SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate voted today in favor of Senate Bill 1947, a school funding reform measure. The legislation will be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said that he plans to sign it.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, voted against the measure, citing her disagreement with provisions that would create a tax credit for private school scholarship donors and cut programs.

Holmes released the following statement:

“While I agree that Illinois needs to change its education funding system to be more equitable, I could not vote for this version of the reform. I was a strong supporter of the version of this legislation that the Senate passed months ago. The legislation that the Senate approved today has strayed from our initial vision.

“Yet again, the governor has moved the goalposts at the last minute, adding in provisions that would give away $75 million to private schools and diminish driver’s education and physical education. I cast a vote today to protect these programs and reserve public funding for public schools.”

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SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation sponsored by State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, to establish a task force investigating electronic notaries.

“With the technology that we have, it is worth looking into whether or not one should need to see a notary in person anymore,” Holmes said. “This task force will look for inefficiencies in our current system and try to fix them with technology.”

Current Illinois law requires physical presence and proof of identity for individuals attempting to get a document notarized. The task force would investigate alternative verification methods including video or audio conference technology that are already in use elsewhere. The Virginia state legislature passed legislation allowing electronic notarization in 2015.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1459, has been signed into law. It goes into effect immediately.

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St. Charles Hospital, which was recently converted into senior housing with the help of the River Edge Tax Credit.

SPRINGFIELD -- Legislation that would increase business development opportunities in downtown Aurora was recently signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The governor approved a four-year extension of the River Edge Historic Preservation Tax Credit last Friday. State Sen. Linda Holmes (D- Aurora) was the bill’s chief co-sponsor.

“Through bipartisan cooperation, we passed a law that will improve the small business climate in Aurora,” Holmes said. “By extending this tax credit, we are helping job-creating projects to get off the ground while also incentivizing future business development in empty buildings downtown.”

The Historic River Edge Tax Credit was created in 2011 to provide projects with a tax credit for the redevelopment of historic structures in River Edge Redevelopment Zones.  The credit covers 25 percent of the rehabilitation costs for a business in a historic building. Friday’s bill signing preserves the tax credit through 2021.

In Aurora, the credit helped with the redevelopment of St. Charles Hospital into senior housing. Other proposals include transforming the Hotel Arthur and the Stanley Furniture buildings into a mix of residential and commercial properties.

“The River Edge Tax Credit is an important tool for creating jobs and revitalizing the community,” Holmes said. “I appreciate the local leadership and advocates who made the tax credit extension a reality.”

In addition to Aurora, the tax credit is available in Rockford, Peoria, Elgin and East St. Louis.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1783, is effective immediately.

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SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a bill banning the use of elephants in traveling exhibitions including circuses. The measure was sponsored by State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora.

“African and Asian elephants are endangered species,” Holmes said. “Traveling circuses are not able to properly care for elephants and as a result, elephant exhibitions in Illinois have been found to be in violation of the Federal Animal Welfare Act several times. Allowing these inhumane practices to continue would be irresponsible and poor stewardship of such impressive animals.”

Supported by the Humane Society, the ban on traveling elephant exhibitions will put an end to a practice that has been dying out in recent years due to pressure from the public. The legislation would ban elephants in traveling exhibitions. It would not ban elephants in zoos or any other permanent institution that ensures adequate conditions for the animals.

"For too long, elephants used in circuses have endured cruel training, constant confinement, and deprivation of all that is natural to them,” said Marc Ayers, state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “The public has come to see that these animals are victims, not willing performers. Illinois has taken a monumental step in ending this outdated form of entertainment and we urge other cities and states to follow suit.”

Senate Bill 1342 was signed into law by Gov. Rauner on Friday. The law will take effect starting January 1, 2018.

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