Kifowit advances seven new bills through committee; veterans and youth will benefit

State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, successfully navigated seven critical bills through committee last week.

Among the bills passed out of committee are measures aimed at improving mental health care for youth in foster care, supporting members of the National Guard and Reserves in pursuing higher education, honoring the legacy of U.S. Marine Corps veterans, strengthening veterans’ services, providing information about important veteran benefits and enhancing protections for historical veterans’ graves.

“These bills represent our unwavering commitment to addressing the most pressing needs of our communities,” Kifowit, a USMC veteran, said in a news release. “From ensuring the mental well-being of youth in foster care to honoring the sacrifices of our Veterans, these initiatives are critical steps towards building a better future for all.”

HB 5655, which was initiated by a group of veteran students from NIU, successfully advanced through the Higher Education Committee, aims to support members of the National Guard and Reserves by allowing them to make up missed classwork or assignments due to military obligations. Currently, there is no uniform law, and several students mentioned they had been told to withdraw from a class because of their military obligations instead of being offered a chance to finish the missed classwork.

HB 4934, seeks to provide enhanced protection for historical Veterans’ graves, addressing a significant concern voiced by the Naperville Veterans of Foreign Wars, an initiative spearheaded by Sr. Vice Commander Staci Boyer.

“The criteria for honoring a Veteran’s grave with an American flag on Memorial Day should never be reduced to a mere adherence to instructions involving walking 14 paces from one elegant family memorial to search for a heap of dirt, broken rocks and debris for flag placement,” Boyer said to the members of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the IL House of Representatives.

HB 4757 is a collaboration with Veterans who are affiliated with the IL AFL-CIO and it seeks to mandate the design and display of a Veteran Benefit, Services and Protection poster to be made available through the Department of Labor for employers to display at their place of employment. The poster shall include, but is not limited to, important information with regards to free veterans’ benefits and services provided by the IL Department of Veterans affairs and other veteran service organizations, tax benefits, IL veteran driver’s license and non-driver veteran identification card, protections for survivors of military sexual violence and contact information for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, IL Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Crisis Line.

“Working with the AFL-CIO, we were able to present a commonsense solution to ensuring Veterans in the workplace are aware of the benefits and services they are entitled to,” Kifowit said in the release. “It is important to reach Veterans where they are, and this is an easy way employers can help spread the word to the veterans they employ.”

Additionally, HB 5653 was passed through committee, which aims to enhance Veterans’ input by renewing and renaming the Veterans Ailments Task Force to the Veterans Services Task Force.

“Members of this task force were very motivated to continue the work they started for the Veterans of Illinois, and I am proud to resubmit to continue this task force for the next few years,” said Kifowit, a member of the Task Force.

HB 5640 updates Illinois statutes to recognize the U.S. Space Force and ensures equal acknowledgment of all military members. It extends this recognition across various laws, including the DCEO Law and the Pension Code, by incorporating the Space Force into definitions related to Veterans and military services. With HB 5640, members of the U.S. Space Force won’t be excluded from benefits and programs afforded to other branches of the U.S. Military and formally recognizes the members serving in the U.S. Space Force.

Furthermore, state Rep. Kifowit’s commitment to honoring Veterans is reflected in HB 4171, which proposes designating a portion of Interstate 80 within Illinois as the “U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Memorial Highway.”

Finally, HB 5269, which passed through the Adoption and Child Welfare Committee, seeks to improve mental health care for youth in DCFS care, mandating the assignment of a mental health provider to all youth in DCFS custody.