Rep. Bunting’s Springfield news update for May 17

In this issue:

  • Human trafficking bills pass, others remain to be heard
  • Agencies to be consolidated into Department of Early Childhood
  • State invests more than $30 million in Israel since October 7
  • Honoring fallen firefighters

Human trafficking bills pass, others remain to be heard

Shared Hope International, an advocacy group working to prevent sex trafficking gave Illinois a failing grade in 2023 for its efforts on this important issue. But we are working to change that in the General Assembly this year, and we have already passed a couple of bills that will protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

States were measured on six different metrics concerning efforts to protect victims, support their recovery and prosecute abusers. Illinois only received two passing grades. This year House Republicans have proposed seven pieces of legislation to improve human trafficking protections and toughen penalties. So far, two of these bills have passed and are pending in the Senate. House Bill 5465 allows a human trafficking victim to have their juvenile record sealed or expunged if the crimes were committed while they were being trafficked. House Bill 5467 removes the statute of limitations for a victim to press charges of trafficking.

The bills still remaining to be acted upon include legislation to require those convicted of trafficking to register as a sex offender and another bill to create a Human Trafficking Order of Protection.

Agencies to be consolidated into Department of Early Childhood

State agencies which specialize in early childhood programs, but which are currently located in three different departments, will be consolidated under the umbrella of the Illinois Department of Early Childhood through legislation which passed the House last week.

Programs currently within the Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Human Services and Illinois State Board of Education will be moved into the new Department of Early Childhood over the next couple of years. The new Department will be charged with overseeing early intervention services, home-visit programs, licensing of day care and child care providers and other similar services.

State invests more than $30 million in Israel since October 7

The state of Illinois has a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio. Of that, more than $85 million has been invested in Israel over the past four years, $30 million having been invested since the October 7 attacks. Illinois is among several state governments which have invested in Israel since the attacks, including Texas, New York and Florida. Indiana invested another $5 million in Israel earlier this month.

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs briefed legislators about the investments during a committee hearing a few weeks ago. He reports that in financial terms, Israel Bonds are a good investment for Illinois because in addition to offering good returns, the country has never defaulted on a bond. They are also, of course, a democracy and a staunch American ally. Frerichs says the bonds Illinois invests in go to fund infrastructure projects.

According to the Treasurer’s office, an investment which Illinois made in Israel in October has an interest rate of 5.74% over the next five years, and a larger November investment will return a 5.4% interest rate over the next three years.

Honoring fallen firefighters

On Tuesday morning we paused to recognize firefighters from throughout Illinois who have given their lives in the line of duty. These heroic first responders work one of the most dangerous, yet essential, jobs, and each year some of them make the ultimate sacrifice.

Every spring for over 30 years, state leaders, firefighters and members of the public have gathered at the state’s Firefighter Memorial on the statehouse grounds for a ceremony honoring those who gave their lives in the past year. Unfortunately, this year’s event had to be moved indoors because of bad weather, but the ceremony was no less solemn.

Thank you to the brave men and women who gave so much and thank you to those who continue to answer the call.

Another important part of the ceremony is the recognition of Medal of Honor recipients. The Medal of Honor is presented to firefighters “for an act of outstanding bravery or heroism, by which the firefighter has demonstrated in great degree the characteristics of selflessness and personal courage above and beyond the call of duty, under adverse conditions, with the possibility of extreme personal risk.” There were eight firefighters so recognized this year. Among them was Firefighter/Paramedic William Perry of the Coal City Fire Protection District, who was recognized for his heroic actions last June while saving a life during a house fire in Diamond.

Our current bill backlog

When a vendor provides the state with goods and services, they submit the bill to the Illinois Comptroller for payment. The Comptroller processes the paperwork and pays the bill when funds are available in the state’s checking account. Currently the total amount of unpaid bills is $1,441,202,499. This figure changes daily. Last year at this time the state had $1.4 billion in bills awaiting payment. This only includes bills submitted to the Comptroller for payment, not unfunded debts like the state’s pension liability, which is well over $100 billion.

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