Update: Summer Reading, Bridge Repairs, Taxes

Rep. Spain congratulates 2023 Summer Reading Club participants.
State Representative Ryan Spain is sending his congratulations to the more than 200 K-4th grade students who completed the challenge of his 7th annual Summer Reading Club Program. The program challenged students to read eight books during summer vacation to join the club and receive special recognition. 

“As a parent, I know firsthand how important it is to encourage our kids to keep their minds active during summer break, and research shows how beneficial reading is to their future development,” said Spain. “Congratulations to all the young readers across the 73rd District who took on my reading challenge this summer! Your commitment to reading sets you up for future success, and I hope you enjoyed it as well.”

This summer, 223 students completed Rep. Spain’s Summer Reading Club Program. For achieving the goal of reading eight books by the July 31 deadline, each student received a letter of congratulations, a certificate of recognition, and a $10 gift card for a treat (not paid for at taxpayer expense) from Rep. Spain.

Each summer, Rep. Spain opens his Summer Reading Club through area schools and libraries, and the program can be completed in conjunction with any reading program already offered through a child’s school or local library. If your child was unable to participate in the Summer Reading Club this year but may be interested in the future, visit RepRyanSpain.com for more information.

Illinois 78 Bridge repairs in Whiteside County to begin Sept. 6.
 From the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT): Weather permitting, construction will begin Wednesday, Sept. 6, on the Illinois 78 bridge over Interstate 88 in Whiteside County. 

Work will consist of bridge joint replacement and other bridge repairs. One side of the bridge will be closed during the work and one lane of traffic will be maintained at all times. The project is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area. To avoid the work area, when feasible, use of alternate routes should be considered. Drivers are urged to pay close attention to changed conditions and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits, refrain from using mobile devices and be alert for workers and equipment.

For IDOT District 2 updates, follow on Twitter at @IDOTDistrict2 or view area construction details on IDOT’s traveler information map on GettingAroundIllinois.com.

Meteorologists’ count indicates Illinois could be No. 1 state for tornadoes so far this year.  The funnel clouds often form in conjunction with derechos, squall lines, and other powerful low-pressure weather fronts.  Pre-existing hot, humid weather can encourage the formation of the potentially deadly storms by creating conditions in which colder and warmer air masses are violently colliding with each other. 

An earth scientist at Northern Illinois University, who follows a nationwide database of preliminary tornado reports, says that more of these circular storms have been reported in 2023 from Illinois than from any other state.  Professor Victor Gensini says that as of Sunday, August 27, Illinois had generated 132 preliminary tornado reports so far this year.  A preliminary tornado report is not always confirmed to be a tornado.  Severe windstorm activity can generate damage, including downed wires, fallen trees, and structural damage, that presents signs similar but not identical to a real tornado.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) publishes a “Severe Weather Preparedness Guide” to maximize the ability of Illinois residents to get ready for severe storm events, including tornadoes.

Push to look at dysfunctional Illinois estate tax.  The estate tax is a death tax imposed on some estates as they go through Illinois probate.  If the size of the estate exceeds an “exclusion amount” set by law, the executors of the estate must make a heavy tax payment to the state of Illinois before the estate can be released from probate.  The liability of the estate is controlled by a series of factors, including whether the dead person was domiciled in Illinois preparatory to their estate being probated there.  

This fact has made the Illinois estate tax, levied on estates greater than $4 million, increasingly dysfunctional.  Many Illinois residents with movable property greater than this amount, especially older residents, are being advised by their tax professionals to re-domicile their lives in some jurisdiction other than Illinois.  If and when these persons take advice like this and leave Illinois, they can take all of their assets that exist in the form of electronic book-entries – assets such as stock certificates and LLC partnership rights – with them.  As people who have estate-tax-worthy properties often are also persons of income, if and when any of them move out of Illinois then, as a result of this move, they will sharply reduce, or even eliminate, their payments of income tax to Illinois.  In the eyes of some, the Illinois estate tax is starting to cost Springfield more money than it is worth.

Furthermore, the remaining payments of estate tax to Illinois are being imposed with greater and greater weight upon a small subset of properties.  Some properties, especially farmland and physically-located small business properties, cannot be electronically “moved out of Illinois.”  The weight of the Illinois estate tax now falls disproportionately on farmers and small businesspeople.  There is a growing push among Illinois lawmakers to reduce or eliminate the Illinois estate tax.

Many Illinois House Republicans sponsored measures in spring 2023 to reduce or eliminate the Illinois estate tax.  House Republican Leader Tony McCombie was the sponsor of HB 1459, a January 2023 measure to increase the exemption threshold on Illinois estates subjected to Illinois estate taxation from $4 million to $12 million.  Although advocates testified before the House Revenue and Finance Committee in favor of the proposal, the House Democrats did not allow it to get out of committee.

Illinois’ fall 2023 waterfowl season begins
.  Although affected by the September bag limits, early Canada goose hunting began on Friday, September 1.  The September rules for licensed Illinois hunters are forked between two different super-regions of Illinois.  In the localities defined by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) as being in the Prairie State’s north zone and central zone, the September subsection of the goose-hunting season authorizes the shooting of up to a five-bird daily bag limit.  However, for those local areas defined as being in the south zone and the south-central zone, the daily bag limit for September drops to two birds.  

In the following weeks, IDNR will open legal hunting seasons for teal, rail, duck, and snow goose.  The September Canada goose season and its rules will transition into the regular Canada goose season on a series of dates beginning on October 21 and ending on December 2, depending on geographic zone.  The definitions of Illinois’s duck-hunting zones and goose-hunting zones can be found in the IDNR website.  Different rules for different zones are based on the differential ecological statuses of wading bird populations in different areas of the State, supplemented by Illinois hunting tradition.

Starved Rock, in north central LaSalle County, once again named Illinois’s most popular state park.  The state park, which is located adjacent to Utica, Illinois and close to Interstate 80, preserves 2,630 acres of land and Illinois River waterfront.  The remains of a rock wall, which once prevented the southward flow of water to the sea until a once-raging river punched through the wall, creates a hiking-friendly topography in which 13 miles of trails wander through 18 separate glens, ravines, and canyons.  The park offers many opportunities for nature viewing and birdwatching. 

In the pandemic-affected year of 2021, Starved Rock was the most popular state park in Illinois, visited by more than two million people.  Finding space to park a motor vehicle can be a challenge in this popular park.