Earlier today, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) voted in support of a comprehensive plan to extend and reform one of Illinois most successful economic development tools—Enterprise Zones.

Enterprise Zones are specially designated areas where employers—particularly large manufacturers—receive targeted tax relief, fast-tracked reviews of some state and local permit applications, and improved government service.  The state’s Enterprise Zone Program has become a priority because eight Enterprise Zones are set to expire next year, including one Peoria and another in Canton/Fulton County.  Dozens more will expire over the next few years.

"This is about jobs,” said Koehler, who served on the Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions.  “Enterprise Zones encourage major employers to keep and create jobs in Illinois.  Over the past month, we've heard from big companies like Caterpillar, mayors, economic development experts, and others who all said that Enterprise Zones work.  We can't let this economic development tool expire."

  The legislation:
• Renews current enterprise zones for an additional 25 years, subject to approval of state and local officials • Allows up to 10 additional zones to be created over the next 10 years • Streamlines the available tax incentives to remove those that are not producing results • Requires maps of enterprise zones to be posted online

“This is a good plan,” said Koehler, who co-sponsored the legislation (Senate Bill 3688).  “It gives the business community the stability and predictability they need, it improves and expands the existing program, and it improves the transparency of this already-well-documented success story.”

Each year, companies in Enterprise Zones are required to report how many jobs they have kept or created due to the assistance the zone provides.  In 2011 alone, the Enterprise Zone Program is credited with creating 8,980 jobs and generating $2.5 billion in investments.

 

Category: Press Releases

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) is sponsoring legislation to keep unwanted charges off of consumers’ phone bills.  The legislation, supported by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would go a long way toward ending the phone scam known as “cramming.”  Cramming occurs when a third party company places an unwanted charge on a customers’ phone bill.

“When most people look at their phone bills, they assume they're getting billed for the calls they make and the services they purchase—they don’t think to look for extra costs added by third-party companies,” Koehler said.  “Illinois consumers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to these scams.  We need to put a stop to them.”

Cramming charges can range from $9.95 to $45 per month.  They often appear on bills as seemingly legitimate services, like email, voicemail, or identification-theft prevention.  They also are not limited to residential phone customers—businesses, churches, non-profit groups, and even government organizations have been the victims of cramming.  Crammers often trick consumers into “signing up” for their services during telemarketing calls.  In other cases, they use outright lies to add the charges to customers’ bills.  In many cases, they don’t even provide legitimate products or services.

The General Assembly has tried to take on cramming before by requiring telemarketers to clearly and fully disclose the terms of any agreements and to get express consent before appending any charges to customers’ phone bills.  However, the attorney general’s recent investigations have discovered that cramming is still a significant problem.

Koehler’s legislation, House Bill 5211, prohibits third-party billing altogether.  It allows for limited exemptions for charities, operator-assisted dialing, and companies that have contractual business relationships with the telephone company.

“Cramming is a simple, if pervasive, problem,” Koehler said.  “Companies are billing people for services they don’t want and that may not even actually exist.  We need a simple solution.  Prohibiting third-party charges on telephone bills should end cramming once and for all.”

Koehler’s plan has passed the Senate Commerce Committee and will now be considered by the full chamber.

Category: Press Releases

 

Category: Press Releases

State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) has been appointed to a special Senate committee that will work to extend and streamline one of Illinois government’s most successful job-creation tools: Enterprise Zones.

Enterprise Zones are specially designated areas where employers—particularly large manufacturers—receive targeted tax relief, fast-tracked reviews of some state and local permit applications, and improved government service.  The state’s Enterprise Zone Program has become a priority because eight Enterprise Zones are set to expire next year, including one Peoria and another in Canton/Fulton County.  Dozens more will expire over the next few years.

“Many of the state’s largest employers, including Caterpillar, have challenged us to improve Illinois’ business climate,” Koehler said.  “Coming up with a comprehensive plan to extend and improve the Enterprise Zone Program will put people to work in our local communities and help attract businesses large and small to invest in Illinois.”

 The bipartisan Special Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions is dedicated to working with the Illinois Manufacturing Association and other stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive plan to revamp the Enterprise Zone Program rather than relying on piece-meal extensions of individual Enterprise Zones.   The committee will hold hearings throughout the state, including one in Peoria.

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Category: Press Releases

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