033122CM0492 rSPRINGFIELD – More members of Gold Star families would be eligible to receive dedicated license plates under legislation sponsored by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) that advanced out of the Senate Thursday.

“Behind every brave service member who answers the call of duty is a family who makes great sacrifices as well,” Ellman said. “When a life is lost in the line of action, those families are left with memories and the thanks of a grateful nation.”

House Bill 5078 expands the current eligibility list for Gold Star Family license plates to include stepchildren, adopted children and half-siblings of veterans who lost their lives serving in a branch of the United States Armed Forces, and waives the registration fee for children in Gold Star Families. The legislation also aligns existing language regarding eligibility for a Gold Star lapel button with language used by the Department of Defense.

“Gold Star Families deserve every ounce of thanks and recognition we can afford them,” Ellman said. “I’m proud to advance this legislation in acknowledgement of their sacrifices and bravery.”

Having passed out of both chambers, House Bill 5078 now awaits further action.

Operation HerStory Mattingly TWFor Women's History Month, we will be featuring some of the brave women whose stories will be shared during our Women's History Month Panel. Lisa Mattingly was a Military Police in the United States Army. She served from November 1974 to October 1977.

On her service: "I did regular police work and took care of a lot of misbehaving soldiers. I participated in reforger every year doing maneuver damage and led a lot of convoys and directed a lot of traffic the tanks would get real close trying to scare you. I learned a lot in the service and it was mostly a good experience, but I outlasted a lot of women and that was sad.

Following her time in the Army: "I was a strong woman back then, but when I left the Army it was hard. At that time it was different; the military was not respected and had some difficult times. When I got out, I still served through working for USPS, but the USPS also has problems and I outlasted a lot of women there, too.

"I became very depressed, and I feel women still have a hard time. The "good old boys" can make it very difficult."

On Operation HerStory: "Operation HerStory was the most wonderful experience in my life; just the whole experience of being cared for and cared about."

On how her service impacts her life today: "Today I am retired from the USPS. Thanks to the VA and the help I have gotten there, I do okay with my depression. Times are not all good, but at least they are not all bad."

On what she would like the community to know about her experience as a woman in the military: "Community goes in waves. Sometimes the military is respected and then not. In World War II, most everyone served that was a community

"Vets that don’t have that comunity feel alone and that they don’t fit in. The VA cannot do it all, community is what brings health to your life. Bring back community."

032922HAO013531 rSPRINGFIELD – A measure initiated by local students to establish Dolostone as the official rock of the State of Illinois was advanced out of the Senate by State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville).

“Exceptional young people from across the state came together to bring forth this legislation,” Ellman said. “They saw a fantastic learning opportunity in front of them and took full advantage—and they deserve to have their voices heard.”

House Bill 4261 was brought to the General Assembly by students from Pleasant Dale School in Burr Ridge and Maplebrook Elementary School in Naperville who discovered Illinois did not have a state rock. The students took it upon themselves to interview regional geology scholars, visit museums and do their own research. They then developed a ballot with three choices and asked schools across Illinois to vote on a state rock. Dolostone was the winner.

Dolostone is a sedimentary rock that underlies nearly all of Illinois, with the exception of the northernmost part of the state. It helps enrich soil across the state by providing valuable nutrients for plant growth, and caused a major mineral rush in Galena, Ill. in the early 1800s.

In addition to its natural abundance throughout the state, Dolostone plays a significant role in Illinois through its utilization in many important structures. Most notably, 3,300 exterior dolomite stones were used in the construction of the Old Illinois State Capitol. The quarry the stones were sourced from is now under Lake Springfield.

“Anyone is capable of creating change, and the engaged and curious students who crafted this legislation have proven just that,” Ellman said. “Since they helped us designate our state tree and flower over 100 years ago, our students have been a cornerstone in our state’s history and heritage.”

The legislation, having passed out of both chambers, now awaits further action.

032422HAO00451 rSPRINGFIELD – Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine – and an increase of overdoses of the drug is plaguing every corner of our state. Members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus outlined their plan to combat the overdose crisis during a press conference Thursday.

The increase in the number of fatalities is attributed to the rise of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

Since 2013, synthetic opioid deaths in Illinois have increased 2,736% — and many of those who have overdosed did not know they were taking opioids or that their drugs were laced with fentanyl.

State Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville) is working to combat overdose deaths by ensuring people who fall victim to the drug are able to get the necessary medical help they need without facing grave legal consequences.

House Bill 17 would allow people seeking medical treatment for an overdose with immunity from prosecution for possession of small amounts of fentanyl. Should a person seek medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose, they would not be arrested, charged or prosecuted.

“Fentanyl-based and fentanyl-laced drugs are proliferating across Illinois, killing more people every year,” Ellman said. “If this legislation empowers even one person to reach out for help without fear, it will have done its job.”

Organizations and volunteers place themselves in communities and events susceptible to drug use to help people who battle opioid addiction, and Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) believes they should not be penalized for trying to save lives. He is leading House Bill 4556, which would allow pharmacists and medical professionals to dispense drug adulterant testing supplies to any person without persecution for possessing drug testing supplies.

A drug adulterant test allows people who use drugs to help identify the substance they intend on taking and therefore prevent harms associated with consuming an unknown substance. Drug testing is a common harm reduction strategy utilized by the nightlife, dance and festival communities and ensures that people have an understanding of what they are consuming so they can better manage any potential negative consequences of consumption. 

The Chicago Department of Public Health began to distribute such tests in October. Within two months, more than 7,000 tests were given out – mostly to groups who tackle substance abuse.

“This measure will help organizations get more tests into the hands of more patients and it will save lives,” Peters said. “We still have a long way to go, but removing these penalties is a responsible way to address the opioid crisis and to create real public safety for all instead of continuing the misguided policies of the past.”

In Illinois alone, opioid overdoses increased 33% from 2019 to 2020. In 2020, there were 2,944 opioid overdose fatalities.

The bills are expected to be heard in the weeks to come. 

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