The ringing-in of the New Year on January 1st will also mark the start of 237 new state laws. In a legislative session marked by partisan differences on the budget, several of the new laws adopted highlight what members of the General Assembly can accomplish when they agree to work together. Laws scheduled to take effect include: 

Long-Term Care Facility Electronic Recording (P.A. 99-0430, HB2462)Allows for residents of long term care facilities to use an audio or video surveillance system in his or her room at the resident’s expense.

Elimination of Some Mandatory Sentences (P.A. 99-0069, HB 2471)
Eliminates mandatory sentences of life imprisonment for offenders convicted of crimes committed before the offender turns 18. Also allows courts to use discretion in declining to impose sentencing enhancement based upon the involvement of a firearm in the crime.

Read the full list of new laws taking effect here.
The numbers released on Thursday, December 17 by the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service show that Illinois residents volunteer numbers and time at a rate that exceeds other top-5 states. The numbers, taken from the 2014 Volunteering and Civic Life in America report, included an hour-count of more than 274 million hours of service time volunteered by Illinois residents in 2014.  The service hours were donated by 2.5 million Illinoisans.  Their time, valued at $6.8 billion, helped make Illinois the top-volunteering state out of the most populated states in the top tier of the U.S. census.  Smaller and rural states tended to demonstrate a higher overall rate of volunteer activities than larger ones.

The Serve Illinois numbers were released in cooperation with the national Corporation for National and Community Service.  The CNCS summary for Illinois contains informational data on the current state of volunteering in the Land of Lincoln.  Illinois volunteering activities include tutoring, fundraising, and the collection and distribution of food to the hungry.  Bodies that organize Illinois volunteer work include churches and synagogues, schools, social service agencies, and health-care institutions.  

State Representative Michael McAuliffe recently hosted a food drive at both Ada's Market and Deli and Happy Foods grocery stores. The successful drives, taking place over the course of the last two weeks, garnered well over a dozen bags worth of groceries. The food, which was donated to the New Hope United Methodist and Windy City Community Church Food Pantries, will benefit families that need it most during this holiday season. If you missed out on participating in the drives and are still feeling the holiday giving spirit, email Windy City or New Hope for information on how to volunteer and donate food or money. 
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger on Monday said legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor will allow her office to swiftly process payments for local governments, 911 emergency phone services, Lottery winners and domestic violence shelters.

Approved by the House last week, SB2039 unanimously passed the Senate Monday, and was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner.

"I have directed our staff to process payments for domestic violence shelters, local governments, 911 services and Lottery winners as soon we receive the necessary vouchers," Munger said. "Domestic violence shelters have entered their sixth month without payments and are turning away women and children. Local governments also provide critical services to our families and communities. I am committed to ensuring these organizations and local governments are paid promptly so they can avoid further hardship."

Munger noted that payments for local governments, 911 services, and the Lottery can be made swiftly because the necessary dollars are set aside in independent state funds dedicated to those purposes. However, domestic violence shelter payments come from the state's General Revenue Fund, which currently has a nearly $7 billion bill backlog. To provide relief to those social service organizations, Munger has directed that domestic violence shelter payments be prioritized and paid upon receipt of a voucher from a state agency.

Munger encouraged shelters and other vendors with payment questions to contact the Budget Hotline she established at 1-855-IL-ASK-US. She applauded the General Assembly and Governor for reaching an agreement on the newly authorized funding, and encouraged all involved to build on that momentum.
House and Senate Vote on Appropriation Authority

Last week the House overwhelmingly passed SB 2039, a bill which authorizes appropriations from a number of funds, including the motor fuel tax (MFT) fund, to local municipalities and state agencies. On Monday, the Senate reconvened to vote for the bill. The Governor acted immediately and the bill has now been signed in to law. 

With the holiday season in full swing, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies are offering tips to help people stay safe now and into the new year.

“December can be a fun but hectic time of year,” said IEMA Director James K. Joseph. “Throughout the month, we’ll be offering tips to help people stay safe, as well as provide ideas on gifts that can help friends and family stay safe during all types of emergencies.”

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, its time for ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬ and ‪#‎ILGive‬. #ILGive is a statewide, non-partisan movement to support nonprofit communities in Illinois by increasing individual giving. Last year, they raised over $4 million dollars. This year, over 500 organizations, individuals, and foundations from all over the state have joined the movement to provide creative ways for people in Illinois to give. 

For more information and a list of participating Illinois nonprofits, click here.