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."

Category: Latest

eatlocalSPRINGFIELD – A new law sponsored by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) will encourage Illinois residents to buy local by making the first Saturday of each month "Eat Local, Buy Illinois Products Day."

Illinois Products Days will fit into the Illinois Department of Agriculture's larger challenge to get more people to buy Illinois products. According to the department, if each household in Illinois spent $10 on Illinois products each week, the people of Illinois would be reinvesting more than $2.4 billion in the state economy each year.

"When you buy Illinois products, you put money right back into your friends and neighbors' pockets," Koehler said. "People talk a lot about outsourcing – think of this as insourcing."

Several years ago, the General Assembly passed a law creating an Illinois products logo – a special design used to indicate products grown or produced right here in Illinois. Now that it's easy to identify Illinois products, Koehler wants to encourage people to do more.

"Even if it's just once a month, try to go to a restaurant that cooks food raised by local farmers," Koehler said. "Go to a farmers market. Go to a grocery store that labels the food it gets from local producers. There are so many ways to give back to local businesses. Let's create jobs here in Illinois."

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law on Aug. 13.

Category: Press Releases

hunting-deer-mdPEORIA – A new law sponsored by State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) strongly encourages hunters to donate the meat from the game animals they kill if they aren't going to eat it themselves.

"It's very easy for hunters to donate meat to charity if they don't want to eat it themselves or share it with friends and family," Koehler said. "Most responsible hunters already make sure that the animals they kill don't go to waste – we just want to encourage everyone to do the same."

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources operates the highly successful Illinois Sportsmen Against Hunger Program, which allows hunters to donate venison and other meat to food banks and other charities throughout Illinois. The program has provided 3.5 million meals to hungry families. To learn more about the program or to find a local participating meat processor, visit www.dnr.illinois.gov.

"I've seen hunters leave three or four partially butchered deer along the road, in view of everyone that drives by. We hope to encourage hunters to donate deer to the Sportsmen against Hunger program," said Sgt. Jamie Mauler, who works for the department.

Specifically, Koehler's proposal:

  • Prohibits throwing away edible, easily processed meat from game animals that hunters don't want to keep for themselves. This specifically includes unspoiled breast meat of birds and front and back haunches of mammals.
  • Prohibits dumping or abandoning the carcasses of animals killed by hunters on public property (or private property without the permission of the owner).
  • Establishes that violators of this law can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor.
Category: Press Releases

koehler75x75After a court order, months of negotiations, a last-minute veto by the governor and other complications, Illinois finally has joined the other 49 states to allow people to carry concealed weapons – provided they meet a series of carefully constructed safeguards meant to protect the public.

"This is a good day for supporters of the Second Amendment," Koehler said. "Despite some last-minute roadblocks put up by the governor's office, I think we ended up with a very reasonable law that will keep concealed weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill."

The issue moved to the forefront this year after a federal court ruled that Illinois' status as the only state in the union without a concealed carry statute is unconstitutional. Had the legislature not acted, unrestricted concealed carry would have become law. However, home rule municipalities (like Peoria) would have been able to set their own rules governing concealed carry, potentially creating a difficult-to-navigate patchwork of rules that would not have kept the public safety or served the needs of supporters of the Second Amendment who want to take advantage of concealed carry.

(UPDATE: The Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus has a list of frequently asked questions at its website.)

The new law, which will go into effect once the State Police have put in place some important rules and procedures, establishes the following:

  • The State Police shall issue concealed carry licenses to applicants who meet all of the requirements of the law.
  • To qualify, an applicant must:
    • have a FOID card
    • be at least 21 years old
    • not have a conviction for a violent misdemeanor in the past five years
    • not have two or more DUI convictions in the past five years
    • not have a warrant out for his or her arrest or be subject to any prosecution that could disqualify him or her from obtaining a FOID card
    • not have been in residential or court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment within the past five years
  • Applicants must pass a 16 hour training course and pay a $150 fee.
  • If an applicant meets all the criteria for a license, law enforcement may object to an application if they believe that the applicant presents a danger to himself or herself or others. These objections will be reviewed by a seven-member board appointed by the governor.
  • All applications must be approved or denied within 90 days.
  • Licenses will be valid for five years. License holders must take an additional three hours of training and pay a renewal fee to renew their licenses.
  • Concealed weapons cannot be carried in the following locations:
    • schools
    • preschools and child care facilities
    • government buildings
    • courts
    • correctional facilities
    • medical facilities
    • public transportation
    • bars
    • public gatherings (though licensees may pass through to reach their home, workplace or vehicle)
    • special events at which alcohol is served
    • playgrounds
    • parks
    • colleges and universities
    • gambling facilities, including casinos and horse tracks
    • stadiums
    • libraries
    • airports
    • amusement parks
    • museums, zoos and aquariums
    • places prohibited by federal law
    • private property where the owner has posted a sign indicating that firearms are prohibited
  • Concealed weapons can be stored in locked containers in locked vehicles in the parking lots of prohibited locations.
  • Carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.
Category: Press Releases

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Springfield Office:
M113 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120