Legislative updates given
Members of the Livingston County farming community received an update on issues at the state and local levels during the annual Livingston County Farm Bureau Legislative Breakfast in Pontiac.
State Rep. Dan Brady from the 105th district said the current focus of the Appropriations Committee is the budget, as a balanced budget is the goal before the General Assembly adjourns April 8 in Springfield. Brady acknowledged concerns over the cost of gas, goods and service and a lack of getting supplies in the state.
It remains to be seen whether the legislature will have a temporary reduction in taxes.
“The general election in November has the opportunity to really change things across the state,” Brady explained.
Brady updated the audience on his choice to become a candidate for the office of Illinois Secretary of State in the upcoming election. He has spent time crisscrossing the state talking about the importance of the office which is much more than issuing driver’s licenses. The Secretary of State plays an important role in agriculture with CDL’s and permits.
“I certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here,” Brady concluded.
State Rep. Tom Bennett of the 106th district said he was honored to represent a great group and is grateful to be a Farm Bureau member.
“What would Illinois be like without Farm Bureau or people involved in agriculture?” he asked.
Since legislative maps are changing, this is causing some confusion in the state ahead of the June 28 primary and November general election. Bennett will no longer represent Pontiac but will soon represent towns such as Forrest, Fairbury, Chatsworth, Dwight and Emington.
“They’re doing a split right down the middle of Livingston County,” noted Bennett.
An interesting story is developing surrounding former Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan, the longest serving Speaker of the House, and Bennett is keeping a close eye on the developments in the case.
“We’ll see what happens when they go to the courts.”
Education funding remains a priority and Bennett has been working with a committee chairperson, realizing the money will be well used. He is sponsoring a bill for farmers markets which keeps fees lower for farmers.
Many unknowns surround the Pontiac Correctional Center but there is plenty of interest and concern. Bennett explained around 170 prisoners were moved down to Centralia on Feb. 9 and he has received different communications. Bennett hopes to have a town hall meeting on what he calls a bi-partisan issue which the residents in this area deserve to know about.
“We need to get something going here,” said Bennett.
Livingston County Board vice-chairman Jason Bunting gave a county update. Jeff Hamilton has been appointed to serve the remainder of former sheriff Tony Childress’ term until after the November election. Bunting feels this appointment can help move the county forward.
Bunting reported county staff has moved into the new Health Department building.
“They are getting used to their new surroundings,” he explained.
The task of getting rid of the old Health and Education building looms. The county has voted on demolition of the old facility and an asbestos removal contract was approved. County leaders are also looking at starting the process of a new maintenance building for the Highway Department.
More wind farms are potentially coming into the county – in Broughton and Sullivan townships with public hearings likely in July. A wind and solar farm is possible for the Round Grove Township area.
Changing hats to his role as Livingston County Farm Bureau president, Bunting cautioned landowners to seek legal advice first before making any decisions on solar farms as some have received letters.
“We are kind of a prime spot for solar farms to come in.”
Bunting reminded the crowd of an electronic recycling event planned for April 2 at the old K-Mart in Pontiac from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. He also gave an update on the number of county board members, which will change from 24 to 18. There will be a lottery after this to determine who receives two or four-year terms.