Water, water everywhere means — new opportunities for rural Illinois?

Yes, said the director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“Approximately 80 percent of the potable water on the planet is in that greater Midwest region,” said Jim Schultz, the department’s director and an Effingham native.

Schultz spoke to the Rural Community Economic Development Conference of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.

Marketing the state’s water resources to attract business, especially agriculture, is one of the ways Schultz sees rural Illinois rebounding from tough times and creating new opportunities. Read more of Jeannine Otto's article at AgriNews here.

State Representative John D. Cavaletto speaking to the annual meeting of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) held on the campus of Greenville College. The attendees included school superintendents and school board members from the Kaskaskia Division of the IASB. The comments by Rep. Cavaletto, who serves on the House Elementary & Secondary Education: School Curriculum and  Policies Committee, included an update on the state budget impasse, the legislative process, school funding challenges, and the dynamics of the governor's goals to bring reform to the way business is impacted by workers compensation reform and tort reform, and creating budgets based on actual revenues the state has instead of based on expenditures wanted. Rep. Cavaletto also discussed unfunded mandates on education and the negative impact they have on struggling teachers and school districts. He advocated a return to local control by local school boards to determine the needs of a particular region of the state to reflect the unique needs.
In an era of financial challenges at every level of government in Illinois, our efforts have increased to work with the private sector to generate needed dollars for worthy projects. Today, Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company that is expanding its American investment by building a gas pipeline from the Dakotas to the Patoka Station in Marion County, made two donations to the community of Vandalia in the 107th District. The first check presentation was to the Vandalia Historical Society, Inc. for the window restoration project at the Historic Vandalia Statehouse. The water damage to this structure needs to be stopped and repaired or the building will deteriorate and eventually fall in on itself. The Statehouse is the oldest surviving Illinois Capitol building and is a key part of the economic engine of tourism to Vandalia. The second donation was to the Fayette County Emergency Management Services (EMS) program to purchase diving equipment that was stolen.
Rep. John Cavaletto speaking
"...the call this week by a group of downstate legislators for the General Assembly to get back to business is right on target."--Alton Telegraph

With the Illinois House of Representatives in the midst of a month-long break, a group of Downstate GOP lawmakers want the House to return to session to work on a compromise to end the nine-month long budget impasse.

State Representatives Bill Mitchell, C.D. Davidsmeyer, John Cavaletto, David Reis and Avery Bourne held a press conference in Decatur Wednesday to urge Democrat leaders to call the General Assembly back into session.

“Our people are hurting. Unemployment is high and good-paying jobs have disappeared. Working families can’t afford to send their kids to college. Instead of working together to address these problems, Speaker Madigan and his Chicago allies decided to take a nice long vacation. We need a budget that works for our families, communities and state. Enough delays, enough stalling, enough political games. Let’s get this done,” said Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem).
The response came almost three months after heavy rains and flooding events that began on December 26, 2015. In the following days, damage from high water was reported in 24 Downstate Illinois counties, with effects concentrated in (but not limited to) southwestern Illinois along the Mississippi River.

Municipalities and property owners in Jersey, Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Randolph, and Alexander Counties reported that buildings and other infrastructure were significantly damaged from the flooding. In many cases, damaged Illinois communities stood directly across the Mississippi River from equivalent Missouri communities that did receive federal disaster designation and assistance. However, the federal government’s use of a population-weighted threshold for determining assistance eligibility worked against Illinois’ application, with the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) saying that the same flooding event was scored differently with respect to the two states and their populations. The news from Washington was received on Friday, March 11. The Illinois Emergency Management Authority (IEMA) may try to appeal the decision.
All but one of the state’s 14 metro areas saw unemployment rates rise in January, according to preliminary data released today by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The January jobs report also shows more people entered the workforce, which IDES Director Jeff Mays says is an indication many Illinoisans were unable to find employment.

“Though more people in Illinois entered the labor force, they were not able to find jobs,” Mays said in a news release. “With Illinois trailing the rest of the country in job creation, we need structural reforms to get more people back to work.” (Read the entire Kevin Hoffman article from Reboot Illinois here.) 

In the 107th District, the unemployment rates in January were:
Bond County 7.1%, Clinton County 6.2%, Effingham County 6.5%, Fayette County 8.8%, and Marion County 8.4%.

As her office begins issuing state income tax refunds, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger is urging taxpayers to register online to check the status of their refunds and sign up for text message and email payment notifications.

The easy-to-use Tax Refund Alert System allows taxpayers to visit myrefund.illinoiscomptroller.gov and enter their name and Social Security Number to see if the Comptroller's Office has processed their refund. Taxpayers also can enter an email address and phone number to receive a notification when the payment has been made.

In addition, Munger announced her office will include inserts with all tax refunds detailing where the State of Illinois spent $35.6 billion in 2015, information on the state's bill backlog, and other tools to help taxpayers learn about state and local finances. Those who receive their tax refunds through Direct Deposit may view the tax insert digitally if they register for the Tax Refund Alert System.

