Simon signs "It Can Wait" pledge, urges students to consider dangers of texting

CARTERVILLE - September 11, 2012. Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today joined AT&T Illinois and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) officials at John A. Logan College to announce a joint statewide initiative urging community college students to take a pledge against texting while driving.

"Most community college students commute to class on a daily basis and need to understand the grave danger of texting while driving," Lt. Governor Simon said. "I'm taking the pledge today to never text and drive, and I encourage students everywhere to join me. When you are driving, put down your phone - it can wait."

Simon made her comments at the statewide announcement of the AT&T "It Can Wait" campaign on the campus of John A. Logan College in Carterville.

"Our goal is to save lives," said Jim Maurer, VP of External Affairs, AT&T Illinois. "Too many lives have been forever changed by a texting-while-driving accident, and together, we want to spread the word about how deadly a single text can be.  We're challenging everyone to take the pledge to never text and drive and to make it a lifelong commitment."

"We believe community colleges are uniquely positioned to help in the effort against texting and driving and we fully support the initiative from Lt. Governor Simon and AT&T," said Geoff Obrzut, President & CEO, Illinois Community College Board.

The "It Can Wait" campaign is focusing attention on September 19th as "No Text on Board Pledge Day," where the company is asking all drivers to take the pledge to never text and drive again. To take the pledge, you can log on to

IDOT is assisting in the effort with electronic highway signs that remind drivers not to text and drive, and cause drivers to think about traffic safety by providing the updated number of Illinois highway fatalities.

"Gov. Quinn is committed to making our roads safer, and at IDOT efforts to discourage texting while driving have been significant.  The Governor signed the state law that prohibits texting while driving, and we are educating voters through our 'Drive Now. Text Later.' traffic safety initiative," said IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider.  "We are pleased to join Lt. Governor Simon, AT&T and community colleges in Illinois to encourage drivers to take the pledge to never text and drive.  There is no text message that is more important than the safety of our citizens."

John A. Logan College President Dr. Michael Dreith said that to promote safe driving among students, the college will send an informational email message to its students encouraging them to take the pledge to never text and drive again.

"Texting while driving has become an epidemic on the roads today.  As many of our students are commuters, we want them to stay safe, and this initiative will help ensure they recognize the dangers of distracted driving," Dreith said.  "We want our students to make the right choices and to take the pledge to never text and drive."

"I am confident that my colleagues from the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents join with me and Lt Governor Simon in enthusiastically supporting the 'It Can Wait' anti-texting while driving campaign," said Margaret B. "Peg" Lee, Oakton Community College President and President of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents.


CARBONDALE - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will visit two Southern Illinois community colleges Tuesday to launch an anti-texting while driving campaign and honor fallen service members.


Teaming up with AT&T and community colleges across the state, Simon will kick off the "It Can Wait" campaign at John A. Logan College and pledge to never text while driving. Community college students, a large proportion of whom drive to school, will be encouraged to join Simon in the pledge and learn about the dangers of texting while driving. Nationwide, drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in an accident, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.


Simon will pay tribute to Illinois' fallen military service members at Kaskaskia College at the opening of the "Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit, and remember those who have been killed since Sept. 11, 2001 in the Global War on Terror. The college is constructing a "Veterans Tribute" to recognize past, present and future veterans with private funds.


Tuesday, September 11


EVENT: "It Can Wait" campaign launch

TIME: 2 p.m.

PLACE: Atrium, John A. Logan College, 700 Logan College Drive, Carterville


EVENT: Portrait of a Soldier ceremony

TIME: 6 p.m.

PLACE: Lifelong Building, Kaskaskia College, 27210 College Road, Centralia



SPRINGFIELD - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will recognize the commitment and courage of 69 law enforcement officers Monday at the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor ceremony. Selected from 15 law enforcement agencies statewide, the award recipients have displayed exceptional bravery and heroism while serving their communities.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor was established by law in 1990 and officers can be nominated for the award by their command.

Jurisdictions with award recipients are: Aurora Police Department, Chicago Police Department, Elgin Police Department, Harvey Police Department, Illinois State Police, Itasca Police Department, Justice Police Department, Kinkaid Police Department, Lincoln Police Department, Pekin Police Department, Rock Island County Sheriff's Office, University of Illinois Police Department, Waukegan Police Department, Will County Sheriff's Office, and Winnebago County Sheriff's Office.

EVENT: Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor ceremony

DATE: Monday, August 27

TIME: 1:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center, 701 East Adams Street, Springfield


CHICAGO - August 18, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding Governor Pat Quinn's signing of House Bill 1645, which will help fund rape crisis centers through fees based on strip club profits or admissions.

