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Bennett’s new law will require background checks for Illinois carnival workers

carnivalCHAMPAIGN—Starting Jan. 1, 2019, Illinois law will require carnival companies to conduct criminal background checks of all employees.

The new law, sponsored by State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), will increase fines for amusement park companies that fail to check the criminal history of new hires. Right now, only ride operators must undergo background checks.

“These additional background check requirements will increase public safety,” Bennett said. “If a carnival company is bringing someone into our community to interact with our children, it doesn’t matter whether or not they are operating a ride or a carnival game; they should have a background check to make sure they are not a criminal.”

The measure was a response to a 2014 tragedy in Farmer City, when Blayne Benefield was killed by two brothers who were employees of Big H Amusements, formerly known as A & A Amusements. While the amusement ride company was required to perform background checks on employees that operate rides, it did not have to do so for other employees.

Bennett said this is an important distinction because Big H Amusements claimed that the brothers were not considered ride operators, but photo evidence taken the night before the murder shows the older brother operating a ride. Both brothers had criminal records, with the younger one pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a minor one year before the murder.

“What happened to Blayne Benefield and his family was a tragedy,” Bennett said. “This law is overdue, but I am relieved that we now have safeguards in place to hold carnival companies accountable and protect our communities.”

Senate Bill 3240 passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.

Bennett renews push for Vermilion County casino

bennett 040218Quick work needed to pass a package to boost economy, add funds to schools

DANVILLE – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) today renewed his commitment to ensuring that any state gaming expansion include a facility in Danville, not just Chicago as suggested by its mayor, Rahm Emmanuel.

“A Chicago casino cannot be a stand-alone proposal,” Bennett said. “Vermilion county is ideal ground for a facility to create jobs, fund local schools and become a draw for patrons from across the state border. I remain determined to including our region in a final gaming plan.” 

In an address to the Chicago City Council last Wednesday, Emanuel disclosed that he has been talking with top legislative negotiators to craft a 2019 plan to include a casino for the south side of Chicago.

Under Emanuel’s plan, the revenue generated from the facility would help pay down the city’s pension debt that has accumulated after decades of underfunding. Bennett said gaming revenue from a Vermilion county casino should be dedicated to funding local schools, not retirement fixes for Chicago.

“In Springfield, we’re going to have to bring diverse voices together to quickly develop a gaming package that includes directing revenue where each region wants or needs it most,” Bennett said. “Our area schools need the investment that can come from a new facility, and that’s my priority.”

Bennett stressed the need to act quickly to his Senate colleagues since gaming efforts are ramping up in Indiana. 

“For a long time, the ink has dried on construction plans for Vermilion County,” Bennett said. “But Indiana’s competitive focus on gaming should be a signal to all of us to act quickly. There are great opportunities for economic growth in the area, if we can get to work with speed.”

Bennett receives Robert R. McClarren Legislative Development Award

Bennett ILAAwardPEORIA – The Illinois Library Association presented State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) with the Robert R. McClarren Legislative Development Award at their annual conference on Tuesday.

The award is given to a worthy recipient from the Illinois library community who has contributed significantly to legislative development in Illinois.

“Serving a broad constituency, Bennett has balanced political ideology with the needs and opinions of his constituents,” said the Illinois Library Association’s release. “In his short time in the legislature, he has shown himself to be a strong supporter of education and library issues.”

Bennett announces $215,000 in State construction funding for Parkland College

bennett 040318CHAMPAIGN – More than $215,000 in funding has been released to Parkland College to update and repair campus buildings, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) announced Friday.

“Parkland College is an integral part of the community here in Champaign,” Bennett said. “This investment will help Parkland continue to provide a safe and secure environment for students and faculty.”

The capital funds will go to the construction of an addition to the student services center and other improvements throughout campus. The two projects, totaling $215,000, will maintain and update infrastructure.

“Nothing is more important that the health and safety for our students, and I will continue to advocate for funding so that we can provide the learning environments they deserve,” Bennett said. “I’m thrilled that Parkland received these funds from the State and can help maintain an educational environment that will help students achieve the best opportunity for success.”

The General Assembly approved the Fiscal Year 2019 capital budget in May. It includes more than $100 million to address the needs of higher education facilities to complete ongoing construction projects and begin new ones.

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture (Chairperson); Appropriations II; Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Higher Education; Labor; State Government; Subcommittee on Capital.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.

Associated Representatives:
Carol Ammons
Michael T. Marron