Thank You for a Successful Senior Fair (VIDEO)
Rep. Friess and Sen. Bryant to Host Empowering Seniors: A Round Table Discussion Event
After hosting a successful Senior Fair together, I’m teaming up with Senator Terri Bryant again to host “Empowering Seniors: A Round Table Discussion.” This event will be a dynamic Q&A session on the topics of managing rising costs, financial literacy, accessing resources, and more.
The event will be held Wednesday, August 30th at Red Bud Regional Hospital, 325 Spring St. in Red Bud from 10-11am.
Space is limited! Call 618-222-2561 to reserve your seat. I hope to see you there!
Statement on Illinois Supreme Court Gun Ban Ruling
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to uphold legislation enforcing a gun ban in Illinois. I released the following statement following the ruling:
“Right from the start, myself and fellow House Republicans voiced concerns about the constitutionality of the sweeping weapon ban proposed by Illinois Democrats. Rather than targeting law-abiding citizens, Democrats should concentrate on enforcing existing laws, prosecuting criminals fully, enhancing penalties on criminals that commit crimes with firearms, and supporting law enforcement. Instead, the Democrats eliminated cash bail, which handcuffs law enforcement. Then, they passed this gun ban, which missed the mark entirely. The bill burdens responsible gun owners without addressing the root causes of violent crime.
HB3456 Signed into Law
This spring legislative session, I put forth HB3456, a bill to protect and develop the World Shooting and Recreational Complex, a Department of Natural Resources facility in Sparta, IL. Last week, I’m excited to announce that that bill was signed into law. This recreational facility is owned by the Department of Natural Resources, who can no longer afford to maintain the property.
The Shooting Complex is an estimated 1,600-acres, which includes 746 RV campsites, 120 trap shooting fields, and a 34,000 square foot events center. Sadly, these resources are only fully utilized about 4 weeks out of the entire calendar year. With the proper resources, management, and strategy behind it, this facility could serve as a huge economic boon to the community.
The facility was completed in 2006 at a construction cost of $31.5 million. In its current, underutilized state, the Complex’s total projected revenue falls short of the total amount the state appropriated to the facility by more than $1.5 million. Instead of abandoning this facility, steps can be made to fully utilize its potential and turn it into an enormous financial success for the community.
I’m thrilled at the news that HB3456 was signed into law. The World Shooting Complex is a Southern Illinois gem; unfortunately, the facility is under utilized which translates into unrealized economic gains for its citizens and the region. HB3456 is an attempt to fully capitalize on what the World Shooting Complex has to offer, and that it grows and becomes a huge economic boon to Sparta and its surrounding communities. I believe that a private entity, one designed to make money, will fully utilize the potential of this facility and make it something even more special for everyone.
Federal Court Grants Injunction Against New Illinois Pregnancy Crisis Center Bill
The bill, which has been signed into law as P.A. 103-270, is stayed by the statewide injunction and cannot be enforced. The bill purports to regulate how crisis pregnancy centers operate in Illinois. A crisis pregnancy center is a free-standing facility that offers dual supports to expectant mothers and to their families, including their unborn children.
The district court, sitting in the Northern District of Illinois (Rockford), issued the stay and commented, “SB 1909 is both stupid and very likely unconstitutional. It is stupid because its own supporter admitted it was unneeded and was unsupported by evidence when challenged.” The legislation is a “blatant example” of a unit of government taking steps to violate the freedom of speech and expression on the part of the persons who lead, staff, and provide financial support to pregnancy crisis centers of this type. The bill was drafted by the office of Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
The bill would have imposed numerous silences, and mandated warnings, upon Illinois crisis pregnancy centers. Parts of the law would have ordered these centers to say certain things to their visitors and to prospective recipients of crisis center counseling, and other parts would have told them there were other things they could not say. Violations of these orders would have been punishable as violations of the Consumer Fraud and Business Practices Act.
In the issuance of the preliminary injunction, the court found that the Illinois bill regulates speech in Illinois, and the restriction on the speech is based on the content of the speech being regulated. The court determined that the Illinois bill is unlikely to survive the constitutional challenge that has been filed against it, and must therefore be stayed in its entirety. The lawsuit to strike down the Illinois bill is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates vs. Raoul. The injunction was handed down by Judge Iain Johnston on Thursday, August 3. Litigation is expected to continue while the injunction remains in place.
After this news broke, I issued the following statement:
“I am proud to stand with my fellow House Republicans in their resolute opposition to SB1909, which we have consistently contended infringes upon our Constitutional right to free speech. The remarks made by US District Judge Johnston aptly highlight the alarming violation of the First Amendment that this bill represents. It is crucial to recognize that crisis pregnancy centers play a vital role in assisting women and serving as an invaluable resource.”
