Earlier today, an important legislative commission unanimously voted down Governor Pat Quinn’s proposal to close the Peoria Adult Transition Center.

“I was very pleased with the commission’s decision,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria).  “When we had the hearing in Peoria, everyone in the community testified about how important the Peoria halfway house is.  It really does help people return to productive lives in the community after they’ve served their time.  I’m glad the commission was convinced by our message.”

Under state law, the bipartisan, bicameral Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CoGFA) must vote to accept or reject the governor’s recommendation to close state service centers.  Though their vote is not legally binding, no governor has ever closed a facility over the commission’s objection.  The governor’s plan called for closing all but one adult transition center.

“Halfway houses are an important part of the Illinois’ corrections system,” Koehler said.  “I believe that in the end they save money by helping former inmates reintegrate into society.  They reduce recidivism rates and keep people out of our overcrowded prisons.  They also help former inmates overcome drug addictions and other obstacles that might keep them from becoming working, contributing residents of Illinois.”

Category: Press Releases

The Illinois State Senate has moved to regulate the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly, “fracking.”  Oil and natural gas companies use the fracking process to extract natural gas by injecting water and chemicals into the ground.  Environmentalists have a number of concerns about the process—the most important being that it can result in contaminated drinking water.

“I believe we’ve managed to find an almost perfect compromise on fracking regulation,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), who co-sponsored the legislation.  “Environmentalists believe it’s strong enough to protect our groundwater, but the industry doesn’t find it so onerous that it will prevent them from creating jobs in Illinois.”

The fracking plan requires well-owners to keep the Illinois Department of Natural Resources well informed of how much liquid they use, which chemicals they use, and how they will store recovered wastewater.  It also requires companies to perform integrity tests to ensure that their equipment won’t break or leak.  In return, the law provides the companies with careful safeguards to protect their trade secrets.

“Illinois has rich deposits of coal and natural gas,” Koehler added.  “Although I believe it’s very important to keep developing environmentally-friendly green technology, we’re going to continue to need traditional fuels for the foreseeable future.  I’d rather see those jobs here in Illinois.”

Though no fracking wells have opened yet in Illinois, several companies have purchased or leased land in Southern Illinois and begun exploring the possibility.

“This is great timing, too,” Koehler added.  “Hopefully, we’ll have these regulations in place long before the first well opens.”

The legislation, SB 3280, now goes to the Illinois House for further consideration.


Category: Press Releases

Earlier today, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) voted in support of a comprehensive plan to extend and reform one of Illinois most successful economic development tools—Enterprise Zones.

Enterprise Zones are specially designated areas where employers—particularly large manufacturers—receive targeted tax relief, fast-tracked reviews of some state and local permit applications, and improved government service.  The state’s Enterprise Zone Program has become a priority because eight Enterprise Zones are set to expire next year, including one Peoria and another in Canton/Fulton County.  Dozens more will expire over the next few years.

"This is about jobs,” said Koehler, who served on the Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions.  “Enterprise Zones encourage major employers to keep and create jobs in Illinois.  Over the past month, we've heard from big companies like Caterpillar, mayors, economic development experts, and others who all said that Enterprise Zones work.  We can't let this economic development tool expire."

  The legislation:
• Renews current enterprise zones for an additional 25 years, subject to approval of state and local officials • Allows up to 10 additional zones to be created over the next 10 years • Streamlines the available tax incentives to remove those that are not producing results • Requires maps of enterprise zones to be posted online

“This is a good plan,” said Koehler, who co-sponsored the legislation (Senate Bill 3688).  “It gives the business community the stability and predictability they need, it improves and expands the existing program, and it improves the transparency of this already-well-documented success story.”

Each year, companies in Enterprise Zones are required to report how many jobs they have kept or created due to the assistance the zone provides.  In 2011 alone, the Enterprise Zone Program is credited with creating 8,980 jobs and generating $2.5 billion in investments.


Category: Press Releases

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) is sponsoring legislation to keep unwanted charges off of consumers’ phone bills.  The legislation, supported by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would go a long way toward ending the phone scam known as “cramming.”  Cramming occurs when a third party company places an unwanted charge on a customers’ phone bill.

“When most people look at their phone bills, they assume they're getting billed for the calls they make and the services they purchase—they don’t think to look for extra costs added by third-party companies,” Koehler said.  “Illinois consumers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to these scams.  We need to put a stop to them.”

Cramming charges can range from $9.95 to $45 per month.  They often appear on bills as seemingly legitimate services, like email, voicemail, or identification-theft prevention.  They also are not limited to residential phone customers—businesses, churches, non-profit groups, and even government organizations have been the victims of cramming.  Crammers often trick consumers into “signing up” for their services during telemarketing calls.  In other cases, they use outright lies to add the charges to customers’ bills.  In many cases, they don’t even provide legitimate products or services.

The General Assembly has tried to take on cramming before by requiring telemarketers to clearly and fully disclose the terms of any agreements and to get express consent before appending any charges to customers’ phone bills.  However, the attorney general’s recent investigations have discovered that cramming is still a significant problem.

Koehler’s legislation, House Bill 5211, prohibits third-party billing altogether.  It allows for limited exemptions for charities, operator-assisted dialing, and companies that have contractual business relationships with the telephone company.

“Cramming is a simple, if pervasive, problem,” Koehler said.  “Companies are billing people for services they don’t want and that may not even actually exist.  We need a simple solution.  Prohibiting third-party charges on telephone bills should end cramming once and for all.”

Koehler’s plan has passed the Senate Commerce Committee and will now be considered by the full chamber.

Category: Press Releases

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