koehler1112State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) recently met with the directors of two programs that help Illinois veterans and active duty military families to discuss the good work they do.

Health and Disability Advocates Veterans Programs help veterans and military families find the civilian resources provided by the state and federal governments. Veterans enjoy a wide variety of support programs, but often the application process for these programs can be confusing. HDA demystifies the process. They train state and private agencies to help their staff members understand the full array of programs available to veterans and military families, supplement government-provided benefits for veterans who don't qualify for other programs and provide several resources for the families of soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty.

The National Guard's Child and Youth Program provides special services for the children of active-duty military families and the survivors of soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. The program provides schools with resources to help them understand the special problems facing children whose parents are deployed abroad. Program staff also helps families locate child care resources.

"We've established so many programs to help our veterans after they return to civilian life and to help families cope with the difficulties of living with active-duty military members," Koehler said. "Health and Disability Advocates and the National Guard's Child and Youth Program do a great job of helping families navigate government services and providing supplemental programs to support government efforts."

Last year, Koehler worked with these organizations to pass a law requiring schools to allow parents to disclose if they are active-duty military members who are or expect to be deployed.

"Helping our schools identify military family children is the first step in giving the kids the resources they need to overcome the special challenges they face," Koehler said. "Their parents are making a sacrifice to defend us all. The least we can do is make sure their kids have the resources they need to succeed in school."

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Members of the Pekin Chamber of Commerce Leadership School visited the Capitol on Tuesday. After getting their picture taken on the Senate floor, the group met with Senator Koehler and then sat in on the Agriculture and Conservation Committee. (click photo to enlarge)

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koehlermicSPRINGFIELD – Illinois has nearly 2,000 miles of cast- and wrought-iron gas mains – many more than 60 years old. The federal government has identified these aging gas lines as a major public safety risk and issued a call to action to replace them as soon as possible.

"Illinois' aging gas lines are a real public safety hazard," said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). "And it's only going to get worse the longer we go without replacing them. Today, I've taken the first step by proposing legislation that will give gas distributors the tools they need to begin upgrading Illinois' pipelines."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Illinois had 27 gas incidents caused by old, substandard gas lines between 2002 and 2011. Though the state had no fatalities, there were several injuries and more than $7 million in property damage during this time period.

"Replacing crumbling gas lines will also create thousands of jobs and help protect the environment by preventing underground gas leaks," Koehler added. "The time to do this is now, while natural gas prices are low."

Koehler's legislation, Senate Bill 1665, will make it easier for gas distributors to recover the cost of natural gas pipeline upgrades, making Illinois more competitive with neighboring states like Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky, which already have similar laws. It also enables gas companies to move gas meters to the outside of buildings and install modern tracking technology, reducing the need for manual meter readings and cutting customer costs. Outdoor meters make it easier for firefighters to shut off gas mains during emergencies.

The Illinois Commerce Commission keeps its strong oversight and review powers under the Gas Upgrade plan and gains new authority to penalize gas distribution companies if they don't meet annual performance and transparency goals.

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Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) speaks in support of Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, during debate Thursday on the Senate floor.

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) speaks in support of Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, during debate Thursday on the Senate floor. (click to enlarge)

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