Citizens and advocacy groups from across the state crowded the Capitol during the week, voicing their support or opposition to hundreds of bills currently being considered by lawmakers.
Senators spent many hours debating and voting on legislation – such as measures to combat the opioid crisis and to provide a more affordable alternative to medicine for treating allergic reactions – as they work to meet an April 12 deadline for the third reading of Senate bills.
Also during the week, state officials and lawmakers urged motorists to pay more attention and be more careful while driving, as distracted-driving accidents resulted in the deaths of two Illinois State Police officers in just three days.
Barickman takes new lawmakers on tour of Pontiac prison
Several of the Illinois General Assembly’s newest members were able to get a firsthand look at one of the state’s most important correctional facilities, as part of tour hosted by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington).
“The Pontiac Correctional Facility is an important part of our state’s corrections system and a major economic driver for the region,” said Barickman. “I believe it is crucial to allow our newer Representatives and Senators to see how it works and it what it means.”
The Pontiac Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, was first opened as a boys reformatory in 1861. Today the facility houses inmates in segregation status, those in protective custody, as well as housing the state’s most serious offenders.
The tour allowed lawmakers to see how the facility functions, including the housing, food, and activity centers for prisoners. In addition, they were given an update on the ongoing process of updating facilities and procedures aimed at improving mental health treatment for the inmates, which included a new mental health treatment center. They also toured the new kitchen and cafeterias which are still under construction.
“I do not envy the task given to the Pontiac administration and corrections officers to manage such a diverse and possibly difficult prison population, but I have been impressed with their efforts,” said Barickman. “I’m hopeful that my colleagues in the General Assembly left here with a newfound respect for the importance of this facility, and that challenges the staff face on a daily basis.”
Senator Barickman hosts the tour every two years and invites all lawmakers from both chambers and parties who were not serving in the General Assembly during the previous tour.
Students Flock to Capitol for Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day
Hundreds of Illinois students visited the Capitol April 3 to view state government in action and talk with legislators about issues, as part of the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day. The annual event in Springfield focuses on encouraging young people, who are tomorrow’s leaders, to take an interest in state government. Senator Barickman had the chance to meet with students from Eastern Illini Co-op.
Also during the week, Senator Barickman was joined by Normal West High student Maggie McHale, who was serving as his honorary page for the day.
Senator Barickman met with several ISU students who were lobbying at the Capitol for a number of bills they are passionate about.
Healthcare Leaders Visit the Capitol for Quality Advocacy Showcase
Also on April 3, healthcare leaders from around the state presented information about their community programs as part of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s Quality Advocacy Showcase. The event gives local healthcare leaders the opportunity to talk with legislators about how hospitals are improving patient safety and enhancing quality care, while reducing healthcare costs. Senator Barickman visited with representatives of Bromenn Normal Hospital and Carle Hoopeston.
Combatting opioid crisis
The Senate has taken another major step in combatting the opioid overdose epidemic by passing legislation to treat the deadly drug Fentanyl as seriously as heroin.
“Fentanyl has clearly become the number one threat in the ongoing opioid crisis,” said Curran. “This bill will help our justice system clamp down on the illegal Fentanyl trade and help law enforcement get the deadly drug off of our streets.”
Senate Bill 199 creates a Class 1 felony penalty structure for the possession of Fentanyl and Fentanyl analogs, targeted at illegal dealers and suppliers of the drug. The goal is to put Fentanyl offenses on the same level as heroin, and to help prosecute those who are engaged in the illegal manufacturing and trade of the deadly drug.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid originally developed as a painkiller. Experts say the drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is now the drug most frequently involved in overdose deaths in the United States, according to a 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Senate Bill 199 is currently awaiting action in the House after being passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Health insurance companies would be required to offer generic alternatives for EpiPens under legislation that passed by a unanimous vote of the Senate on April 4.
EpiPen is the brand name of a device that delivers the drug epinephrine, which is a life-saving medication used when someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction. Cost for this drug, which can be in the hundreds of dollars range, often place it out of reach to those who need it most.
Senate Bill 2047 would require health insurance companies to offer generic alternatives for insulin auto-injectors.
“These life-saving drugs can be extremely expensive for those who need them,” said Sen. Rezin. “Generic forms are often much more affordable. This legislation seeks to ensure patients are provided with all available options at a price within reason.”
Senate Bill 2047 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Making our roads safer
State officials and lawmakers are asking the public to slow down and drive more carefully after two Illinois State Police officers were killed in recent distracted-driving accidents.
Trooper Gerald Ellis was on dutyMarch 30 when he was killed in a head-on collision with a vehicle traveling the wrong way on Interstate 94. Two days earlier, onMarch 28, Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was struck and killed by a semitrailer during a roadside inspection of another truck, just west of Illinois Route 75.
Their deaths brought to three the number of troopers killed in 2019. On Jan. 12, Trooper Christopher Lambert was killed after being hit by a car on I-294 while at the scene of an accident.
Lawmakers from around the state are expressing concern about the number of troopers who have been hit by vehicles – 16 so far in 2019. In 2018, just eight troopers were hit; 12 were hit in 2017; and five in 2016.
Illinois Acting State Police Director Brendan Kelly and the Governor are urging motorists to obey Scott’s Law, which mandates that when approaching any police or other emergency vehicle stopped along the roadway, drivers must proceed with due caution, change lanes if possible, and reduce their speed.
State Police have also stepped up enforcement of Scott’s Law and are trying to raise awareness of the issue through social media