wave usa flag 1383225090826SPRINGFIELD- Illinois families worried about the financial security of loved ones living with disabilities will soon have another resource to promote their independence.  

State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) initiative will create a tax exempt plan to assist individuals and families in saving money to cover expenses for people with disabilities.

“This initiative will help ensure our loved ones will live their lives with respect and dignity,” Bennett said. Without resources like this, many people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to be financially independent.”

Senate Bill 1383 creates the Illinois Achieving a Better Life Expectancy Act (ABLE Act), which creates accounts similar to tax-advantaged college saving plans where income earned in the account is not taxable.

This legislation comes after the federal government passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 with bipartisan support. Last week, Virginia was the first state to enact the program since the federal legislation was passed.

The Treasurer’s office would be responsible for creating ABLE accounts in accordance with federal rules and regulations. The accounts can be used to pay for qualifying expenses, such as education, health, housing and transportation costs.

Senate Bill 1383 was signed into law on Monday, July 27 and goes into effect January 1.

BennettComfortCanineSPRINGFIELD- A new law authorizing the use of dogs in courtrooms was signed into law today.  

State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) initiative will allow courts to authorize the use of “comfort canines” when children or others with a severe developmental or intellectual disability have to testify in court on sexual assault cases.  

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen first-hand the emotional trauma children face during trial. The entire ordeal of testifying and reliving a horrible experience is paralyzing for them,” said Bennett.  

Bennett hopes to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety by providing some relief to children through the use of therapy dogs.

“This is one small step we can take to make this difficult experience a little easier,” said Bennett. “The use of dogs in the courtroom can help promote a major reform in the way we meet the emotional needs of those involved in the criminal justice system.”

Authorized dogs would be required to go through training and be evaluated and registered as a member of Assistance Dogs International.

Senate Bill 1389 will take effect on January 1, 2016

071515CM1321SPRINGFIELD- Under new legislation, hospitals will soon send new parents home with a trusted tool to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Sponsor State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) legislation was signed into law today to ensure that materials on SIDS prevention provided to parents include information from the American Academy of Pediatrics or a statewide or nationally-recognized SIDS or medical association.

“As a new parent, there is a lot of excitement as well as pressure to provide the best care for your children. This new law will help ease some of the burden by providing new parents with vital and reliable information on how they can help to protect their children from SIDS,” Bennett said.

071515CM1284SIDS is a sudden and silent medical disorder that can happen to an infant who appears healthy. It is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age. In 2011, about one out of 2,300 infants born in the nation died of SIDS before their first birthdays.

The cause of SIDS is unknown, however educational campaigns helped raise awareness to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

For more information on the “Safe Sleep” campaign, please visit www.aap.org.  

House Bill 1407, known as “Cody’s Law” was signed into law on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 and goes into effect immediately.

071315 rt 0085CHAMPAIGN- Local in-home childcare provider, Holli Finley Gomes serves as a second mother for ten children in the Champaign-Urbana area.  She takes care of the children as if they were one of her own.

As the budget impasse continues, child care providers have been left to wonder whether the state aid that they rely on to operate will be available when they need it. Governor Rauner has repeatedly targeted the Child Care Assistance Program for cuts under his budget proposals, and with the absence of a budget the funding for the program is still uncertain.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) visited Finley Gomes, a child care provider for 15 years, to see what is at risk for her. Finley Gomes lives in Champaign and operates an at home child care center that provides children with educational games and quarterly field trips.  

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Finley Gomes doesn’t know what working parents would do without child care services. She fears some parents would be forced to leave kids at home with an older sibling where they face safety issues and lose out on important educational opportunities. 

“The child care assistance program gives people an opportunity to get back on their feet by providing people with child care whether they go back to school or are working,” said Bennett. “This vital and affordable program allows people to work while keeping their children safe.

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