Simon said: "I thank Governor Quinn for standing up for rape victims and crisis centers across the state. This new revenue stream will help offset cuts that threatened critical services. When a sexual assault victim goes to a police station or a survivor calls a hotline, we need trained staff ready to respond. This bill helps to keep lights on and doors open, jobs filled and responders trained."

Under the law, strip club owners can choose to pay the state on an annual basis a $3 per patron fee or opt to pay a flat fee based on the taxable receipts they report to the Illinois Department of Revenue each year. Clubs that report taxable receipts of $2 million or more would pay $25,000 a year; clubs that report taxable receipts of $500,000 to $2 million would pay $15,000; and clubs that report taxable receipts of less than $500,000 would pay $5,000, according to the new law.

The law goes into effect January 2013 and applies only to strip clubs that serve or permit alcohol consumption. It is projected to raise up to $1 million per year, or roughly one-sixth of what the state spends on sexual assault prevention and response annually. In fiscal year 2011, rape crisis centers in Illinois served more than 18,000 clients and reached nearly 475,000 people with prevention education.

The $3 per patron surcharge and fee structure was a compromise reached by rape crisis advocates, club owners and sponsors Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). The bill originally called for a $5 per patron entry fee.

"I would like to thank the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault as well as Lt. Governor Sheila Simon for their constant and unwavering support for this new law," Hutchinson said. "Victims of sexual assault must be able to access emergency services to fully recover from their traumatic experiences. I am hopeful the extra funding for sexual assault centers across Illinois will ensure no victim is turned away for care when they need it the most."

The new revenue will go into the new Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Fund and be distributed by the Department of Human Services for community-based assistance to victims of sexual assault and sexual assault prevention.  There are at least 32 rape crisis centers serving Illinois residents - 10 in the Chicago-metro region and 22 in the non-metro area. State funding for the centers has decreased about 28 percent in the past five years, forcing many centers to cut counselors and/or create waiting lists for counseling services while demand for services increased. One center closed its doors.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court upheld legislation that funded crisis centers through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs that permit alcohol based on the correlation among alcohol, live nude dancing and negative secondary effects, such as sexual assault. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge of that decision, effectively opening the door for other cities and states to pursue similar measures.


Hennepin, Lewistown marshes attract endangered species, international praise

LEWISTOWN - August 8, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today dedicated two wetlands along the Illinois River that gained international prestige this year for transforming flood-prone land into natural habitats for endangered and native species and plants. Restoration of one wetland, the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge near Hennepin, helped bring back the pied-billed grebe from risk of extinction in Illinois, while the restoration of the Emiquon Complex near Lewistown has attracted thousands of American coots.

During a meeting of the Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC), Simon led council members and local conservationists in a joint celebration and dedication recognizing the Dixon refuge and the Emiquon Complex. The marshy ecosystems were officially designated Wetlands of International Importance by the federal government earlier this year in accordance with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty signed by 162 nations committed to the protection of wetlands.

The Ramsar designation is a sought-after accolade for wetland advocates as it calls global attention to local conservation efforts and demonstrates the government's commitment to maintaining the ecological sites. In the case of Dixon and Emiquon, it highlights restoration efforts that returned the wetlands to their natural state. The sites are also home to several state and federal endangered species, including the Common Moorhen, Piping Plover, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and King Rail.

"The Dixon refuge and Emiquon Complex are international models of environmental restoration," Simon said. "By returning this land to its natural state, we created a home for plants, fish and birds that were being driven to extinction and an environmental tourism destination that will attract visitors from all around. I want to thank the Ramsar Secretariat for recognizing the work that's been done to restore these natural resources and helping to boost efforts moving forward."

Dixon and Emiquon are two of three sites from the United States that received Ramsar designation this year and join the ranks of recognized sites around the world including along the Nile and Danube rivers. Of the over 2,000 designated sites, 34 are in the U.S. including the Cache River-Cypress Creek Wetlands and the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands in Illinois.

To be designated as a Wetland of International Importance, a proposed site must meet at least one of nine criteria that validate its global importance. These criteria include supporting 20,000 or more waterbirds, housing vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species and supporting at least 1 percent of the population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.

The 14,000 acre Emiquon Complex, which includes the Emiquon and Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuges and the Emiquon Preserve, is jointly managed by The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Emiquon met or exceeded eight of the nine criteria including the presence of 4.5 percent of the continental population of American coots and supporting hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and other waterbirds including the Pectoral Sandpiper, far surpassing the Ramsar criterion of 20,000.

The Emiquon Preserve is a major source of economic development, pumping $1.1 million into Fulton and Mason counties in 2009, according to a study by the University of Illinois. The study estimated that 17,000 tourists visited the preserve in 2009 to take advantage of the hiking, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting opportunities that are available.

"This designation not only validates our successes to date, but also provides hope for conserving the ecological health of the Illinois River and other great rivers around the world as we share lessons learned at these sites," said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation at The Nature Conservancy and an IRCC citizen member.

