MURPHYSBORO, IL – Illinois Senators were back in the State Capitol for another four days of the scheduled legislative session this week, but State Sen. Paul Schimpf’s (R-Waterloo) main focus was in-district.
A range of 7-10 inches of late April rain left much of the 58th Senate District with severe flooding concerns. The Big Muddy River at Murphysboro was the first river to crest. The Mississippi River at Chester will crest just shy of a record high and has caused the Chester River Bridge to be closed for only the fourth time in its 75 years of service. Additionally, perennially flood-prone areas at Grand Tower and the lower Mississippi River bottoms are preparing for a second round of historic flooding in less than two years.
Sen. Schimpf was cautiously optimistic that first responders, local officials, and property owners were able to properly shore up threatened areas (with assistance from Illinois Department of Corrections inmate crews) and prevent catastrophic damage. A state of emergency was declared in Jackson County, which marks a potential first step to seeking higher levels of disaster relief for flood-ravaged units of government, businesses, and possibly individual properties. Sadly, the thresholds for federal government disaster assistance are quite high and the totality of the damage across the region could take another couple of weeks to assess, as rivers are to crest in the coming days. Sen. Schimpf urged residents to keep paying attention to their local media outlets and ESDA for any updates on what localized flood assistance maybe available to the public.
Senator Schimpf also held a town hall meeting in New Athens on Saturday, May 6th. Topics of discussion included veteran suicide and the impact of the budget impasse on local entities like the New Athens Home for the Aged, which rely on state business payments to make their payroll.
Senator Schimpf believes that local town hall meetings provide him with critical insight into the needs of his constituents. He attempts to hold them at various locations in the 58th Senate District on the first Saturday of every month.
Schimpf returns to work on Veterans’ Suicide Task Force
Under the Capitol Dome, Senator Schimpf is the chief co-sponsor of House Bill 2647 to act on some of the recommendations made in the 2016 Illinois Veteran Suicide Task Force Report. "Suicides are increasing nationwide and across all demographics, but some factors linked to their military service increase the vulnerability of our veterans," Schimpf stated. The bill is expected to receive widespread support in the Senate.
Schimpf also voted against what he considered misguided attempts to spend taxpayer money on political campaigns (SB 1424) and prohibit law enforcement officials from upholding federal immigration laws (SB 31). "Sometimes I fear that we are losing touch with reality," Schimpf stated. "On one hand, we claim that we are in a desperate fiscal crisis, yet we spend our limited time debating a scheme to put taxpayers on the hook for the cost of political commercials. Similarly, we have just passed legislation that undermines the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, a document that I spent 24 years of my life living under an oath to defend," Schimpf concluded.