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Harmon proposes stronger protections for Illinois bobcats

harmon bobcatSaying the state lacks adequate information about Illinois’ recovering bobcat population, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has proposed a prohibition on trapping the animals and selling their pelts.

Senate Bill 2143, which passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday, does not repeal recently enacted state law that allows hunting of bobcats.

“If it was up to me, I would take bobcats off the list of animals that can be hunted in Illinois,” Harmon said. “But under this legislation, folks still can hunt bobcats in an effort to manage the population in a responsible and humane way. They just can’t trap them.”

Currently, bobcat pelts have a market price of about $35 in Illinois. Harmon said he is concerned that Illinois is creating a market for the pelts of an animal that not long ago was a threatened species here.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation in July 2015 allowing licensed hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The practice had been banned in Illinois for about 40 years because the population had dwindled. Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 1999.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 3,000 bobcats in southern Illinois, 2,000 in western Illinois and 1,500 in other parts of the state. More precise figures and other data about the state’s bobcat population are unknown, though. The animals are nocturnal and reclusive.

“We don’t have the numbers, and we don’t have all the facts. Let’s slow down and not create a market for pelts of an animal whose population is still coming back,” Harmon said.

“If we’re going to kill animals, I would like for people to use all of the resources those animals provide. That’s the responsible thing to do. But it troubles me that bobcat hunting rules are rushed and without the benefit of having all the facts.

“Let’s not inadvertently create the incentives to hunt for sport only animals that were recently endangered and may still well be threatened.”

 

Harmon: No reason for Illinois to regulate yoga instruction

harmon yogaYoga instructors would continue to be free from state government regulation under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

Senate Bill 2743 exempts yoga instruction and yoga teacher training from state regulation as a trade, occupation, vocation or profession.

“Over-regulation of yoga training disproportionately would impact small, women-owned businesses and advantage large chain fitness clubs,” Harmon said. “That’s not good for business in Illinois.”

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has discretion in determining what types of programs and courses it considers to be occupational or vocational in nature. For example, IBHE regulates training for nurse aids, dental assistants, accountants and HVAC technicians, all of which clearly are vocations.

However, teaching yoga typically is a personal pursuit, not a profession or a career path, Harmon said, noting that the state does not regulate certain ballet, karate or pilates instruction.

Yet several yoga teacher training schools in Illinois recently were notified by IBHE that they are subject to state regulation for training programs and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.

“Yoga has been practiced successfully for thousands of years without government regulation. I see no reason to intrude now,” Harmon said.

SB2743 unanimously passed out of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee and will head to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Harmon: State budget crisis, not Chicago takeover, should be GOP’s priority

harmon 120715Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) today called on Republican leaders in the General Assembly to focus on solutions to the state’s budget crisis rather than proposing such ill-conceived ideas as a state takeover of the finances of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools.

“Illinois’ own well-documented fiscal problems deserve the full, undivided attention of GOP leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner right now,” Harmon said. “If Illinois under Gov. Rauner’s leadership can’t find a way to fund basic human services and grants promised to needy college students, it’s certainly in no position to take over Chicago Public Schools.”

Harmon’s remarks are in response to a proposal backed by Republican leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin that would allow an emergency takeover over the finances of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. The proposal also would give the city and the school district the ability to declare bankruptcy – a major component of Gov. Rauner’s controversial agenda for state and local governments.

Harmon noted the irony of Republican leaders who are defenders of local control touting a plan that would wrest local control from Chicago taxpayers.

“Notably, Republicans are the ones who put the control of Chicago’s public schools in the hands of the mayor back in 1995,” Harmon said. “The Republicans are strong proponents of local control except when they’re not.”

Sen. Don Harmon: Local communities have waited long enough for their money

harmon 120715OAK PARK — State Sen. Don Harmon issued the following statement regarding Monday’s Senate vote to release $3.1 billion in local money that has been held up by the budget impasse in Springfield.

“Mayors and village leaders representing the communities in my district can no longer afford to wait for the release of money that the state collects but rightfully belongs to local communities – especially motor fuel tax dollars that are used to buy road salt and pay for snow removal,” Harmon said. “This money never should have been held up by the state in the first place.”

The legislation – Senate Bill 2039 – now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

Critical funding for winter road maintenance, domestic violence shelter programs and local shares of video gaming and motor fuel tax revenue are part of the package. Also included are:

•    $1 billion to the Lottery for prizes.
•    $582.5 million to IDOT for local governments share of motor fuel gas tax revenues.
•    $43 million to the Community College Board for career and technical education activities.
•    $45 million to the Department of Revenue so local governments can receive their share of video gaming proceeds.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
•    $31 million to IDOT to purchase road salt.
•    $2.5 million for breast cancer services and research.
•    $28 million for nursing home licensing and inspections.
•    $165 million for home heating bill assistance.
•    $77 million for 911-related costs.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health for the Tobacco Quitline.

Notably, however, a host of other programs and services remain in limbo because of the state budget stalemate. Public universities and community colleges are struggling to operate without budgets, and no money has been appropriated for student scholarships and grants.

In addition, human services programs are in jeopardy, including help for rape victims, the homeless, autistic children, at-risk youth, the poor and people in need of health care and mental health treatment.

“The fiscal year is nearly half over. It’s time to finish the important and long-overdue work of putting together a state budget so that we can offer universities, students and the state’s most vulnerable residents some peace of mind,” Harmon said.

Senator Don Harmon

harmon-2014-150

President Pro Tempore
39th District
 
Years served:
2003 - Present

Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.

Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.

Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly