4827388834 33014313d0SPRINGFIELD – People with certain criminal convictions on their record will be banned from working at a carnival, amusement park or fair under a new law passed by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

Senate Bill 3240 will increase fines for amusement park companies for failing to check the criminal history of new hires. Right now, only ride operators must undergo background checks.

“This is a matter of public safety,” Bennett said. “If a carnival company is bringing someone into our community to interact with our children, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are operating a ride or a carnival game; they should have a background check to make sure they are not a criminal.”

In 2014, Blayne Benefield was killed in Farmer City by two brothers who were employees of Big H Amusements, formerly known as A & A Amusements. While the amusement ride company was required to perform background checks on employees that operate rides, it did not have to do so for other employees.

Bennett said this is an important distinction because Big H Amusements claimed that the brothers were not considered ride operators, but photo evidence taken the night before the murder shows the older brother operating a ride. Both brothers had criminal records, with the younger one pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a minor one year before the murder.

“What happened to Blayne Benefield and his family was a tragedy,” Bennett said. “I am glad there is now a law in place to hold operators accountable to make sure they are conducting proper criminal history checks and doing everything they can to keep our communities safe.” 

The governor signed the law today. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.

04052018CM0324CHAMPAIGN – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) plan to protect East Central Illinois’ primary water source from underground natural gas leaks was signed into law today.

In December 2016, there was a gas leak from a natural-gas facility near the Mahomet Aquifer, the underground water source which underlies 15 Illinois counties. However, Peoples Gas failed to notify residents and government officials of the leak for several months.

Bennett co-sponsored House Bill 4746 to require that Peoples Gas must immediately notify residents, businesses and government officials of any gas leaks at its gas storage field located above the Mahomet Aquifer.

“We have to take steps to prevent disasters like the one in Flint, Michigan from happening in our backyard,” Bennett said. “Maintaining clean and safe drinking water for our citizens is vital to protecting the public health and development of our communities.”

The new law also requires Peoples Gas to pay for annual inspections of its gas storage field conducted by the Department of Natural Resources.

Since he was elected, Bennett has sponsored several bills through the Illinois General Assembly aimed at protecting the primary water supply for Champaign and Vermilion County. Recently, he helped create the Mahomet Aquifer Task Force and put together a group of leaders in the community who are tasked with ensuring high quality, clean drinking water for families in Central Illinois. 

“The Mahomet Aquifer serves as a lifeline for our region,” Bennett said. “Today we moved one step closer toward our goal of protecting this important resource for our children and generations to come.”

House Bill 4746 was signed into law today. It takes effect immediately.

student loan01 lgSPRINGFIELD – Student loan borrowers will now have protections in place to help them keep their professional licenses as they work to pay off their debt, thanks to a new law passed by State Senator Scott Bennett.

Bennett (D-Champaign) worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to pass Senate Bill 2439, which removes from Illinois law provisions that allow an individual’s professional license to be taken away if they are behind on their student loan payments. 

“There are many things we can do to collect debt for student loans, but taking away someone’s job should never be an option,” Bennett said. “This new law protects licensed professionals from becoming trapped in insurmountable debt.”

The Career Preservation and Student Loan Repayment Act puts provisions in place to prevent licensing agencies from denying, revoking, or suspending licenses to individuals with student loan default in 38 professions such as occupational therapists, teachers, structural engineers, home inspectors and real estate agents.

“For many people, the reward of a fulfilling career is what makes an investment in higher education worth it,” Bennett said. “I am glad that we are now able to protect that investment and ensure that borrowers can stay current on their payments – instead of severely punishing them when they fall behind.” 

The governor signed the law this week. It takes effect immediately.

 

04252018CM0183SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) plan to expand access to grants for low-income students and help attract more students to universities in Illinois was signed into law today.

Bennett sponsored House Bill 5020 to prioritize students currently receiving funds from Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP grants, to continue their college education

Under the new law, returning MAP grant recipients can be the first in line, rather than endure the current “first-come, first served” process for continued funding, assuming they file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time and continue qualifying for aid. Previously, students were not guaranteed MAP grant money each year, despite being eligible and applying on time.

“After years of uncertainty created by Governor Rauner’s budget impasse, I am glad that we are now able to give students and their families assurance that a MAP grant won’t be one and done,” Bennett said. “Other schools outside of Illinois can guarantee four-year MAP grants, and we needed to offer that same predictability and affordability to parents and students in our state in order to remain competitive.”

Bennett served on a bipartisan higher education working group which proposed the MAP grant reform, among a number of measures to strengthen higher education.

“I’ve always believed that if we care about the future of our state, we must invest in its next generation and protect our universities and colleges,” Bennett said. “This new law is a step in the right direction to reverse the decline in Illinois higher education and help keep the best and the brightest in our state.”

The governor signed the law today, and it takes effect immediately.

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