providing 500 grants of $20,000 each
- In operation for at least 3 months prior to March 2020.
- Demonstrates by eligible costs or losses in excess of the grant amount and may continue to face depressed revenues or closure.
- DIA's are zip codes that exceed a set threshold for COVID cases per capita among residents, and also surpass a threshold for poverty rate among the whole population, among children, or among seniors.
Online license plate sticker renewal notices
The Illinois Secretary of State is encouraging residents to sign up to receive license plate sticker renewal notices by e-mail. Drivers who receive e-mail renewal reminders can renew their sticker online, rather than waiting in line at Driver Services Facilities.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, drivers will need their vehicle registration card or past renewal notice containing their Registration ID and PIN numbers to register.
If vehicle owners do not have a renewal notice or a current registration card, they should call the Public Inquiry Division at 800-252-8980. After obtaining their Registration ID and PIN numbers, they can visit www.cyberdriveillinois.com and go to the “License Plate Renewal Email Notices” under Online Services.
Currently, more than 2.8 million motorists have signed up to receive reminder notices by email. Click here to sign up to receive an e-mail renewal reminder.
2020 Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame
The Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) is accepting nominations for the 2020 Class of the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.
The 2020 Class of Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who demonstrate service in and commitment to improving conservation efforts and outdoor recreation opportunities in Illinois. The Illinois Conservation Foundation has been honoring inductees into the Outdoor Hall of Fame since 2002.
To nominate an individual for the Outdoor Hall of Fame, click here. The deadline for 2020 nominations is July 8, 2020. For more information, contact the Illinois Conservation Foundation at One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702- 1271, via phone at phone 217-785-2003, or online at www.ilconservation.org
State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) released the following statement after the Democratic-majority voted to pass an out-of-balance budget on May 24:
"The majority party in the Illinois legislature demonstrated a shocking display of callousness at a time when thousands of Illinoisans are out of work and suffering by passing an out-of-balanced budget and creating a $1 billion in new spending. In addition to the increase in spending, Democrat legislators, who refused for weeks to return to the Capitol, elected to pass a budget that contains a pay increase for themselves. It's inconceivable for legislators to standby and accept a pay raise while the people of this state are struggling just to survive. It's things like this that has led Illinoisans to hold their state government in low regard. This was an opportunity, during a time of crisis, to show the people of Illinois that we could be sober-minded and thoughtful by coming together to lay out a reasonable path forward. However, what the Illinois General Assembly has shown is that a majority of its members are content to recklessly borrow, create unsustainable spending, and pad their own pockets at the expense of our taxpayers."
Plummer defends the integrity of elections: Senate Democrats use pandemic crisis to pass extremely partisan bill that enables widespread election fraud
Taking a stand for fair and secure elections, State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) spoke on the floor of the Illinois Senate opposing a dangerous measure which creates numerous loopholes to be exploited within the vote-by-mail program in Illinois.
Senate Bill 1863 is an election omnibus bill which expands the current vote-by-mail program in Illinois by mandating election authorities to send ballot applications to voters who took part in elections in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.
"It is a shame that during this time of crisis, when there should be unity and people working together, the Senate Democrats have shamelessly passed the most extreme election law in the country," said Sen. Plummer. "Our state government should accept the responsibility of adapting transparent and secure protocols for upholding our voter's rights, not legalizing blatant election fraud."
Sen. Plummer took to the Senate floor to denounce the actions of Senate Democrats for using the COVID-19 to push a partisan agenda that raises numerous concerns for anyone that cares about the integrity of our election process. Plummer noted this new legislation allows votes to be generated from ballots with no signature, ballots with mismatched signatures, ballots that have been tampered with and even allows the potential for people to vote multiple times in one election. He also pointed out that many election authorities around the state that conduct our elections are opposed to the bill, were not consulted on the bill and have been threatened with punitive action if they object to any portions of the bill.
"I have been contacted by a number of election authorities in my District and from around the state, voicing their concerns about this bill," said Sen. Plummer. "Everybody wants robust elections. Everybody wants people to vote. But nobody should want corruption of our democratic process."
Under Senate Bill 1863, a panel of three partisan election judges can conduct reviews of ballots submitted by mail. However, Sen. Plummer points out that this legislation increases the likelihood of abuse within this system and creates more loopholes for unethical actors to exploit.
