Latest News

Dear Friend,
As you may know, in my previous career, I was an administrator for 20 years serving at several different Southern Illinois correctional facilities. I am passionate about issues facing the Illinois Department of Corrections and I believe I bring a unique set of skills and experiences when it comes to the creation of policies that affect the Department. 

This week, I requested to substitute in for a meeting of the House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee. This Committee is responsible for budgetary items that involve the State's Department of Corrections and the State's Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Illinois currently operates five Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. The title of "Illinois Youth Center" might be more familiar to Southern Illinoisans, as Harrisburg is currently home to one of the facilities that is still in operation. I have used this space many times throughout my tenure as your State Representative to address the error that Pat Quinn made when he shuttered the IYC in my hometown of Murphysboro, causing job losses and overcrowding at other juvenile justice facilities. 

Tuesday's hearing focused on a recent spike in violence at Illinois Youth Center facilities. Over the last couple of years, multiple news reports have detailed inmate on staff and inmate on inmate assaults at IYC's across Illinois. Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice has (foolishly, in my opinion) implemented a number of reforms over the past several years that I believe have led to this rise in violence, including eliminating the use of solitary confinement as punishment, except for in very limited circumstances. My conversations with correctional officers that work at these facilities have led me to believe that those reforms have left IYC staff members without the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

In fact, in 2016, the Illinois Youth Center at Harrisburg reported more inmate on staff assaults than all of the other Illinois Youth Centers combined.

Clearly we have a problem in both adult and juvenile facilities regarding staff assaults. Nationally, there is a movement toward more programming and mental health treatment to improve outcomes for inmates. However, this goal cannot be accomplished with current staffing levels. Part of my work to enact a budget for the State was to improve staffing levels at correctional facilities so that the tide of these problems can start to be stemmed.

The positive takeaway from the hearing was that communication between management, staff, and outside interest groups is improving. The first step is that everyone hear and understand each others' needs, wants, and goals. The Chair of the committee has pledged to hold additional hearings in the coming year to continue this progress. Here is the bottom line: The current level of violence taking place against the men and women serving in the Department of Corrections at both Youth and adult facilities is unacceptable and can not be tolerated any more. I will continue to monitor this situation and keep you informed in the coming weeks and months.

Illinois Kicks Off Bicentennial Year with Flag Raising Ceremonies
On Monday, I was honored to join officials from the city of Carbondale as they raised an Illinois Bicentennial Flag over city hall. 

The Illinois Bicentennial Commission encouraged flag raising ceremonies be held in cities and at County courthouses across the State. 

Here are some photos from the event in Carbondale! 

Here's a photo of the Carbondale event. If you want to learn more about Illinois' Bicentennial Celebration, please visit Illinois200.com


Carbondale Firefighters Collecting Toys for Tots 
The spirit of charity and giving is alive and well in Southern Illinois once again this year. I was so heartened to see a news report on KFVS Channel 12 this past week detailing efforts by the Carbondale Fire Department and the US Marine Corps to collect toys for children in need this Christmas. I was so moved by the story that I couldn't help but share. Please click the link below to watch the video. 

Carbondale firefighters and Marines collect Toys for Tots

If you wish to donate new, unwrapped toys this Christmas you may drop off donations at the Carbondale Fire Department located at 401 N. Glenview in Carbondale, the Benton Fire Department, or at Black Diamond Harley Davidson in Marion. Last year, Toys for Tots collected more than 10,000 toys for  3,000 children in Southern Illinois!

Stay Connected!
My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!
Dear Friend,

This was a very busy week throughout the 115th district. This week's e-news covers a visit by the Japanese Consul General to Southern Illinois, a groundbreaking in Bluford, a nativity and tree lighting ceremony in DuQuoin and an update on efforts to reopen the Murphysboro Illinois Youth Center as an adult re-entry facility. Thank you for reading!

Japan Consul General Visit
On Wednesday, I joined Governor Rauner, Senator Schimpf and Representative Dave Severin, as well as Japan's Consul General Naoki Ito and his delegation, Jefferson County Board Chairman Steve Draege and Mt. Vernon Mayor John Lewis as well as representatives from the Jefferson County Development Corporation (JCDC) for tours of Magnum Steel Works, Continental Tire, and Rend Lake College.

The tours were meant to highlight commerce and educational facilities in Southern Illinois to raise awareness and hopefully spur on investment from Japanese firms in Southern Illinois. This kind of effort will help create jobs and grow our region's economy. I want to personally thank and applaud Jonathan Hallberg of JCDC for his excellent work in bringing the Consul General to the region and for coordinating a fantastic and successful day. Thank you Jonathan!


