Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: Nov. 21 – 25

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers will return to Springfield next week for the second scheduled week of Veto Session in the hopes of achieving a budget agreement for the state of Illinois.  Meanwhile, public health officials are offering tips on how to stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday and holiday shoppers are encouraged to shop local this Saturday.

2nd Week of Veto Session on Tap

Lawmakers returned to their districts to observe the Thanksgiving holiday this week, but will return to Springfield Nov. 29 when the second week of the scheduled Veto Session convenes in Springfield.

Legislative leaders from the House and Senate, as well as Gov. Bruce Rauner, met three times last week in an attempt to find common ground on the state budget, which the Governor’s Office indicates has a deficit of roughly $5 billion with a bill backlog of nearly $14 billion projected by the end of the Fiscal Year 2016-17. 

The Governor and the four legislative leaders are expected to meet again Nov. 28 to continue talks about how best to address the state’s failing fiscal condition.  Currently, the state is operating on a six-month stopgap budget approved at the end of June, which is set to expire Jan. 1, 2017.

Senate Republicans continue to call on the General Assembly to enact a full-year balanced budget that fully funds schools, keeps vital state services operating to keep our communities safe, and protects all Illinoisans, including the state’s most vulnerable citizens who rely on social services and those that need health care.  Republican lawmakers also stressed the need for passage of structural reforms, which include changes to the state’s workers’ comp laws, redistricting reforms and term limits for elected officials.

Shop local for Small Business Saturday

Holiday shoppers often head to their favorite retailers to take advantage of the “Black Friday” deals following Thanksgiving; however, shoppers are encouraged to “Shop Small” on Saturday, Nov. 26 as part of the “Small Business Saturday” effort.

Small businesses form the backbone of the state’s economy and play a vital role in local communities. Small Business Saturday was established to celebrate local small businesses and the important impact they play in helping Illinois neighborhoods and communities thrive.

Public Health Officials Talk Turkey

According to public health officials in Illinois, it may already be time to take the turkey out of the freezer so that it will be thawed in time for Thanksgiving.  Allow approximately 24 hours for each four to five pounds of turkey when thawed in the refrigerator.  A 20- to 24-pound turkey could take five to six days to thaw.  Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.

“Every year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages, or what is commonly referred to as food poisoning,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  “By adhering to what we call ‘the big four – clean, separate, cook, and chill,’ you can avoid becoming ill and ruining your holidays.”

Here are some helpful tips to stay safe and healthy for Thanksgiving:

Clean – wash hands, cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops before and after preparing each food item;

Separate – keep raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won’t be cooked;

Cook – use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are fully cooked.  Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.  Cook turkey to an internal temperature of 165F; and

Chill – divide leftovers into shallow containers and refrigerate them within two hours.  Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

Whether gathering with family for holiday meals, or spending time with friends and colleagues at office parties and other celebrations, be cautious when eating certain foods.  Foods such as raw oysters, soft-boiled eggs, steak tartare, rare or medium beef, and eggnog, mousse or bread pudding (unless made with pasteurized eggs or an egg substitute), can harbor bacteria that cause food-borne illness.  Apple cider that has not been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill bacteria can also make you sick. 

A good rule of thumb is, make sure hot foods are hot (above 140F) and cold foods are cold (below 40F).  Don’t eat food that has been sitting out for more than two hours if the food is not being kept hot or cold. 

Make buckling up a thanksgiving tradition

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and thousands of motorists take to the roads, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is reminding the public to travel safely as new statewide survey results show a slight decrease in seat-belt usage this year. Through Sunday, IDOT will be partnering with law enforcement throughout Illinois to increase patrols and promote safety as part of the national “Click It or Ticket” and “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaigns.

“Seat belts save lives. We know that buckling up is the best way to protect yourself when traveling in a vehicle,” said Priscilla Tobias, director of IDOT’s Office of Program Development. “Our goal is zero fatalities on Illinois highways, but we need your help. Please make this Thanksgiving an enjoyable, safe time for you and your families by buckling up and refusing to get behind the wheel if you have been drinking.”

New observational surveys by IDOT show that the statewide seat belt usage rate for front-seat occupants dropped from 95.2 percent in 2015 to 93 percent in 2016, despite a state law enacted in 2012 that requires all vehicle occupants to wear seat belts. State data show that an estimated 421 lives were saved in Illinois in 2015 because of proper seat belt and child safety seat use.         

More than half of all traffic fatalities involve someone not wearing a seat belt, according to IDOT statistics. To encourage every motorist to buckle up and drive sober, hundreds of seat belt enforcement zones, roadside safety checks and saturation patrols will take place during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

“The highways will be busy and motorists and passengers are especially at risk if traffic laws are not followed,” said Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz. “Law enforcement agencies across the state will partner to enforce these laws to keep motorists safe over the holiday.”

Through Nov. 20, 974 people died in crashes this year in Illinois, up from 868 at this same point a year ago. If this trend continues, Illinois will experience the highest amount of traffic fatalities in seven years.

Dave Syverson

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