Never Too Early to Learn About Government

On Monday I enjoyed spending time with Mrs. Brix's 4th Grade Class at East Peoria District 86. Visiting area schools and talking to students about lawmaking is always fun and rewarding, but it's extra special when a class of kids who are as young as nine hold their own in a conversation about decision-making. Not to mention: It really makes your day when one of your own kids is in the class! Thanks again to Mrs. Brix, to my son Nicholas, and to all the other incredible students for the very fun, fulfilling experience.


Legislation to Help Gold Star Families

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved my legislation to ensure families of servicemembers do not face additional burdens after losing their loved one in service to our country. The legislation will allow families to terminate their lease without penalty when their loved one is killed in action.
 
I learned of this issue from Kylie Riney, the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. Douglas Riney. She and her two young children needed to move back to Illinois from Texas after her husband was killed in action but the landlord required her to pay penalties for early termination of the lease. 
 
I don't want to see what happened to the Riney family ever happen to a servicemember family in Illinois. When the unthinkable happens and a servicemember is killed in action, their family is left with many difficult decisions, including the need or desire to move. We owe it to our nation's heroes who pay the ultimate price to protect their families, the legislation approved today is one way we can do just that.
Photo courtesy of Matt Dayhoff / Journal Star
The former Hanna City Work Camp stands deserted in 2003 near Hanna City.
Today, the House Executive Committee approved legislation to help Peoria County redevelop the vacant property known as the former Hanna City Work Camp. The legislation sponsored by State Representative Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) will help redevelop the blighted area by allowing the county to permit private investment in the property.

“This bill gives the county more economic opportunities which will assist in clean-up of this blighted site,” said Rep. Unes. “It’s a common sense measure to assist in development and is a win-win for all involved. The unused work camp has been an eye sore for many years. Allowing for private investment should help perk the interest of potential developers.”

The Hanna City Work Camp closed in 2002 and sat vacant for nearly 16 years. The former prison work camp was owned by the State of Illinois and was operated by the Department of Corrections. In 2009, the State conveyed the land over to Peoria County. The 40 acre site has remained vacant due in part because the land is not allowed to receive private investment which is why the county and Rep. Unes are pushing legislation to give the city and county more flexibility to utilize the vacant lot for new development.

Currently, Illinois law only permits Peoria County to redevelop the vacant lot for public use, not private development. The legislation (HB 4319) sponsored by Rep. Unes will allow for private development of the former Hanna City Work Camp.

House Bill 4319 now heads to the House floor for approval.
On Wednesday, the Illinois House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation to ensure families of servicemembers do not face additional burdens after losing their loved one in service to our country. The legislation (HB 4317) sponsored by State Representative Mike Unes (R-East Peoria) will allow families to terminate their lease without penalty when their loved one is killed in action.

Rep. Mike Unes learned of this issue from Kylie Riney, the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. Douglas Riney. She and her two young children needed to move back to Illinois from Texas after her husband was killed in action but the landlord required her to pay penalties for early termination of the lease.

“I don’t want to see what happened to the Riney family ever happen to a servicemember family in Illinois,” said Rep. Unes. “When the unthinkable happens and a servicemember is killed in action, their family is left with many difficult decisions, including the need or desire to move. We owe it to our nation's heroes who pay the ultimate price to protect their families, the legislation approved today is one way we can do just that.”