Sponsors plan to end state ownership

WILDLIFEPARKSPRINGFIELD – Years of less-than-adequate state funding have taken their toll on Wildlife Prairie State Park. The 2,000 acre park, which allows the people of Illinois to see the state's indigenous wildlife in a natural setting, has survived the state's budget cuts largely due to the efforts of Friends of Wildlife Prairie State Park, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the park's mission of promoting conservation, education and recreation. State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) is sponsoring legislation that will permanently transfer ownership of the park to the Friends board.

"We can't allow Wildlife Prairie State Park to fall prey to Illinois' budget woes," Koehler said. "Friends of Wildlife Prairie State Park will keep this important Peoria-area landmark open for our friends and children to enjoy for years to come."

Despite Koehler's best efforts to get funding for the park reinstated, the state has been unable to provide significant financial resources to the park for the past three years, a situation unlikely to change in the near future.

Though the state is transferring ownership of the park to the Friends group, the legal agreement requires the group to keep the park open to the public and to maintain its current mission.

Koehler's measure has passed the Illinois House and the Senate Agriculture Committee. It is poised to pass the Senate and is supported by the governor. Koehler sponsored a similar plan last year, but it stalled in the Illinois House.

Category: Press Releases

GMOlabelSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) believes that the people of Illinois have a right to know what they're eating. That's why he's proposed a new law that will require companies to notify consumers when their products contain genetically engineered organisms.

"The food we eat has a profound impact on our health," said Koehler, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "People deserve to know what they're eating."

Over the past several decades, biological science and our understanding of genetics has increased in leaps and bounds, empowering scientists to change the DNA of plants and animals. They've used this technology in a variety of ways to help farmers produce more food more easily and cheaply. For example, one of the most common genetic modifications makes crops like corn and soybeans more pest resistant.

However, some people are concerned that genetically engineered food might have an adverse effect on their health. Others are concerned about the effect on the environment.

"This legislation isn't about saying genetically engineered foods are good or bad," Koehler said. "It's just about labeling. We already require food labels to disclose when a product contains dairy or nuts, for example. To me, disclosing genetic engineering is exactly the same."

Koehler intends to put his legislation in a subcommittee and hold further hearings later this year.

"I realize that labeling genetically engineering food is a controversial issue with passionate advocates who make good arguments on both sides," Koehler added. "We need to give them an opportunity to debate the idea in a public forum, so we can all be better informed."

Category: Press Releases

koehler75x75SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) issued the following statement in response to Governor Pat Quinn's budget proposal:

"I honestly don't believe that the governor would sign this budget. Pat Quinn cares too much about this state's children to be serious about cutting education funding by this much.

"What the governor is really doing here is trying to scare the General Assembly into passing pension reform. I agree that we need to do something. I do. We need not only action by the Legislature, but also leadership from the governor to get this done."

Category: Press Releases

After a hearing in Peoria last week, an Illinois Senate committee has directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to write official rules about smoking in outdoor restaurant patios and bar beer gardens.  The hearing was prompted by an incident in which many Peoria-area bars and patrons received smoking tickets for violating the Smoke Free Illinois Act when they thought they were in compliance with the law.  In at least one case, the bar owners had explicitly sought the advice of DPH before they started construction on their beer garden.

“We really need to clarify rules for the police, as well as restaurant and bar owners,” said State Senator Dave Koehler, who has taken a lead role in pushing the issue to the forefront.  “We can’t have Public Health telling bar owners one thing and the police enforcing another.  That’s just not fair for anyone.”

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Category: Press Releases

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