To read more on the visit please check out the links below:
Governor Speaks at Luncheon for Japanese Consul General

Boosting the Illinois Economy with Workforce Education

Rauner visits Rend Lake College to talk business developments with Japan's consul general

Bluford High School Ground Breaking Ceremony
On Tuesday, I was thrilled to join Bluford Mayor Mike Bullard and officials from Webber Township High School for a groundbreaking ceremony. The ceremony celebrated the start of construction on a $6 million addition to the high school. The 30,900 square feet addition is expected to be finished in Winter of 2018. Thank you to everyone in Bluford for the invitation. I look forward to touring the new addition next year!



Governor Comments on Reopening of Murphysboro IYC 
Since taking office, I have made reopening the shuttered Murphysboro Illinois Youth Center a top priority. I announced legislation to reopen the facility back in November of 2015. Since then, the work to re-purpose the facility has been happening and this week we got an update from Governor Rauner on the future of opening the facility. I was pleased to hear Governor Rauner's response to questions from reporters on the topic when he was in Southern Illinois this week.

He said, "I'm pushing this fast. I want it open yesterday. I'm going to push as much as I can."

I couldn't agree more! I will continue to push this issue hard and use my platform to raise  awareness about the importance of reopening this facility to provide jobs for Southern Illinoisans and help reduce prison overcrowding, increase public safety, and reduce recidivism.

You can read more on this story by following the link below:
Governor Rauner Says He Wants IYC in Murphysboro Repurposed Now

DuQuoin Christmas Tree and Nativity Scene Lighting
I was blessed to bring my husband Rick along to a special event this week in DuQuoin. The annual nativity and tree lighting ceremony was an absolute success. I saw many smiling faces and enjoyed the time spent with leaders and members of the community of DuQuoin. What a special and memorable evening for all! So much community pride in DuQuoin!


Stay Connected!
My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!

Murphysboro....State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) is urging local residents to get in to the holiday spirit this year by shopping local as a part of Small Business Saturday. The promotion is an annual holiday shopping event organized by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

"'Shopping Small' has a big impact on local economies," Bryant said. "Every dollar spent at local small businesses turns over in the local economy several times which leads to more job creation and greater prosperity for small, family owned businesses."

Bryant is using the occasion of Small Business Saturday, which takes place this year on Saturday, November 25th this year to make constituents aware of "Shop Small" promotions taking place throughout the 115th district and in other parts of Southern Illinois.

The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a program called "Keep the Cheer Here", which gives local shoppers a game card to get stamped at five or more Jefferson County businesses between November 25 and December 2. The cards can be picked up at any participating business in Jefferson County. Participants will be given a chance to win cash prizes of $100, $150, or $200 in the Cash Bash drawings to be held following the end of the Downtown Mount Vernon Christmas Parade on December 2nd.

Another effort, called "Shop Southern Illinois" features fifteen area Chambers of Commerce and several regional businesses that have teamed up to encourage Southern Illinoisans to do a majority of their holiday shopping in the region, rather than traveling out of the area or shopping online. The use of the hashtag #IBUYSI is being encouraged by Shop Southern Illinois for shoppers to share what they have purchased at local businesses on social media platforms.

Southern Illinois residents can learn more about the promotion by visiting the Shop Southern Illinois Facebook page at Facebook.com/ShopSouthernIllinois.

"This holiday season I really want to encourage the people of Southern Illinois to put an emphasis on buying items from local retailers," Bryant said. "These 'Shop Small' promotions can have a big impact. I am happy to help spread the word and increase awareness of these promotions to help increase participation."

Bryant also noted some important statistics regarding small business economic impact. She noted that there are currently over 1 million small businesses in Illinois that employ 2.4 million people. Small businesses account for 99.6% of Illinois businesses which means that 46% of Illinoisans are employed by a small business.

####

Murphysboro....State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) has been named as one of 17 House Republican members to the recently created House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment. The task force was formed as a result of HR 687, which passed unanimously during the final week of the 2017 fall Veto Session.

"I want to thank House Republican Leader Jim Durkin for naming me to this important task force," Bryant said. "I have been very disturbed by the allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties that have been leveled at sitting members of the legislature, staff, and  lobbyists that are involved in working at the Capitol. This issue needs to be studied and we need to have rock solid policies in place to deal with these abuses."

The task force will be made up of members of both parties from both the Illinois House and Senate. Bryant says the task force will study not just sexual harassment, but also work-related sexual discrimination.

"Women make up a large percentage of the work force both in Springfield and throughout the state," Bryant said. "The playing field at work should be fair and equal, and discrimination against someone because of their sex should not be tolerated in our institutions. I am looking forward to getting started on studying this issue and pushing solutions to change the culture in Springfield. This task force is just one more way to shine the light of attention on the important topic of sexual harassment and discrimination."

