Years of less-than-adequate state funding have taken their toll on Wildlife Prairie State Park.  The 2,000 acre park, which allows the people of Illinois to see the state’s indigenous wildlife in a natural setting, has survived the state’s budget cuts largely due to the efforts of Friends of Wildlife Prairie State Park, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the park’s mission of promoting conservation, education, and recreation.  Senator Dave Koehler and Senator Darin LaHood have proposed legislation that will permanently transfer ownership of the park to the Friends board.

“Wildlife Prairie Park is one of the best nature parks in the Midwest,” Koehler said.  “It’s an important place for the Peoria community—many of us have great memories of spending time at the park with our families.  Given the state of Illinois’ budget challenges, we all agree that transferring the park to Friends is best for both the state and the park.”

Despite Koehler’s best efforts to get funding for the park reinstated, the state of Illinois has been unable to provide significant funding to the park for the past two years, a situation unlikely to change in the near future.

“I want to commend the Friends board for all the hard work they’ve done to keep Wildlife Prairie Park a great destination that draws people from across the Midwest to the Peoria area,” LaHood said.  “I also want to thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who are supporting our efforts to transfer the park back into private ownership.”

Though the state is conveying ownership of the park to the Friends group, it hasn’t totally relinquished its interest in the property—the legal agreement requires the park group to keep the park open to the public and to maintain its current mission.

“I know the Friends Board only intends to improve the park,” Koehler said.  “Still, it’s reassuring to know that part of the agreement is to guarantee that Wildlife Prairie will remain open to the public.”

Koehler and LaHood’s legislation has passed the Illinois Senate and now goes to the House for further consideration.

Category: Press Releases

Spurred to action by a Peoria-area incident, Senator Dave Koehler is trying to make sure that bars can allow smoking in outdoor areas and stay on the right side of the law.  Earlier this year, numerous bars and restaurants that had made every effort to comply with the Smoke Free Illinois Act were ticketed for allowing smoking in outdoor beer gardens.  Koehler is working with Peoria State’s Attorney Jerry Brady to clarify the law so bar owners, restaurant owners, and police can address where smoking is prohibited.

“I supported the Smoke Free Illinois Act, but I believe that bars and restaurants should be able to let people smoke outdoors in beer gardens, patios, and the like,” Koehler said.  “I’m especially frustrated that some of the bars and restaurants that were ticketed worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health to make sure they were in compliance with the law.”

“The current law includes the following language, ‘An owner shall reasonably assure that smoking is prohibited in indoor places and workplaces,’” Brady said.  “This portion in connection with other portions has created confusion in interpretation of whether an outdoor patio is included or excluded from enforcement.”

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Category: Press Releases

Senator Dave Koehler praised his colleagues in the Illinois House for voting to pass legislation cutting lawmakers’ pay and ending the sometimes-controversial Legislative Scholarship program.  Koehler opted out of the program earlier this year, frustrated that attempts to reform it had failed and concerned that the state would be better off focusing its financial aid efforts on need-based programs like MAP (Monetary Award Program) grants.

“I’m pleased to see such broad, bipartisan consensus on issues like cutting lawmakers’ pay and eliminating General Assembly Scholarships,” Koehler said.  “I think it’s a good sign that we can work together to resolve major issues.”

The first measure (House Bill 3188) requires lawmakers to work without pay for 12 days next year, costing each member of the Illinois House and Senate more than $3,000.   It also rejects a cost of living adjustment for the governor and other statewide officials, state agency directors, legislators, and members of boards and commissions.

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Category: Press Releases

A few short weeks ago, working families throughout Illinois learned that a state-sponsored child care program had run out of money.  Faced with the prospect of going without pay until the new state fiscal year begins in July, daycare centers and other child care services have been struggling to keep their doors open, and families have been struggling to find alternative ways to keep their children safe while they work, attend school, or go to job training programs. 

Their worries should soon be over, as the Illinois Senate has voted to shift money from another fund to ensure that families don’t lose access to child care.  The funding plan is on its way to the governor, who is expected to sign it quickly.

“Parents shouldn’t have to choose between working and caring for their children,” said State Senator Dave Koehler, who strongly supported finding a resolution to the problem.  “Child care is expensive, and it ultimately benefits everyone when we enable families to work or attend school and be contributing members of society.”

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Category: Press Releases

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

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120