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.

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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.”

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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.”

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) plan to provide more support to local tourism groups was signed by the governor last week.

Currently, as much as a tenth of the money intended for local tourism groups is being used by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) for administrative costs. Bennett’s new law would limit DCEO’s current 10 percent cut of the local tourism funds to 3 percent in order to bring that money back into local tourism offices where it can be better spent.

“We all know how valuable our local tourism programs are, especially in Illinois’ bicentennial year,” Bennett said. “This new law will help move money from Springfield and into local tourism offices where it can be better spent.”

Due to the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, local tourism groups like Visit Champaign County have not been receiving state funding to help cover overhead. They have been forced to cancel events, cut advertisements, leave positions unfilled and send fewer people out on the road to promote their cities.

“Our state has so much to offer,” Bennett said. “This is a step in the right direction to help better promote our communities as destinations and bring money back to Illinois.”

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

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