051905br1732-smallrsIt’s not often that you find an 18-year-old still living at home, asking permission to take a date to the movies. That’s because we have designated 18 as the age that you officially become an adult. You are officially responsible for your own actions.

So why does it make sense to require an 18-year-old to get consent from a parent or legal guardian in order to obtain a FOID card? We don’t require an 18-year-old to get consent from a parent or legal guardian to purchase a car, a house or join the military. That is why I re-introduced legislation that would allow a citizen who is 18 years or older to apply for and obtain a Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

I first introduced this measure back in 2005 during the 95th General Assembly and have re- introduced it every legislative session since. Every time I introduce the proposal, I think to myself, ‘this might be the year I finally get this sensible bill passed’. But, I’m always disappointed when the measure gets pushed into a committee, never to see the light of day – usually done by a Chicago politician who scoffs at the idea of allowing an 18-year-old to have a FOID card.

I haven’t introduced this bill every year to make a point to Chicago lawmakers. I haven’t introduced the bill to please gun enthusiasts or because I was asked by gun rights organizations. I introduced the measure because it’s ridiculous to think that at 18 years old, our country allows you to enlist in the army and hands you a firearm to defend yourself and your country. But heaven forbid we allow these brave men and women to obtain a FOID card in Illinois.

This is a common sense proposal.

Gaining knowledge and first-hand experience about how to properly handle a gun at a young age is vital to preventing accidents. Going to a shooting range and learning how to operate a firearm is a part of our upbringing here in Southern Illinois. I will continue to work to protect that right for our future generations. After a number of attempts to pass this proposal, I was able to advance it through the Senate in 2010. This success would not have been possible without the help of the many supporters who came to the Capitol to fight for the bill’s passage. Unfortunately, it did not get called for a vote in the House, but I will continue to push for this measure until it passes both houses is sent to the governor to become law. 

Category: A Weekly Update on Issues with Senator Forby

051905br1732-smallrsWhen I saw the latest jobless numbers from January, I was disappointed that Southern Illinois counties continue to have higher unemployment than the state and national averages. Families are struggling as jobs are becoming harder and harder to find. This cannot continue. We need a new industry to really kick-start our economic engine. So when I first read the job projections that came out of a study conducted by Dr. David Loomis – a professor of economics at Illinois State University – on the economic impact of hydraulic fracturing, I was excited about the possible economic impact this industry could have on Southern Illinois.

According to Loomis, a minimum of approximately 1,000 jobs would be created or supported by the exploration of the New Albany Shale that sits below Southern Illinois. However, more than 47,000 jobs per year, or more than $9.5 billion of economic impact, could be created or supported if the study's highest scenario is realized. According to Loomis, it all depends on the natural gas reserve. 

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking”, has been the subject of serious negotiations between lawmakers, oil and gas industry representatives and their allies, and environmental groups over the past several weeks. Discussions have centered around a bill proposed by State Representative John Bradley, House Bill 2615, which would regulate hydraulic fracturing in the state.

For those unfamiliar, hydraulic fracturing uses a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack and hold open thick rock formations, releasing trapped oil and gas. Combined with horizontal drilling, it allows access to formerly out-of-reach deposits.

One of the major concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing is the potential effects it could have on the environment. Southern Illinois is blessed to have a geographical landscape that sets it apart from other areas of Illinois. We have state and national parks, lakes and natural scenery that attract thousands to Southern Illinois every year. Protecting our tourism industry and our region’s natural beauty is a major priority of mine.

The bill currently being discussed in the House has been called the strongest measure nationwide for regulating hydraulic fracturing. There are many strong protections and regulations that are included in House Bill 2615. One of the most important measures in the bill requires baseline water testing before fracking starts and continual tests throughout. Monitoring is extremely important to ensure that we are not harming our water systems. Another important regulation in the bill requires companies to disclose to state officials the concentrations and names of chemicals they will use. By disclosing this information, officials can make sure the chemicals are considered safe for the environment and for workers handling them.

As it stands, I believe House Bill 2615 contains the necessary environmental regulations and protections to ensure we are not harming one of most precious resources. The hydraulic fracturing industry could add thousands of jobs and provide a needed boost to our economy here in Southern Illinois.  Along with the expanding coal industry, Southern Illinois has the potential to once again be among the energy production leaders in the Midwest. For that reason, I plan to support House Bill 2615. 

Category: A Weekly Update on Issues with Senator Forby

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This past week, I supported a measure that will expand health care coverage to nearly 342,000 low-income Illinois citizens. Senate Bill 26 will expand Medicaid coverage to residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $15,400 for an individual and $31,800 for a family of four. In my district alone, there are nearly 10,000 uninsured residents who will now qualify to receive Medicaid coverage under the proposal.

I supported the measure because I believe every citizen deserves access to health care services, no matter their financial situation. This legislation will provide access to health care services for low-income people who are not currently covered by Medicaid.

But that is not the only reason why I supported Senate Bill 26. I also supported the proposal because it saves the state money, lowers health care costs for people who are insured and will create jobs in the health care industry.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services estimated that expanding Medicaid coverage will save the state and estimated $105 million annually in savings related to substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and eliminating the Comprehensive Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Also, all costs associated with the expansion in health care coverage are covered by federal matching funds for the first three years and phased down to 90% by 2020.

Health care costs have been rising for several years and the number of uninsured Americans has an impact on those rising costs. Hospitals are currently providing uncompensated charity care for residents who are uninsured. This puts a major burden on the hospitals and ultimately raises the cost of health insurance for citizens who are insured. By reducing the number of uncompensated charity cases, we can lower the cost of health insurance for citizens who are insured. 

We need to take advantage of every opportunity to create jobs in Southern Illinois. This proposal will create an economic boon in the state with the influx of nearly $4.6 billion in federal funds. Those funds will have a major impact on the health care industry, including an increase in jobs.

I anticipate the proposal passing the House and being sent to the governor to sign.

Category: A Weekly Update on Issues with Senator Forby

051905br1732-smallrsAs many of you remember, last summer was the first time in nearly three decades that the Combined Veterans Association of Illinois did not run the beer tent at the Du Quoin State Fair. The CVA lost its vendor title because of changes made to the State Procurement Code. The procurement code requires the Illinois Department of Agriculture to obtain at least three quotes from vendors, and reward the contract to whatever group gives the state the most money. The CVA provided a bid last summer, but didn’t get it.

The beer concessions were the CVA’s biggest fundraiser, and the lack of funds hurt several veterans’ organizations in Southern Illinois. The concessions from the beer tent sales were used to help run its organizations and make contributions to charitable causes such as college scholarships for children of armed service members, The Women’s Center in Carbondale and the Anna Veterans Home.

As a major promoter of health care and programs for veterans, I decided to sponsor legislation that would help the CVA get its contract back. So last week, I introduced Senate Bill 1561. The bill is aimed at protecting service organizations, like the CVA, from being out bid and losing their fair contracts. The bill would exempt State Fair contracts between non-profit service organizations and the Illinois Department of Agriculture from the Illinois Procurement Code. This would allow the vets to continue their contract with the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture without requiring the department to receive bids from at least three vendors.

There are times when providing a valuable, charitable service to our communities trumps the need to make a profit. I believe this is one of the situations. We need to ensure that the CVA and its associated organizations have the necessary funds to continue their great charitable work in Southern Illinois. I urge you to reach out to other local legislators and encourage them to stand with Southern Illinois veterans by supporting this bill

Category: A Weekly Update on Issues with Senator Forby

2016 Legislative Survey

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