Illinois Wine Industry Thriving and Continues to Grow
With at least 165 wineries and over 100 miles of wine trails, the wine industry in Illinois is thriving and the growth has been exponential in the last 30 years. Illinois is now the 12th-largest wine producing state in the country, which is remarkable considering there were only 12 wineries in the entire state in 1997. Award winning wines in Illinois are made from Native American, French Hybrid and Vinifera grapes, as well as a local fruit. Rose wine is the official wine of Illinois.
The number of wineries in Illinois exploded in the 2000s, climbing to 27 in 2001, 63 in 2004, 77 in 2006, 105 in 2011 to now 165 and counting in 2023 according to the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Alliance (IGGVA). Wine-making dates back to 1691 in Illinois in an area just north of what is now Peoria. French descendants built a fort in the area, and the village surrounding it contained a winepress. Vineyards and wineries increased rapidly in the 1850s, and by 1868 there were approximately 225,000 gallons of wine being produced in Illinois. By 1880, over 3,000 acres of grapes were planted and the state was producing over one million gallons of wine, and by 1900 Illinois was the fourth largest wine-producing state in the nation.
Then along came Prohibition in 1919, and that brought almost all wine production to a halt. During this period of time, which lasted 14 years, some vineyards continued to grow table grapes while others uprooted their vines to plant corn and soybeans and never went back to wine production once Prohibition ended in 1933. During Prohibition, the Baxter brothers established the Gem City Vineland Company and remained in business by selling grapes to northern markets for personal wine making and consumption. Once Prohibition ended, the Baxter family obtained a wine manufacturing license and established the first bonded winery in Illinois. Baxter Vineyard and Winery in Nauvoo remains Illinois’ oldest operating winery and is run by a fifth generation of the Baxter family.
The wine industry did not begin to recover much from Prohibition in Illinois until the late 1970s, following a 1976 law that was passed that allowed wineries to sell wine to consumers on site. In the 1980s and 1990s wineries were established in the north, central and southern parts of the state, and in the early 2000s the Shawnee Hills region in Jackson County in deep southern Illinois became one of the largest grape growing regions in the state due to its heightened elevation, well-draining soil and summer breezes that reduced fungal infestation.
And the explosion of wine-making facilities, vineyards and tasting rooms has also brought an increase in quality. At the annual Illinois State Fair Wine Competition, just over 10 percent of wines submitted received a gold or double gold award in 2009. By 2021, that number increased to over 25 percent.
I’m excited for the new economic opportunities possible in light of Illinois’ growing wine industry. Here in Red Bed we have the beautiful Pour Vineyard, a definite highlight of the rich varieties of wine being produced in southern Illinois. As the wine industry continues to grow here, I see enormous benefits incoming for our economy, both locally and state-wide.
Current Crop Report Indicates Drought Worries Lessening
Heavy rains have fallen over much of Illinois in recent weeks. The summer showers have saved some Illinois farm fields that had become dry and dusty. As of Sunday, August 6, 58% of Illinois’ 2023 corn was rated good-to-excellent, up from 49% one week earlier. In the same weekly report, 58% of Illinois’s 2023 soybeans were rated good to excellent, up from 46% from one week earlier.
The heavy summer rains have altered the current crop forecast. Illinois topsoil moisture supply had previously been measured as short. On August 6, however, moisture was measured as 59%
“adequate,” while 11% of the fields reported “surplus” moisture with water standing in fields. The skies were generous over Central Illinois, while some parts of Northern Illinois continued to report drought conditions. The Illinois crop progress report, which is based on reports from participating farmers, is revised weekly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Partisan Study Underway to Look at Possible new Design for the Flag of Illinois
Like many U.S. states, Illinois has an official State flag with a complex emblem. The Illinois flag is a white banner that has a version of the Great Seal of Illinois sewn into it. The flag has an eagle, a rising sun, a scroll with the State motto, an olive branch, key dates of Illinois history, the word “Illinois,” and other elements. Many flag experts believe that a good flag design is one that has as few elements as possible and can be recognized from far away. Based on this principle, Illinois’s flag has gotten some ratings that indicate that Illinois could do better.
The Illinois General Assembly has enacted SB 1818, the Illinois Flag Commission Act. The Act creates a new, unpaid 22-member commission to guide public outreach for the possible creation of a new State of Illinois flag. After extensive public consultation, the Commission is directed to select a list of no more than 10 proposed flag designs. The list, and accompanying recommendations, shall be reported to the General Assembly on or before December 3, 2024.
A new Illinois flag, if it begins to fly, should represent all of Illinois. Unfortunately, the Flag Commission Act was set up in such a way as to give the Democrats majority control over the process of studying and selecting designs for a new flag. The Illinois Flag Commission Act was signed into law on Monday, August 7.