051414 js 0118PEORIA – A new law sponsored by State Senator Dave Koehler's will soon make it easier for farmers and other vendors to sell their products at farmers markets throughout the state.

Under Illinois' current system, local health departments set the rules for buying and selling food at farmers markets, which has resulted in a hodge-podge of conflicting regulations. Koehler's new law allows the Illinois Department of Public Health to establish a single set of regulations for the entire state.

"Farmers markets are such an important link between the people who truly grow our food and the consumers," said the Peoria Democrat, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. "Creating a single, statewide standard will make it easier for more farmers to participate in more markets."

For example, state law requires that all raw meat be kept under 41 degrees. However, right now some local health departments require that all meats be sold frozen. Some say that farmers must use mechanical refrigeration units. Others allow coolers and ice packs.

"This change would be very helpful for local growers like me," said Doug Day, owner of Spring Bay Farm in Woodford County. "It would lower our costs, both in time and money."

The law also creates rules for offering samples and requires labels that make it easier for customers to identify where the food they buy was grown or produced.

Illinois has more than 375 farmers markets with more than 1,000 farmers and other vendors. They connect farmers and other producers directly to customers, providing locally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, cheeses, meats, nuts, baked goods and more.

Many now accept credit cards and debit cards, and the state has pushed to make the markets more accessible to food stamp users. Farmers markets often offer fresh produce at rates that are competitive with – or even cheaper than – grocery stores.

Category: Press Releases

040914cm0294SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler's plan to make it a crime for a police dispatcher to tip off a criminal that law enforcement is nearby passed the Illinois General Assembly.

In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that it's not a crime for a 911 dispatcher to let a drug dealer – or other criminal – know that police are in the area. The court called the case "troubling" and the defendant's actions "unjustifiable," but found nothing in Illinois law making such behavior illegal.

"911 dispatchers are an important part of our criminal justice system," Koehler said. "They should be held to the same high standards as law enforcement officers and prosecutors."

In 1998, a police dispatcher tipped off a local drug dealer that law enforcement officials were in the area near his house in the Chicago suburbs. The Cook County State's Attorney charged her with official misconduct. The trial court found her guilty and sentenced her to two years of probation and 250 hours of community service.

However, the 911 dispatcher appealed the verdict. The appellate court ruled that nothing in Illinois law allowed her to be charged with official misconduct. The local police department had every right to fire her, but she hadn't broken any Illinois law. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed.

Koehler's proposal, Senate Bill 2695, would expand the definition the definition of official misconduct to make it a Class 3 felony for a dispatcher – or anyone in a similar position – to warn a criminal that law enforcement is nearby or on the way.

The crime of official misconduct already covers a wide variety of corrupt acts by public employees, including accepting bribes and misusing one's authority for personal gain. The penalty for a Class 3 felony is two to five years in prison.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Michael Unes (R-Pekin) in the House, now goes to the governor for his approval.

Category: Press Releases

Farmers Market resizedState Senator Dave Koehler is sponsoring a plan that will make it easier for farmers and other vendors to sell their products at farmers markets throughout the state.

Under Illinois' current law, local health departments set the rules for buying and selling food at farmers markets, which has resulted in a hodge-podge of conflicting regulations. Koehler's plan would allow the Illinois Department of Public Health to establish a single set of regulations for the entire state.

"Many farmers want to sell their fresh produce in communities all over Illinois," Koehler said. "But current farmers market regulations are confusing. What's legal in one community might be forbidden by another just a few miles down the road. Creating a single statewide set of rules will make it much easier for farmers to meet the increasing demand for locally grown food."

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Category: Press Releases

State Senator Dave Koehler Koehler-tornadobelieves that communities like Pekin, East Peoria, Washington and Gifford shouldn't have to shoulder the entire cost of cleaning up after the deadly tornadoes that tore through central Illinois last fall.

He is proposing a new law that allows the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to reimburse local governments in state disaster areas for the costs of debris removal and emergency protective measures. Though many homes and businesses in the affected communities were damaged or destroyed, the federal government chose not to provide financial assistance, leaving local governments to pick up the entire cost of these services on their own.

"The people who live in these communities relied on their local governments to clean up after these storms and help make their towns habitable again," Koehler said. "Clean-up work is expensive, though, and now the bills are coming due. At the same time, the tornado damage has reduced the tax base in those communities. They're facing serious budget challenges."

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Category: Press Releases

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Springfield Office:
M113 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
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Peoria, IL 61603
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