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LCFB hears legislative update

Patrick Doggett, a deputy director for Congressman Kinzinger, speaks in Pontiac Friday.

PONTIAC – Legislative issues at the county, state and federal levels were covered during the annual Livingston County Farm Bureau Legislative Breakfast on Friday.

State Senator Jason Barickman spoke about the police reform bill in Springfield which he called “alarming.” Barickman acknowledged it will have an impact on Illinois communities. He also looked ahead to the spring legislative session.

“We are going to have a huge debate and hopefully a healthy one on how those dollars are used,” Barickman said.

The senator is worried about more government spending and expects debate on re-districting in Illinois.

“We may see some ethics legislation,” he added.

There are several new faces at the state capitol this year and this is the first time in Barickman’s lifetime that Mike Madigan, former speaker of the House, is not in office. He referred to this as a light at the end of the tunnel.

Patrick Doggett, deputy director for U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, also addressed the group.

“It’s been a quiet few months in D.C. so I don’t have a lot to share,” Doggett joked.

While Kinzinger could not attend the breakfast, Doggett pointed to a crazy few months with an impeachment vote earlier in the year. The Congressman voted in favor of supplemental agriculture bills for direct and indirect funding. He noted the Biden Administration is reviewing the CFAP program and expects a decision in the next few weeks.

Doggett said they are seeing positive movement on an infrastructure plan. He also updated the crowd on the COVID vaccines which the state continues to administer each day. Almost all residents of veterans and nursing homes in the 16th congressional district have already received at least one or both doses of the vaccine. In a related matter, the COVID relief bill was signed into law by the president.

Direct payments of $1400 are provided to individuals and $13.5 billion in funding is given to Illinois. The bill does not include the federal minimum wage increase to $15.00. Around $130 billion was authorized for schools.

Livingston County Board Chair Kathy Arbogast said county department heads and board members have done a great job navigating through the pandemic in the past year.

“It’s been quite a year for everybody,” Arbogast admitted.

Arbogast noted work in the new Health and Education building is on schedule with plans to move in furniture on June 1 and having people in the building by the middle of June. Several employees have expressed their appreciation for the new building.

A county auction is planned for late June with old furniture and vehicles. The county board is in talks with the Elections Committee to downsize the board, although it is not known by how much. County strategic planning talks are planned in the coming weeks.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Livingston County Farm Bureau President Jason Bunting asked Doggett how Congressman Kinzinger is going to represent his district and the choices the district would like to see him make since it is a strongly held Republican area.

Doggett said Kinzinger is in office to do what is right not easiest – alluding to the impeachment vote taken in January for former president Donald Trump.

“The congressman has voted with President Trump over 90 percent,” Doggett said. “It wasn’t just January 6 that made the congressman’s decision to vote on impeachment.”

County Board member Mike Kirkton of Gridley questioned the low vaccination rates in Livingston County while a couple thousand per week are being vaccinated in nearby McLean County.

“We are going to need some assistance somewhere,” noted Kirkton.

He wonders if this is because the state leadership is Democratic.

“I hope we are not playing politics with vaccinations.”

Barickman has talked with health departments across Central Illinois and no one seems to know what is coming or when at the local levels.

“No one can tell me what formula is being used to distribute the vaccines,” Barickman explained.

He believes the governor is creating distractions and will not tell anyone where the vaccine is coming from as additional sites are opening. State Rep. Tom Bennett feels there is a total lack of transparency and direction across the state.

“We’ll continue to ask and continue to find out what’s going on,” Bennett said.


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