####

Dear Friend,

This week I spent a lot of time traveling throughout the district, meeting with constituents, and attending events. I had the pleasure of joining students at Spring Garden Elementary school in Jefferson County as part of the Illinois Principals' Association's Principal for a Day promotion.

This is the 5th time I have served as Principal for a Day in area schools. I have learned a lot from teachers, students, and the administrations at several schools across the district. Nothing quite compares though to being able to have lunch with my granddaughter as part of my "official duties".

Here's a video of us having fun in her class!

Now, on to some more news.

Shotgun Deer Hunting Season Begins this Weekend!
Shotgun deer hunting season began yesterday, Friday November 17th. Thousands of southern Illinoisans head out early in the morning across our state to take part in this annual tradition.

With the increased activity, deer are on the run. Illinois State Police officials are urging motorists to use caution and be extra alert for deer crossing highways and country roads.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has published a "Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety." guide. The picture below explains more. Please practice gun safety and safe hunting out there and enjoy some of the world's BEST deer hunting in Southern Illinois!


Ameren Warns Against Scams
If you tuned in to Southern Illinois TV news this week, you likely heard that Ameren is pushing to educate customers about various scams that are targeting residential and business customers. Here's a clip from a recent press release:

"As part of its campaign, more than 100 Ameren Illinois employees will be visiting several small retail and commercial family businesses in Belleville, Carbondale, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria and Quincy to generate overall awareness and provide these customers with useful tips for identifying and preventing utility scams. Ameren Illinois employees visiting with businesses will have their Ameren ID badges in plain view."

This is very important information to retain, as identity thieves and other criminals work to scam money from unwitting businesses and residential customers. Here are some red flags to look out for, again from Ameren's press office:

Threat to disconnect. Scammers may aggressively tell the customer the utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour. Ameren Illinois sends disconnect notices through the mail and always attempts to work with the customer on a solution before shutting off power.

Requests for personal information, such as social security numbers and bank accounts, as well as particulars about your Ameren Illinois bill. You should only share personal information in conversations you initiate.

Requests to pay with a prepaid card. Scammers instruct the customer to make payment with a prepaid card, which are widely available at retail stores. When the customer calls back, the scammer asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.

Suspicious phone numbers. Scammers often call or ask to be called back at a number with a local area code, but not a number that belongs to Ameren Illinois.

If you suspect that you have been contacted by an imposter, you should hang up the phone or close the door and call Ameren immediately at (800) 755-5000.

Sexual Harassment Task Force Names Members
This week I was named as one of 17 House Republican members to the recently created House Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment. The task force was formed as a result of HR 687, which I supported and which passed unanimously during the final week of the 2017 fall Veto Session.

I want to thank House Republican Leader Jim Durkin for naming me to this important task force. I have been very disturbed by the allegations of sexual harassment and other improprieties that have been leveled at sitting members of the legislature, staff, and  lobbyists that are involved in working at the Capitol. This issue needs to be studied and we need to have rock solid policies in place to deal with these abuses.

The task force will be made up of members of both parties from both the Illinois House and Senate. Bryant says the task force will study not just sexual harassment, but also work-related sexual discrimination.

Women make up a large percentage of the work force both in Springfield and throughout the state. The playing field at work should be fair and equal, and discrimination against someone because of their sex should not be tolerated in our institutions. I am looking forward to getting started on studying this issue and pushing solutions to change the culture in Springfield. This task force is just one more way to shine the light of attention on the important topic of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Stay Connected!My office in Mt. Vernon is open Monday through Friday and my office in Murphysboro is open Monday through Thursday, each from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can also contact me directly through the Contact Form on my website at www.repbryant.com - Your opinions on important topics facing the State of Illinois are invaluable to me. Keep them coming!

Dear Friend,

Honoring our Nation's Veterans - A brief history of Veterans Day
The State of Illinois closed its offices on Friday, November 10th in observance of Veterans Day. This week, I was honored to participate in ceremonies in Waltonville and Woodlawn to commemorate the day of remembrance. In the United States, we observe both Memorial Day and Veterans Day. You may be unfamiliar with the differences between the two days, so I want to take this opportunity to share a brief bit information that I found while researching Veterans Day this week.

While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.

I want to also say a sincere THANK YOU to all who have served. Please join me and thank a veteran that you meet today!

Veto Session Wrap Up
The second week of Veto Session 2017 ended with a flourish of activity on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Let's get right to it.

Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Capitol
Many of you are probably aware that there have been a lot of news reports that have focused on the issue of sexual harassment in Springfield. A female lobbyist even appeared in a committee hearing last week and directly accused a sitting State Senator of sexual harassment and inappropriate use of power to stop her legislation from moving forward.