"After weeks of calling for a return of lawmakers to the Capitol, and while people are hurting across the state, are we standing up to protect our healthcare providers, speaking out against a governor who threatens our law enforcement and small businesses or addressing the current financial crisis? No," said Sen. Plummer. "What we're doing is watching as one party uses this crisis as a cover to advance a shocking election law bill and push a partisan agenda when the citizens of our state are seeking unity and bipartisanship."
Senate Bill 1863 passed the Senate by a vote of 37 to 19 on May 22.
Illinois State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene and defend the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Illinois citizens, currently being violated by the directives of Governor J.B. Pritzker.
"Governor Pritzker's executive orders have effectively transformed Illinois into an autocracy in a matter of weeks," said Sen. Plummer. "The Governor is depriving Illinoisans of their constitutional rights and, when the people seek redress, he is grotesquely using state police power to threaten and intimidate citizens, businesses, and local units of government who dare question or challenge his seized authority."
Eight weeks ago, Pritzker ordered all Illinois residents to remain in their homes and all church services, school and children activities halted. He also demanded that most Illinois businesses close indefinitely.
According to Sen. Plummer, such executive orders are in clear violation of due process of the United States and Illinois Constitutions, as well as the procedural safeguards within the Illinois Department of Public Health Act and Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.
"Governor Pritzker is acting in complete disregard of all constitutional and statutory safeguards which limits his authority," said Sen. Plummer.
Sen. Plummer contends that these executive orders violate, among other things, citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, free exercise of religion, as well as their Fifth Amendment rights. The executive orders amount to a taking of property by government without due process of law.
"The process by which Governor Pritzker has handled this crisis is shocking, has shredded the separation of powers, and sets a terrible precedent that must not be allowed to stand. The exclusion of the legislative branch of government during this crisis and the arbitrariness of the governor’s orders have undermined the rule of law," said Sen. Plummer. "The wanton destruction of Illinoisans’ livelihoods by Governor Pritzker’s orders has destroyed jobs and decimated tens-of-billions of dollars of assets while undermining private property rights in our state. The total damage Governor Pritzker has done to families, workers, and job creators in this state is so large as to be currently immeasurable and unfathomable."
Last month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr publicly released a memorandum he sent to his 94 U.S. Attorneys on these issues titled "Balancing Public Safety with the Preservation of Civil Rights." It stated that the U.S. Constitution is "not suspended in times of crisis."
Governor Pritzker’s orders are clear evidence that he believes he can suspend the U.S. Constitution in Illinois.
As you all know, for weeks now I have been consistently calling on the Governor for transparency and accountability, especially in this time of crisis.
As lawmakers prepare to return to the Capitol for a special session beginning May 20, I’m calling on the Senate President and Speaker of the House to schedule legislative hearings on the Governor's highly controversial reopening plan. The public deserves this conversation and the discussion should take place in an open forum.
For far too long, the people of this state have been held hostage by the stringent, broad and damaging decisions being made by a Governor who refuses to allow for legislative input. Shockingly, the Governor called our initial requests for hearings "grandstanding." This is a pretty rich statement coming from a governor who spends more time on CNN and MSNBC then he does answering phone calls from legislators who represent the people of Illinois.
His unilateral decision-making and out-of-touch reopening proposal is hurting our residents and driving people out of business. The people of this state deserve a voice in the process and demand transparency. The COVID-19 health crisis does not give the Governor carte blanche to do as he wishes without explanation or repercussions.
I urge the Governor and the Democratic-leaders to set aside their political agendas and recognize the harm that an unchecked Executive branch is having on the people of this state. If you agree, be sure to sign the petition here.
On May 5, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his five-step, phase-in plan to reopen the state of Illinois.
State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) issued the following statement in response to the proposal:
"While I recognize and appreciate the fact that the Governor has finally provided his vision for moving Illinois forward, it is unfortunately a plan that fails to address the very real concerns and challenges facing many Illinoisans.
In my opinion, this is not a plan to re-open Illinois. It is a baseless year-long, modified stay-at-home order with almost zero accountability or transparency.
The Governor has divided our state into four blanket regions and implemented this arbitrary 28-day minimum phase-in approach without fully considering the impact this will have on the citizens and businesses of this state.
Our small business community is being devastated day-after-day. Businesses declared 'non-essential' will have to wait another month before possibly being allowed to resume operations, despite there being ways for these businesses to safely open and other states, including New York, implementing shorter, more realistic timelines between phases. Jobs, businesses, livelihoods, and much more are being permanently - and unnecessarily - lost by the Governor's ham-handed approach to reopening Illinois.
