State legislators in front of the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier.

During a visit to Chicago’s Navy Pier, a group of Illinois legislators learned about the importance of tourism in Illinois’ economy. Navy Pier is the most visited attraction in Illinois and the Midwest with 9.3 million visitors each year.

Lawmakers were given a tour and presentation detailing redevelopment efforts and new investments as part of the attraction’s 100-year anniversary. State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, emphasizes the importance of tourism in Illinois' economy.

“As we look at ways to strengthen Illinois’ economy and create jobs, we cannot overlook the tourism sector, which continues to thrive,” Holmes said. “State government should be looking for opportunities to partner with tourist destinations like Navy Pier whenever possible to create jobs and sustain economic growth.”

Navy Pier, Inc. President and CEO Marilynn Gardner and Chief Development and Strategy Officer Patrick Sheahan led the tour, showing legislators the new Centennial Ferris Wheel, recently renovated event spaces and the future site of a hotel with views of the lake and the skyline. They also heard a presentation from Navy Pier officials regarding the Centennial Vision plan, which lays out changes and investments for the 21st century.

In total, over 3,000 employees work at 77 businesses and five nonprofits located on Navy Pier. In 2016, the tenant partners including attractions, boats, restaurants, retail and others, generated over $123 million in total gross sales and an estimated $12.6 million in sales tax revenue.

“We are grateful to lawmakers for taking the time to visit Navy Pier and see firsthand its remarkable transformation into a leading cultural district,” Gardner said. “The impact and legacy of Navy Pier is more than just our phenomenal programming. It's about place making – enhancing our unique space, ensuring it remains the People’s Pier, and bringing it to life with dynamic and eclectic experiences that inspire discovery and wonder.”

Navy Pier’s impressive tourism numbers are part of an ongoing positive trend in Illinois. In 2016, the state welcomed 110 million domestic visitors who supported more than 300,000 jobs statewide. Chicagoland is doing particularly well at attracting tourists, exceeding the national average for tourism industry growth in recent years.

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SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed House Bill 40. The legislation will preserve access to abortion for Illinois women of all income levels and regardless of changes to federal law.

State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, released the following statement:

“By signing this legislation, Governor Rauner stood up for a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions without government interference. Regardless of a woman’s income or the federal political climate, the right to choose should be protected in Illinois. By signing this legislation into law, the governor reached across the political aisle and took a principled stand to do the right thing for Illinois women.”

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SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, that would protect health insurance plan participants from drastic and disruptive changes to coverage networks was signed into law today.

“With what is happening with health care at the federal level, we in state government must give people some peace of mind,” Holmes said. “This legislation keeps people updated about their insurance networks and provides some stability for consumers during such a turbulent time for health care.”

The legislation will fix narrow health care provider networks by maintaining standards for access to prevent plan participants from traveling long distances for medical care, keeping network directories up to date, notifying patients of network changes and allowing people with serious health needs to stay with their provider.

The Network Adequacy and Transparency Act has earned broad support from both Republicans and Democrats as well as the American Cancer Society, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society and many other health organizations.

“This legislation is needed because people think they are playing by the rules when purchasing health insurance, but are often in for a surprise when they try to go to a doctor,” said Illinois State Medical Society President Thomas M. Anderson, MD. “Patients may have done their homework and checked that their doctor is in-network, only to show up to their appointment and find out the insurance company website was out-of-date and they won’t get the coverage they were promised.”

The Network Adequacy and Transparency Act, House Bill 311, was signed into law today. It goes into effect January 1, 2018.


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SPRINGFIELD – Legislation to improve feral cat population control sponsored by state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, has been signed into law. The measure was created based on recommendations made by the Illinois General Assembly’s Feral Cat Task Force, which was established last year.

“This proposal is the product of a year of work among experts,” Holmes said. “County governments already have the resources to adequately control the population of feral cats, so why not let them use their funds to do what the experts say is the best way forward? Local governments will do the best job of controlling the feral cat population if the state simply allows them.”

Holmes’ legislation, which is supported by Best Friends Animal Society, gives counties the option to use funds reserved to spay, neuter or sterilize pets adopted by residents eligible for public benefits for feral cat population management.

“SB 641 is an important local control measure.  The simple truth is that the current methods of animal control are inhumane, expensive and ineffective,” said Ledy VanKavage, Senior Legislative Attorney for Best Friends Animal Society. “Taxpayers deserve a program that's animal-friendly, more cost-effective and reduces the burden and bureaucracy placed on county animal shelters.”

Counties would be able to use animal control funds more broadly for efforts including cat trap, neuter, vaccinate and return (TNVR) programs. TNVR is the favored method for controlling cat populations because it is humane and minimally invasive to the intricate ecosystems in which feral cats live.

“This new law will keep community cats out of shelters, saving taxpayers money and saving the lives of thousands of cats and kittens every year,” VanKavage said. “Every county in Illinois should decide to use its pet population control funds to support these programs.  Best Friends applauds Senator Holmes for spearheading this cost and life-saving measure.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 641, was recently signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner. It goes into effect immediately.

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