Guest Column: State legislature agenda update

The 95th General Assembly has taken on a busy legislative agenda in Springfield. As the author and chief sponsor of House Bill 0272, I was especially pleased to announce this important bill’s passage. The bill, now pending in the Senate, would assist National Guardsmen and Reservists with buying homes upon their return to Illinois after fighting in the Global War on Terror. Ensuring that these soldiers can secure housing upon their returns is not only our privilege, but our duty.

In other Capitol news, the House of Representatives recently held a rare session of the Committee of the Whole to address the electric rate increases. We went until 2:30 a.m. listening to testimony from members of the Illinois Commerce Commission, officials from ComEd and Ameren, residents, business owners and local officials. I again voted to support an extension of the freeze because I know the impact of the rate increase is both deep and far-reaching, but I still hope to see compromise legislation. I encourage the governor and the president of the Senate to put aside their political differences and allow us to relieve the burden of these skyrocketing rates.

Most recently, I’ve been shepherding my Youth Protection From Tobacco legislation through House committees. The bill, HB 0274, would allow minors who are caught smoking to attend a smoker’s education or youth diversion program in lieu of fines or community service. As a former educator, I know it’s important to back up our efforts with the possibility of fines and community service; I also know that preventing our children from smoking is one of the best public services we, as parents and community members, can provide.

While the bill has strong bi-partisan support, I was surprised that the American Lung Association and the Cancer Society stood in opposition to the bill. Their reasoning, that we should not punish our children for smoking, completely disregards the treatment offered by smoker’s education and youth diversion programs. Furthermore, both organizations are failing to recognize the preventive measures offered by my bill. Nonetheless, I will continue to hash out the differences and work to advance this crucial piece of legislation.

For assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 411 S. State St. in Belvidere. You may also call (815) 547-7771.

Ron Wait represents the 68th Representative District in Illinois.

from the April 11-17, 2007, issue

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