It's time to acknowledge that the Governor has overreached his authority and recognize the needs of the people of this state. I respectfully urge the Governor to set aside his personal agenda and work with those of us in the General Assembly to provide for a realistic, bipartisan solution to reopen Illinois."
State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) is urging state leaders to call lawmakers back to Springfield to resume session and open up the General Assembly.
"By issuing yet another Declaration Disaster and extending his ongoing stay-at-home order, Governor Pritzker has severely overreached his authority. Meanwhile, the leaders of both the Senate and the House are allowing this to happen and have stalled the legislative process.
The way Illinois is being run right now is the antithesis of how our system of government is supposed to work. Legislators are the voice of the people and we should be in session to represent them.
While we demand essential workers across this state continue to work and confront the realities of this health situation each-and-every day, I firmly believe lawmakers should be held to the same standards. I did not sign up to be a Senator only when it is safe, sunny outside, and times are good. Now, during this crisis, it is more important than ever for us to be working.
We were elected to be the voice of our constituents, and it is time for the General Assembly to get back to work. I respectfully ask that our state leaders allow session to resume and bring lawmakers back to Springfield immediately."
Arguing that transparency is a necessary cornerstone of democracy, Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) has joined with colleagues to send a letter to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker asking for increased transparency on critical issues relating to the state's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Transparency in government is a necessary hallmark of a well-functioning democracy," the letter argues. "And at no time is robust transparency more vital to our society than during the current state of emergency when your office possesses unparalleled power and authority over every aspect of the daily lives of Illinois residents."
"Transparency in government is always critical," said Sen. Plummer. "Especially now, in the midst of a national crisis, the people of this state deserve to know how and why government leaders are making these very impactful decisions.
The letter makes a plea for increased transparency in three key areas:
Who are the medical experts and leading epidemiologists that the administration is relying on to make consequential decisions concerning life and death and the economy?
- Who are the experts?
- Is the administration consulting experts from other fields? If so, which fields and which experts?
- Will the administration provide a comprehensive list with qualifications and backgrounds?
- Will the administration release more detailed information on the models being used to make key decisions?
- Upon which specific models is the administration relying?
- How do those compare or contrast with the modeling used in other states or at the federal level?
- How have those models and the estimates changed over recent weeks?
- Will the administration release these models for public scrutiny?
- Will the administration release more information about inmates released early from state prisons as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
- What are the criteria to make decisions as to who is released?
- Do all of those released fit that criteria?
- If not, who specifically was released that did not fit the criteria, and why were they released?
- Is there a limit to the number of people the Governor is willing to release, regardless of the criteria?
- Are there any violent crimes that are not eligible for release?
- Are there any non-violent crimes that are not eligible for release? As in, are there any non-violent felonies for which someone has been incarcerated, as in burglary, theft, home repair fraud (against seniors in particular) that are not eligible for early release?
- Does an individual’s prior criminal history make any difference?
"For weeks now, the Governor has been making these broad, sweeping decisions and creating mandates that are negatively impacting many Illinois citizens and businesses. Illinoisans deserve to know what scientific models and data he is basing these decisions upon," said Sen. Plummer. "The COVID-19 health situation has proven to be very fluid, and responding to it with a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach is unreasonable and dangerous."
In response to news that the Pritzker administration is releasing a number of felons from Illinois prisons, including convicted murderers, State Senator Jason Plummer and several of his colleagues sent a letter to the Governor asking for answers.
The letter specifically cites the case of Alma Durr: Ms. Durr took a revolver, held it to her 21-month-old son Darryl’s head, and pulled the trigger. A news story from the trial indicated that Darryl moaned and suffered but did not die for another two hours. Despite DCFS’s best efforts to protect Darryl, he will never get to see his 50th birthday. His murderer, at 50 years-old, will be leaving a prison that currently has no inmates infected with COVID-19 (according to IDOC’s website). She had been sentenced to life.
It also notes that many of the releases, including Durr’s, involve commutations, not pardons, which would typically imply that the individual is assumed to be guilty of the crime for which they were sentenced.
The letter asks several questions and makes five specific requests:
- Notify and consult with the victims and/or their families, local law enforcement leaders, members of the General Assembly, presiding judges, witnesses, and state’s attorney’s offices before making any future commutation decisions;
- Provide us a full list of the names of those convicted inmates who have been released and publish it on IDOC’s website;
- Provide us with a complete list of the names of any prisoners that are currently under review to be released;
- Provide information regarding who you consulted before making each individual decision; and
- Provide information regarding the capacity for parole officers to handle all of these new cases.