Thanks for checking out this week’s edition of “Friess Frame.” As always, it’s an honor to serve as your state representative. I’m writing to you today with some stories, both locally and from across the state. I appreciate you taking the time to read as we work together to make our communities the best they can be.
State Representative David Friess
This past Saturday, I was grateful to hold a successful Shred Event in Columbia. Stay tuned to RepFriess.com for additional details concerning another upcoming Shred Event I will be holding at Red Bud High School on September 30th.
MoDOT to Hold Public Meeting on Chester Bridge
MoDOT will be holding an open-house style meeting on July 19th from 4-6pm at the Catalyst Center, 508 North Main Street in Perryville Missouri for those interested in learning more about the new Chester Bridge. There will be no formal presentation, but participants may attend the meeting at any time during event hours to ask the project team their questions.
The new Chester Bridge will be a three-tower, cable-stayed bridge, just north of the existing structure. Completion is anticipated by the end of 2026.
For those unable to attend in person, the information shared during the meeting will be available at www.modot.org/chesterbridge.
For more information, please contact MoDOT’s Customer Service toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636).
Donate Extra Garden Harvest to Food Pantries
Families maintain and grow a number of fruits and vegetables in their own gardens in Illinois, and in many cases they produce more food than what they can consume. Once the harvest is complete, instead of letting this excess food go to waste, families can consider donating their fresh food to a local food pantry.
There are a number of organizations in Illinois that accept food donations, including churches, local food pantries, larger food banks and the Salvation Army. Residents can use search engine tools online to look up donation centers near them, or consult your local health department. Ampleharvest.org is a non-profit organization that makes it easy for gardeners and farmers to find local food pantries to donate their surplus of fresh produce.
Donations of perishable items are always in need by those pantries that accept them, although these donations also require safe handling procedures such as insulated coolers or bags and prompt distribution. Getting as many questions answered ahead of time will speed up the process and help avoid spoilage and needlessly diverting food waste to landfills. Donations of these items greatly benefit the nutritional intake of families in need.
Donations are not limited to small family gardens, as needed food can be donated to food banks from farmers, distributors, wholesalers, restaurants, etc. The collection of excess fresh foods from farms, gardens and farmers markets is called gleaning, and typically volunteers partner with a farm to glean excess fresh produce and deliver it to a food bank or food pantry.
To learn more about Illinois food pantries, visit illinoisfoodbanks.org or contact your local food bank.
Lawmakers Call for Hearings into New Reports of Abuse and Neglect at Illinois Group Homes and Developmentally Disabled Facilities
State Senator Terri Bryant, State Representative Charlie Meier, and State Representative Dave Severin held a press conference on Wednesday where they issued new demands for joint hearings of the Illinois House and Senate Human Services and Behavioral and Mental Health Committees after news reports surfaced this week detailing horrific instances of abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and torture of individuals living in Illinois-run facilities serving developmentally disabled citizens.
In February 2023, every member of the House and Senate Republican Caucuses signed on to a letter demanding joint committee hearings to investigate reports of abuse and neglect at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center. This week, ProPublica released shocking details of the abuse of residents living in state care at multiple facilities.
Senator Terri Bryant signed the original letter demanding hearings into Choate and participated in Wednesday’s press conference. Bryant said the Pritzker Administration must answer questions.
“Republicans have consistently called for joint, public, bicameral hearings of the committees charged with overseeing our facilities that serve the developmentally disabled to get answers on the record from administration officials as to what is being done to stop these horrific abuses,” Bryant said. “I am now repeating my demand for public hearings, and I believe new leadership is needed in many facilities, especially at Choate.”
State Rep. Charlie Meier has been a vocal advocate for residents, families, and employees of facilities served by or serving facilities like the Warren G. Murray Center in Centralia. Meier said he has a plan to fix systemic issues at the state’s many developmentally disabled facilities and he wishes to work together to achieve results for the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“We have to keep in mind the people who live at Murray Center, the people who live in CILAs across the state, the people who live at Choate, they all have family members and loved ones that value them. We have to show we love and value these most vulnerable citizens of Illinois by ending this culture that is allowing for terrible instances of their abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and outright torture,” Meier said. “I stand ready to work together with the administration and legislative leaders to fix these issues and protect residents living in state care now and into the future. They deserve the best care we can give.”
State Rep. Dave Severin spent years working in his family’s nursing home in his hometown of Benton. Severin was also a participant in the February 2023 press conference. Severin is also a member of the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee.
“We are here today in part because our request for hearings into the abuses at Choate was ignored by the Democrats,” Severin said. “With new and horrific reports of abuse and neglect at multiple facilities throughout the state, we must provide rigorous oversight and accountability, starting with holding immediate House and Senate hearings. The hearings must be open, honest, and transparent, and we need to hear from administration officials, facility officials, and officials from the Department of Human Services. Republicans have put forward a plan to fix many of the issues we are experiencing in this space and will not wait to continue our work to protect these vulnerable citizens.”
Illinois Gun Ban Faces Federal Appellate Court
The controversial law, which many believes violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners, is facing a panel of Seventh Circuit appellate judges. Enacted by a “lame duck” session of the General Assembly in January 2023, the law contains provisions that purport to ban certain types of firearms, firearm fittings, and ammunition in Illinois. Most House Republicans voted against the bill as a violation of the state and federal Constitution. Gov. Pritzker quickly signed the partisan proposal into law. The law was then briefly halted by an injunction, citing constitutional grounds, handed down in April 2023 by federal District Court judge Stephen McGlynn. Judge McGlynn found that the Illinois law was so flawed that it would be unlikely to survive a court case. The current Seventh Circuit case is a consolidated appeal of Judge McGlynn’s decision and certain other cases filed against the controversial law.
Current federal case law, from the U.S. Supreme Court, directs the federal district courts and appellate courts to grant full standing to the Second Amendment rights of individual Americans. Longstanding principles of constitutional law forbid the breach of a constitutional right except in cases of urgent, compelling public interest.
Opponents of the 2023 Illinois gun law have presented evidence to the court that the law goes far beyond the requirements of compelling public interest. Friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed by multiple state Attorney Generals, Second Amendment advocacy groups, and law enforcement groups to encourage the appellate court to strike down the controversial law.
New Six-Year Illinois Transportation Plan
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s Multi-Year Plan, largely funded by motor fuel taxes charged to purchasers at Illinois gas stations, will spend an estimated $41 billion on roads, bridges, and other transportation projects. With almost two-thirds of the six-year total slated for roads and bridge work, IDOT said its priorities are to repair and reconstruct 2,866 miles of roadway and 9.8 million square feet of bridge decking on the State-funded highway system.
The State is responsible for major highway mileage in Illinois, including roads that are marked as “U.S. Highways” and “Interstate highways.” Complex formulas, supervised by the federal Department of Transportation, funnel billions of dollars in federal highway aid to Illinois to create matching funds for work done to federal mandate standards. These formulas encourage the states to create compacts to build bridges across state boundary lines. The six-year plan includes proposals to construct major new highway bridges to Missouri at Quincy, Illinois, and to Kentucky at Cairo, Illinois.
Non-highway transportation is slated to get $14 billion in capital spending, slightly more than one-third of the total. This includes $10 billion for mass transit, almost $2.7 billion for freight and passenger rail, $1.25 billion for aviation, and $190 million for ports and waterways. The historic Illinois Central main line, which runs from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois in southern Illinois, is scheduled to get a major upgrade.