The 2,700 acre Dixon Waterfowl Refuge is managed by The Wetlands Initiative and met six Ramsar criteria including serving as an important example of the region's rare native landscape and supporting biodiversity including 148 animal and plant species that are vulnerable to extinction in Illinois. This includes plants such as the yellow monkey-flower, royal catchfly, and decurrent false aster.

The refuge is open to the public daily for hiking, bird-watching, and paddling. A 30-foot-tall observation tower provides an expansive vista of the restored lakes and marsh, while a half-mile boardwalk trail from the boat launch parking lot allows up-close views of unique wetland plants and wildlife. These opportunities attract between 5,000 and 8,000 visitors annually.

"At the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, 260 bird species and more than 570 native plants are contained in one of the most diverse natural areas in the state," said Paul Botts, executive director of The Wetlands Initiative. "There is a rich variety of habitat communities, including a rare seep. When standing in the refuge, you almost feel like you are in ancient wilderness. This certainly is one of the most significant sites on our planet to support a diversity of life."

The celebration, dubbed A Great Day for the Illinois River, was held at the Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown, but attendees were connected to participants at the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge through a live video feed. Speakers at the ceremony included Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller and Ivan Zavadsky of the United Nations Development Programme's Global Environment Facility.

In addition to the IRCC, Simon also chairs the Mississippi and the Ohio and Wabash river coordinating councils. These councils promote the environmental and economic health of Illinois' rivers and tributaries. The councils are composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and hold quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.

Digital media company calls sweet home Chicago

CHICAGO - July 30, 2012. Crediting The Onion for uniting all of its business and editorial operations in Chicago, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will declare it "The Onion Day" on Tuesday to celebrate the digital media company's consolidation of its headquarters in Illinois.

Formerly based in Madison, Wis., with its editorial staff headquartered in New York City, The Onion consolidated its media operations in Chicago this month, which will include a new studio for digital video production. The Onion, along with its sister publication The A.V. Club, will house approximately 100 employees in its new offices and studio in River North in October.

"No matter how you slice it, The Onion brings tears to my eyes," Simon said. "From its spot-on satire of our politics, to its use of our web video tax credit, The Onion shows that Illinois is a great place to do business and that Chicago is a great comedy town. We encourage other digital media companies to make us their first choice for their international headquarters."

Among other factors, The Onion management attributes its relocation to the Illinois tax credit for web video, TV and film production, the city's vibrant comedy scene and proximity to Hot Doug's Encased Meat Emporium and Hotdog Superstore.

Meanwhile, "Chicago" loosely translates from the Native American Potowatami language to "wild onion" or "native garlic," which was surely a selling point, Simon said.

"The Onion is very happy to return to its Midwestern roots," said Steve Hannah, President and CEO of Onion, Inc. "and especially happy to land in Chicago. Our brand of journalism has a peculiarly Midwestern sensibility and, combined with the state's generous tax credit for video production, we feel that we have landed in the right place."

The declaration will come during a fundraiser for the Better Government Association emceed by WGN TV's Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten. Simon will dedicate a country music parody to The Onion and the BGA for their work in exposing political corruption and promoting government transparency.

"Corruption isn't funny, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying," said BGA president Andy Shaw, "so we'll laugh at The Onion's unique brand of journalism and the lieutenant governor's unique way of welcoming them to Illinois, and then we'll go back to our unique anti-corruption watchdog mission of shining a light on government and holding public officials accountable."

The Onion is the self-proclaimed "biggest, most powerful, most terrifying and most influential media company in the civilized world." Figures provided by company say it has an audience of approximately 3 billion people worldwide across its various media platforms, including The Onion newspaper syndicate, The Onion News Network in web video and on television, The Onion Radio Network, the pop-culture A.V. Club, Zweibel Worldwide Productions and Onion Digital Studios.

Chicago politicians, media outlets and sports teams frequently have been targets of The Onion's writers. Past headlines in The Onion include : "City of Chicago to Modernize Outdated Graft Programs"; "Chicago Cubs Sell Naming Rights to Chewing Gum Company"; and "Struggling 'Chicago Tribune' Cuts Asia Bureau, Expands Sudoku Staff". It was the only news outlet to report on the deadly 2003 "meatwave" in Chicago.

Supposedly founded by two University of Wisconsin-Madison students in 1988, The Onion is published and/or broadcast in 87 different languages in 159 countries. At any given moment approximately 80 percent of the world's population is being watched by one of The Onion News Network's cameras, its sources say.

Among other awards, The Onion has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor, numerous Webbys for the best journalism in multiple creative categories on the Internet, and the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting. In recent months, The Onion produced four original shows for its premium YouTube channel and, along with its staff, hired numerous members of Chicago's television community to assist in production.

