The saying goes that "All Politics is Local", right? There's a recent great case of legislators making sure that they address a situation in their community through their bipartisan work in the Statehouse. When it comes to kids, we look to our leaders to act swiftly. In the case of teen drinking, a few members of the Illinois Legislature had a chance to address the situation and one that hit close to home. Two months ago there was a horriffic accident in Oswego that killed 4 teens were killed by a drunk driver. Turns out 3 of them were drinking, too.
Recently, the Illinois House under Tom Cross and the Senate Committee backed by Democrat Linda Holmes passed a measure that would stiffen the penalties for anyone under the age of 21 who is convicted of an alcohol-related offense (basically underage consumption or drinking). Currently, if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar while down visiting your sister at Kam's in Champaign and you're only 19, you usually get a slap on the wrist and get 3 months of court supervision. That's probably a bit light for some offenses.
Knowing that a driver's license is every teenager's prized possession, Tom Cross and Linda Holmes recently passed out of the Illinois House and Senate Committee legislation (HB3131) that will suspend for three months the driver's license of anyone underage caught consuming or in possession of alcohol. That's a great first step and a great example of making sure that your work at home in your district is getting done.
There's a few things to note about this. First, it's solid legislation. Maybe because I'm getting older, but I don't mind one bit restricting the use of driver's licenses for teens. Whatever we need to do to make sure that they're safe, I'm for. Second, it's interesting to see the House Republican Leader work with a freshman Democrat Senator, isn't it?
Sure, there are issues that will divide the parties, but there are things that affect the local districts that reach across that partisan divide. Frankly, as the Republicans are in the minority in both Chambers of the Illinois Legislature, that's the only way you can get things done these days. You need to be in a position to work with folks from across the aisle. It goes beyond this piece of legislation, too. Senator AJ Wilhelmi (who turns out is a pretty darn good Senator) passed the House GOP driven MySpace initiatives through Senate committee yesterday and is carrying some legislation to make dams safer in Illinois to avoid tragedies like last summer in Yorkville (a GOP stronghold). These bills all passed out of the House and now they are moving in the Senate because of Cross' ability to work with Democrats like AJ Wilhelmi and Linda Holmes.
Sure, we elect folks from one party of the other to represent us, but at the end of the day, we need them to be able to work to bring home both solutions and improvements to our districts. With the Republicans out on Exile Island, I'm impressed with the creativeness that the House GOP has shown to get some of their solid measures passed.