05052017CM0589

“While continuing to fund agriculture education is crucial, recruiting and retaining educators to teach agriculture programs for future generations is just as important.” - State Senator Soctt Bennett (D-Champaign)

SPRINGFIELD – A shortage of trained educators for agricultural vocation programs may soon have a solution under legislation passed by the Illinois Senate today. In a state where 25 percent of jobs are related to agriculture, many would be surprised to know that every year there is a shortage of trained educators in the field.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) introduced Senate Bill 1991 to try and address this problem.

“Agriculture and central Illinois are inseparable,” Bennett said. “While continuing to fund agriculture education is crucial, recruiting and retaining educators to teach agriculture programs for future generations is just as important.”

SB 1991 creates the Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force, which will make recommendations regarding the recruitment and retention of agriculture education teachers, participation in related federal programs and reforms to current licensure and testing requirements for agriculture education teachers.

The final report will be released no later than January 1, 2019. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Category: Press Releases

05022017CM0454

"Consumers ought to know how a website that they trust and use every day is selling their personal information to a third party.” - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)

SPRINGFIELD – Consumers will have a right to know when their personal information is being collected by a website or app and to whom that website may sell the information under legislation passed by the Illinois Senate today.

Currently, Illinois law requires businesses and state agencies that collect personal information to implement security measures and to notify users of any data breaches, but commercial websites are not required to tell customers what data they collect or with whom they share that data.

Senate Bill 1502, also known as the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act, would require websites to disclose to their customers what vendors they sell personal information to.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) co-sponsored the measure.

“Personal information is extremely sensitive and constantly under threat of being used maliciously,” Bennett said. “Because of that, consumers ought to know how a website that they trust and use every day is selling their personal information to a third party.”

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Category: Press Releases

05042017CM0032

“For a half century, utility companies have been dumping coal ash in the flood plain of the Vermilion River.” - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)

SPRINGFIELD – The potential danger of coal ash polluting the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River was raised in a key Senate budget committee today. State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) asked acting Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Alec Messina what the agency is doing to prevent coal ash from polluting the river.

“For a half century, utility companies have been dumping coal ash in the flood plain of the Vermilion River,” Bennett said. “What is the IEPA doing to hold Dynegy accountable and make sure the river remains safe from these coal ash sites?”

Messina responded that it would be a long-term program.

“Today we are waiting for a response from Dynegy asking them to put forward a plan for characterizing the site,” Messina said. “Frankly, none of the options are perfect options.”

Messina said the IEPA expects an answer from Dynegy in the coming weeks.

This comes after the Trump administration announced that the federal budget would have a 30 percent cut in funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a cut that would be catastrophic to efforts protecting the environment in Illinois.

Senator Bennett expressed concern that the IEPA’s budget proposed does not have the necessary resources for a long term cleanup of the river.

The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River is Illinois’ only National Wild and Scenic River, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Category: Press Releases

05032017CM0338

“There’s talk of cutting the budget for a department just weeks removed from an incident that illustrates what can go wrong when children are left in dangerous situations.” - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)

SPRINGFIELD – The state’s child welfare director described to lawmakers his department’s “Herculean” task of trying to protect children amid soaring caseloads and dwindling resources, and Senator Scott Bennett says the state should be working to improve conditions, not blindly slash funding that could jeopardize more children.

“There’s talk of cutting the budget for a department just weeks removed from an incident that illustrates what can go wrong when children are left in dangerous situations,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s comments came in response to testimony Wednesday from Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director George Sheldon to a Senate budget committee. Sheldon discussed the heartbreaking death of Semaj Crosby of Joliet, a one-year-old who was left in her parents’ custody despite filthy living conditions observed by a DCFS employee 33 hours before her death.

Sheldon told Senators the incident would be investigated in depth, but offered the dismal reality of his child service agency trying to cope with understaffing, growing caseloads and increases in youth detentions.

While some Republican lawmakers have suggested slashing funding across all agencies by 10 percent, Sheldon has requested an increase of $23.5 million. His agency is under court order to maintain services and predicted that if his budget is cut, the state would quickly find itself in federal court.

“Not having a state budget is problematic at best,” Sheldon said.

Bennett, a former prosecutor, said the tragedies from an overmatched DCFS are obvious and funding cuts won’t make the situation better. He expressed concerns regarding the ranks of DCFS investigators being cut in half in the Champaign office in recent years.

“We already know cutting funding is going to tie their hands at DCFS,” Bennett said. “Now are we going to shoot ourselves in the foot with a possible federal lawsuit as well?

“The Rauner administration simply needs to be better than this when dealing with vulnerable children,” Bennett said.

Category: Press Releases

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