This electronic newsletter is an opportunity for you to learn more about what we’ve accomplished in Illinois government, and how you can get involved. Whether it’s volunteering in a Serve Illinois volunteer project, receiving state services, or learning about new laws and programs, I want to ensure that you know what’s happening in your government.
If you have ideas for improving any State service, program, or this very newsletter, please click here and let us know.
Sales Tax Holiday
On July 7, Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 3658, the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, the first-of-its-kind in Illinois. This legislation will help families pay for back-to-school essentials like clothes and school supplies by waiving the 5 percent state portion of sales tax collected by retail merchants. Items like pens, pencils, binders, paper and glue will be eligible for the reduced sales tax rate. The Sales Tax Holiday will be in effect from August 6 through August 15.
Red Light Cameras
On July 9, Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 935, the Red Light Camera Reform Bill. This law will improve oversight of red light cameras in Illinois by properly regulating the cameras and protecting the rights of motorists to appeal all red light camera tickets. This reform will allow drivers to review tickets received and review video evidence online. In addition, all municipalities or counties with these cameras must post the camera locations online. These cameras should serve the public good and improve safety, and this new law will ensure that those goals are being met while improving the rights of Illinois motorists.
High Speed Rail
On July 20, Governor Quinn was joined by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to announce that construction would begin in early September on the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail route. This project will support more than 900 jobs in Illinois and make Illinois the high-speed rail hub of the United States. This $98 million dollar project is federally funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) and is part of the $8 billion allocated for high-speed rail. When completed, it is estimated that the total amount of time it takes to travel between Chicago and St. Louis will be less than four hours.
On August 13, Governor Quinn will cut the ribbon on the 2010 Illinois State Fair. The theme of the fair this year is “Cream of the Crop” and will pay tribute to Illinois’ agricultural heritage. It will also feature live entertainment at the Grandstand each night including Lady Antebellum, Shinedown, and Selena Gomez. In addition, Governor Quinn will be hosting three tents this year. The Governor’s main tent will feature state agencies and their efforts to create jobs; the second will be a train and railway-themed tent called “Illinois: Rail Capital of America” and highlight railway’s contribution to economic development through the past, present, and future; the third tent will feature the “Portrait of a Soldier” memorial, a riveting display of over 200 hand-drawn portraits of Illinois soldiers killed in the global war on terror since September 11. The Fair will run from August 13 through August 22. More information can be found online by visiting http://www.illinoisstatefair.info.
On July 13, Governor Quinn announced a new initiative to stop the spread of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes. This initiative will establish an agreement between Big River Fisheries located in Illinois and Beijing Zhuochen Animal Husbandry in China. Big River will collect and ship approximately 30 million pounds of fish to Zhuochen. This new partnership will allow Asian Carp to be sold in international markets while slowing the growing Asian Carp population in the Great Lakes. Through this initiative, approximately 180 jobs will be created. This reform is another step to maintaining a safe lake that can be enjoyed by the people of the Midwest.
Governor Quinn signed two bills this month to support the men and women who defend our freedom overseas. On June 28 he signed House Bill 4674, which expands educational opportunities for military children in the care of non-custodial parents. It dissolves tuition fees for those who transfer school districts in order to live in their temporary households. In addition, on July 8 House Bill 6103 was signed by Governor Quinn. This law expands veterans’ mental health coverage and guarantees treatment to service members that have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.
On July 17, Governor Quinn signed two new laws at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market that will improve access to locally farmed products at farmers’ markets throughout the state. Under Senate Bill 615 schools will have access to a newly established online database that can be used to purchase fresh food products. Under House Bill 4756, the Farmer’s Market Technology Improvement Program, individuals who receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or LINK card holders, will be able to use their SNAP benefits at the farmer’s market. These laws will allow individuals, including students and the disadvantaged, to easily access healthy, nutritious and fresh foods grown on rich Illinois soil while helping local businesses to thrive.
Put Illinois to Work
When Governor Quinn announced the creation of his “Put Illinois to Work” program, it was anticipated that more than 15,000 jobs would be created in Illinois. Today more than 22,000 jobs have been created. In addition, the Put Illinois to Work program is still accepting applications for youth employment. The Put Illinois to Work program puts unemployed and underemployed Illinoisans back to work and encourages employers to hire workers who meet certain eligibility requirements. This program has strengthened and improved communities and provided employees with the skills necessary to build a strong foundation for future employment.
Illinois Jobs Now! Capital Program
On July 22, Governor Quinn announced that more than $500 million would be invested into Illinois mass transit systems from the Illinois Jobs Now! Capital fund, the state’s first capital program in nearly a decade. This $31 billion program will put people back to work by creating and retaining 439,000 jobs over the next six years. Critical mass transit infrastructure improvements, including improvements to Chicago’s RTA, Metra and PACE as well as other systems throughout Illinois, are expected to create an estimated 18,000 jobs and improve traveler safety.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has announced that nominations are now being accepted for the Governor’s Hometown Awards, a program that gives formal recognition to volunteer driven projects. Awards are made in the following six categories: Beautification and Sustainability Projects, Parks and Recreation, Memorials and Monuments, History and Historic Preservation, Services and Mentorship, and General Projects. Awardees will be recognized in Early October. Nominations are due no later than August 2, 2010.