"Taxpayers deserve to know when they will receive their tax refunds. By visiting myrefund.illinoiscomptroller.gov and registering for our tax refund alert system, they can track the status of their refund while monitoring where the state government spends their tax dollars," Munger said. "The Comptroller's Office will continue to focus on making government more efficient, transparent, and accessible while offering taxpayer-friendly tools to help our citizens follow the money."
Illinois State Police and AMERICAN LEGION officials Prepare FOR SUMMER YOUTH Police PROGRAM 44th Annual American Legion Youth Police Camp Accepting Teen Participants Springfield ? Officials with the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the American Legion announce plans for the 44th Annual American Legion Youth Police Camp (ALYPC). The camp will again be held at the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield, Illinois, and will run from June 26 through July 1, 2016.

Dozens of aspiring teens from across Illinois will discover career opportunities through training with police and military personnel. The primary purpose of the ALYPC is to establish an interactive and positive relationship between Illinois teens and law enforcement officers. The week-long residency camp is structured to promote educational and learning opportunities for youth ages 14-16 in the areas of law enforcement, military, leadership, cultural diversity, personal development, physical fitness, and social and interpersonal skills. The ALYPC Cadets will be honored at a graduation ceremony on July 1, 2016, and will receive a graduation certificate.
American Legion volunteers and ISP Troopers are assigned to manage the program and serve as instructors and mentors. Many of the American Legion and ISP volunteers are former graduates of the program. "I had the pleasure of attending the graduation of the American legion Youth Police Camp last year," said Erica Jefferies, Director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. She added, "It was evident that after one week, these young people had been transformed. They were disciplined, poised, and ready to take on any challenge the leadership provided. This program is one that all of our youth should have the privilege of attending."

The American Legion will accept applications until May 28, 2016. Teenagers 14-16 are encouraged to apply for and attend the 2016 ALYPC for an enriching experience.
Congratulations to Coach Hinson!
Read about his well-deserved recognition at the Southern Illinoisan here.

State Representative John Cavaletto, announced today that the attempt to override Governor Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 2043 failed in the House.

“This was supposedly a funding bill for higher education without any funding, which is exactly why the governor vetoed it to begin with,” stated Rep. Cavaletto (R-Salem). “Our community colleges and students need real support and not false promises and that’s why I have joined my colleagues in co-sponsoring legislation that provides real money to MAP grants, community colleges and our state university system,” Cavaletto added.

House Bill 4539, which Cavaletto is co-sponsoring, would provide approximately $1.68 billion that would come from general revenue to adequately fund colleges and universities, and students’ MAP grants. It would work in tandem with the recently filed Unbalanced Budget Response Act – legislation that would afford the Governor ability to manage monies in existing funds to adequately fund programs including higher education.

“Students and universities can’t pay the bills with an empty promise. We need a plan that will provide real dollars now and the proposal I’m sponsoring will do that. I’m asking the Speaker to allow us to discuss this and to work together on a realistic compromise.”
State Representative John Cavaletto, a member of the Appropriations-Public Safety Committee in the House, and an officer in the "Fire Caucus" of the Illinois General Assembly, was joined at the annual meeting by Effingham Fire Chief Joe Holomy (left) and Chief Michael Mavrogeorge (right), chairman of the Illinois Fire Services Association. The annual early morning breakfast meeting provides an opportunity for fire chiefs from around the state to come to the Capitol to discuss public safety ideas and potential legislation.

The Illinois Fire Services Association is the partnership of the 13 major fire services organizations in Illinois joined to promote and coordinate the activities and programs as it relates to life, health, and safety of the citizens of the State of Illinois. The Association is composed of the elected and appointed leaders of all of the statewide fire service organizations in Illinois; the Chicago Fire Department, the Illinois Fire Service Institute, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Together the member organizations represent both career and volunteer fighters in the urban, suburban, and rural areas across our state. The member organizations, together, speak for our state's Fire Chiefs and more than 42,000 Illinois firefighters on the significant issues that affect our fire, emergency medical service, and our citizens.

Business First's 2016 rankings of 477 U.S. public colleges. The first 250 schools are listed in numerical order, followed by the lower echelon of 227 schools in alphabetical order. Read more about the rankings here.
Secretary Bryan A. Schneider of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is pleased to announce that paperless licensing and renewals have now been implemented for the professions licensed and regulated by the Divisions of Real Estate and Professional Regulation.  The transition away from paper-based renewals and licenses means that regulated professionals will now be able to renew their license quickly and easily online, and be provided proof of licensure through email and IDFPR’s License Lookup application.   The move to paperless technology is part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to modernize the state’s regulatory agency and will save the state nearly $3 million in postage, paper and printing costs over the next five years. (Click here to read more about these changes.)