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

ATV VermontSPRINGFIELD – ATV owners would be protected when using their vehicles on private property under a plan that passed the Illinois Senate today.

In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law to help finance the Department of Natural Resources through a series of new and expanded fees – part of an effort to keep the desperately underfunded agency afloat. However, after hearing from a number of ATV owners who believe the fees for all-terrain vehicles are unfair, Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) began working with DNR to find a solution that ensures the agency gets the funding it needs, while ATV owners get a better deal.

"When ATV owners came to me with this issue, I saw that they had some good, constructive criticism of the ATV fee law," Koehler said. "I wanted to work with them to fix it."

The flawed 2012 law failed to differentiate between golf carts, vehicles used by people with disabilities and ATVs used in state and local parks and preserves. It also charged a flat fee for all ATVs, failing to differentiate between adult ATVs and vehicles used by children.

Koehler's plan (Senate Bill 2633) cuts the current $15 registration fee down to $10 for vehicles with smaller than 75 cc engines (normally used by children). It also provides clear exemptions for golf carts, vehicles for people with disabilities, ATVs used by governments and ATVs used by farmers. It clarifies that ATVs used only on a family's own property are also exempt, as are vehicles used only in ATV competitions.

In addition, DNR has pledged to use much of the money raised by the new fee to develop and maintain ATV trails on state property. This new money allows the agency to qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal matching funds.

"For years, we've been struggling just to keep state parks open and perform basic maintenance," Koehler said. "It's exciting to see the Department of Natural Resources start building ATV trails to provide even more opportunities for Illinois nature lovers."

The legislation now goes to the Illinois House of Representatives for further consideration.

Category: Press Releases

030414 js 0317SPRINGFIELD – 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 Senate. It now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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.

"The people of Illinois need to be able to trust the entire law enforcement system," Koehler said. "911 dispatchers hold an important position, and they should be held accountable if they breach the public's trust."

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 make it a Class 3 felony for a police dispatcher – or anyone in a similar position – to warn a criminal that law enforcement is nearby or on the way by expanding the definition of official misconduct to include this circumstance.

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.

Category: Press Releases

pseudoSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) believes that making one of the key ingredients of meth harder to come by will help local law enforcement agencies crack down on the dangerous drug. His plan is to require prescriptions for medication containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine – the only ingredient that drug dealers absolutely have to have to make meth.

"Meth is a terrible drug that ruins people's lives," Koehler said. "Other states that instituted prescriptions for pseudoephedrine have reported great success. Oregon went from 473 meth lab incidents in 2003 to nine in 2013."

Pseudoephedrine, which is often used in cold medicine, was a prescription medication until the mid-1970s, when the federal government ruled that it could be sold over the counter. Since then, two states – Oregon and Mississippi – have decided to use state law to put pseudoephedrine back behind the pharmacist's window. Both states have experienced a significant drop in meth production.

Pekin Chief of Police Greg Nelson approached Senator Koehler with the idea of making Illinois the third state to make pseudoephedrine available only by prescription. Koehler agreed to sponsor the legislation, Senate Bill 3502, in order to help reduce the number of meth incidents in the state. Illinois had the fifth most meth incidents of all states in 2012, with 801 reports of meth activity.

Illinois already requires anyone purchasing a product that contains pseudoephedrine to sign a registry, and state law limits the number of products a person can purchase per day and month. Law enforcement reports that meth dealers get around these limits by having several different people purchase cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine.

Category: Press Releases

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