After more than a week of rumors, speculation, and news reports regarding multiple complaints of unethical behavior by legislators and their staffs, action to address these issues began taking place.

For example, last Saturday, the four legislative leaders filled the vacant Office of the Legislative Inspector General with former Federal prosecutor Julie Porter. As the Legislative Inspector General, she is charged with investigating claims of unethical and inappropriate behavior by legislators and their staffs. That's a good thing for Illinois government. The office was vacant for way too long. It shouldn't have taken a sexual harassment crisis to get the Speaker to agree to appoint someone to investigate claims of wrongdoing in State government, but now that we have someone in place we should expect to see movement to clean up a backlog of cases that include more than 2 dozen complaints.

I also voted Yes on SB 402, a sweeping package of new regulations that seek to address the issue of sexual harassment by legislators and their staffs. The bill will establish a confidential hotline for individuals that wish to file reports of sexual harassment. The toll-free number will be run by the Illinois Department of Human Rights and will help connect people to counseling services and advice on filing complaints with the proper authorities. It will be open to state employees, as well as residents who work in the private sector. The bill also requires legislators and their staffs to take yearly sexual harassment training. I myself participated in a training held on Wednesday for Republican lawmakers.

It is my hope that the actions taken this week, in addition to the massive amount of attention on the issue of sexual harassment will help to change the culture in Springfield so that victims of this type of behavior no long have to live in the shadows with no recourse.

Comptroller Begins to Pay Down Illinois' Massive Bill Backlog
This week, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced that she will be using proceeds from Illinois' recent General Obligation bond sale to begin paying down a major portion of the state's current $16.7 billion backlog. It is critical to note that this action will stop the clock on a mountain of interest payments accruing on Illinois' late bills, some dating back as far as 2015.

The bills will be prioritized by those bills eligible for federal matching funds first in order to maximize the revenues available from the $6 billion bond sale. This action will significantly reduce the state's record bill backlog and end the accrual of interest penalties which in some cases are as high as 12%.

The state owes an estimated $900 million in late payment interest penalties on its bill backlog. The bond sale effectively refinances future interest costs on the state's existing debt, saving taxpayers billions of dollars over the next decade. There is still a long, hard road ahead of us, but this is a vital first step toward smart planning for FY2019 and beyond.

In total, the Office of the Comptroller expects to receive about $6.48 billion in bond proceeds, including a $480 million premium from the sale on top of the $6 billion initially offered, an indicator of the strong market demand for the bonds.

About $2.5 billion will be spent immediately on unpaid medical bills and close to $4 billion will be used to pay down unpaid state health insurance claims owed to medical providers in the coming days. Over the next several weeks, an additional $2 billion in federal matching funds will be applied to state medical bills.

Through the use of federal matching funds, it is expected this will turn a $6.48 billion bond offering into a nearly $9 billion investment which will help our state's struggling healthcare system and medical providers, who in recent years have had to turn to third parties for loans just to stay afloat.

Governor Declares Harvest Emergency
Early this week, Governor Rauner declared a statewide harvest emergency to assist farmers and grain handlers who are struggling to deal with the delays caused by recent heavy rains.

Moving corn and other crops in a timely and efficient manner affects the bottom line of hard-working farmers. This declaration is an appropriate response to an urgent need and I applaud the Governor for taking this action. 

The declaration permits drivers of trucks carrying agricultural commodities over state highways to obtain a free permit to exceed gross vehicle weight limits by 10 percent. Local authorities may also waive the permit requirement at their discretion. The emergency declaration is in effect for 45 days beginning November 5th.

The Illinois Department of Transportation already is mobilizing the permitting process and notifying law enforcement agencies throughout the state. More information is available at https://truckpermits.dot.illinois.gov


Voting YES on Property Tax Relief
On Wednesday, I voted YES on legislation that would provide much-needed property tax relief to Illinois homeowners. Senate Bill 851 would provide property tax relief and level the playing field with Cook County when it comes to property taxes. High property taxes are among the biggest concerns of working families and seniors in my district. I hear from folks all the time demanding relief.

Senate Bill 851 puts Southern Illinois on a more level playing field with Cook County by increasing the senior homestead exemption to $8,000 and the general homestead exemption to $10,000 statewide. It also allows voters in Downstate counties the flexibility to choose whether or not they wish to enact a two-year property tax freeze.

I was proud to support legislation that will provide real property tax relief to my constituents and treat all homeowners fairly.  Senate Bill 851 passed the Illinois House Wednesday on a vote of 75-32-1 and was sent back to the Illinois Senate for final action. If the Senate concurs with the House amendment, the bill will be sent to Governor Rauner for his signature.