Lt. Governor Simon's declaration in honor of The Onion can be found here.


Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will visit The Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria on Friday to announce a pilot program that will help domestic violence survivors receive free legal consultations using webcam technology. The Virtual Legal Clinic is being piloted at the Peoria center and the Crisis Center Foundation in Jacksonville, with plans to expand to additional locations. The two centers serve about 4,000 domestic violence survivors across seven counties annually.


TIME: 2 p.m.

DATE: Friday, June 29

PLACE: The Center for Prevention of Abuse, 720 West Joan Court, Peoria



CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX today with Chicago Sky Coach Pokey Chatman, Sky players Swin Cash and Ruth Riley, and some members of the Sky's honorary Title IX team. Enacted on June 23, 1972, Title IX banned sex discrimination in schools, and led to expanded opportunities for female athletes.

Simon, a record-holding high jumper at Wittenberg University in Ohio, will declare Wednesday "Title IX Day" in Illinois, and Coach Chatman will announce the Sky's honorary Title IX team. The team members are: Margaret Stender, chairwoman, former president and CEO of the Chicago Sky; Sarah Spain, ESPN/ESPNW contributor and reporter; Amy Skeen, president and CEO of Girls in the Game; Lisa Cole, founder of the Chicago Force; Julie Foudy, member of USA Women's Soccer Team; Peg Kopec, volleyball coach at St. Francis High School in Wheaton; Ramelia Williams, former Chicago director of Go Girl Go!; and Maria Wynne, CEO for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana; and Lt. Governor Simon.

DATE: Wednesday, June 20

TIME: 2:30 p.m.

PLACE: James R. Thompson Center Plaza, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago

ADDITIONAL: The Sky will host festivities on the plaza from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., including a performance by its acrobatic team and drum line. The declaration ceremony will follow.


SPRINGFIELD - May 31, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding the House's 92-23-3 concurrence to House Bill 1645, Amendment 3, which establishes a strip club surcharge and fee structure to help fund rape crisis centers that have seen state funding decline about 28 percent over the past five years. The bill now awaits the Governor's signature.

Simon said: "I want to thank all of the advocates who answer rape crisis hotlines and counsel women, men and children who survive sexual abuse and assault. Sen. Hutchinson worked hard on your behalf to negotiate a compromise with the adult entertainment industry and garner bipartisan support for legislation that will help restore critical funding during tough budget times. My thanks also go out to Rep. Feigenholtz who ushered this bill through the House, again with bipartisan support. This is an example of how the process should work. All parties worked together for the good of our state."


Lt. Governor visits Shady Oaks wind farm as it prepares to go on line


COMPTON - May 30, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited the Shady Oaks wind farm today just as the turbines are scheduled to come on line and provide power to the state's residents and businesses. She used the visit to voice support for Governor Quinn's plan to rescue the state's pension and Medicaid systems, which would help provide employers with the certainty they need to invest in Illinois and create jobs.


The 109.5 megawatt wind farm development in Lee County will sell power to Commonwealth Edison Co. beginning June 1 and provide enough energy to provide electricity for an estimated 25,000 homes. Under the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard established by lawmakers in 2007, Com Ed and Ameren Illinois must purchase at least 25 percent of Illinois energy from renewable sources by 2025. Three quarters the renewable energy is to come from wind power.


"Bringing this wind farm on line will bring Illinois closer to its sustainability goals, and contribute to our state's economic recovery," Simon said before climbing one of only three 2.5 megawatt wind turbines in the country. "If we want wind energy production and manufacturing to continue to grow in Illinois, we must give investors and employers the certainty and stability they need to build and hire here."


The Shady Oaks wind farm is a result of an agreement that Governor Quinn announced during his trade trip to China last fall. Xinjiang Goldwind Science and Technology Co., LTD (Goldwind), is one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world and began construction of the $200 million wind farm last year. The project supported 200 on-site construction jobs and 300 U.S. jobs overall, with 10 permanent operation and maintenance jobs anticipated.


"Were it not for the commitment to wind energy by Governor Quinn and Lt. Governor Simon, the Shady Oaks project would not have been possible," said Goldwind's CEO, Tim Rosenzweig. "Thanks to this project, 25,000 Illinois residents will benefit from clean energy while over 300 U.S. families benefitted from the economic impact of the construction of Shady Oaks. We are delighted to have been a part of it."


Governor Quinn and the General Assembly are working to pass legislation that will fundamentally restructure the Medicaid system and stabilize the pension system to prevent rising costs are predicted to eat into other budget expenses. Lawmakers approved a package of Medicaid cuts and a $1 a pack cigarette tax in recent days to achieve $2.7 billion in health care savings. Public pension reform negotiations are ongoing.