URBANA — Paul Faraci has completed his first month as a state senator.
The Champaign Democrat was appointed by party leadership in Champaign and Vermilion counties to replace his friend Scott Bennett, who died suddenly in December at the age of 45.
Faraci says he’s enjoyed his new job despite the circumstances leading to his appointment, and he wants to work with area legislators on both sides of the aisle on priorities important to east central Illinois.
Faraci also says he plans to run for re-election in 2024.
Illinois Newsroom’s Brian Moline spoke with the senator on Friday, Feb. 17. A lightly edited transcript of their conversation is below:
Listen to this story here.
Brian Moline: The biggest thing happening (last) week was the governor delivering his State of the State and budget address. Of course, now it’s up to the legislature to come up with a budget by May 31. What did you think of what the governor had to say? Anything in particular stick out to you?
Paul Faraci: I think as a as a freshman and never having had the opportunity to be on the floor, what an amazing energy there is. The two chambers together, the House and the Senate, working together and listening to the governor was it was awe inspiring. It’s a good start, I think, for the governor. I think there are some some areas that I want to focus on that we may need some assistance with that may not be quite where we want them to be. But I think like I said, I think it’s a good start. And the the experience was certainly remarkable.
BM: You mentioned some areas that, that you may want to work a little bit more on, what are some of the some of those areas? What are some things that you thought were missing from what the governor had to say?
PF: Not as much missing. I think there was a holistic, sort of across the board he had great ideas, but I’ll tell you that the thing that I’ve been thrust into a little bit more because of Senator Bennett, you know, the idea of of fulfilling his legacy is very important. And the the areas that I know he was passionate about are things that I want to continue work on. So the the developmentally disabled group that the the governor touched on, again, good start, but we need to, we need to find a lot more resources to help this group, both with the disabled group, as well as the marginalized communities. And the governor definitely touched on that. And I think he’s got some good, good plans as a starting point. But I’d like to see additional funding, especially for the developmentally disabled and the marginalized communities.
BM: One area where you’ve spent a lot of your career is with economic development. Certainly Illinois has had some challenges in that area for the last couple of decades, it seems, and there are lots of reasons for that. But moving forward, what do you think some things are that that the state can do to reverse some of the issues that there have been with with population loss, and with certain companies deciding to relocate elsewhere?
PF: I’ve always said that workforce development is economic development. And so we need resources to improve our workforce development, we need to educate those and cross discipline, what I’m hearing in our district, in my district, in the 52nd. Education, teachers, we need more resources for teachers, we need more resources for health care, we need more resources for labor, and the trades and truck drivers, seek assistance for improving and having access for CDLs. Those are all areas that we struggle and are have this workforce shortage. And we’ve got to resolve the workforce issues before we can really dig into economic development. But you’re right. Economic development is is probably one of my substantive, most important focuses in areas that we need assistance with. But we’ve got we got to work on this workforce development, and we got to get the students into the classrooms educated, so they can have access to post secondary opportunities. And that’s going to drive economic development.
BM: You got your committee assignments a couple of weeks ago. Vice Chair of the Labor Committee, if I recall correctly, you’re also serving on the Higher Education Committee. I’m curious maybe to get a little bit behind the curtain. How does that process work for a freshman senator, how do you get those committee assignments?
PF: So to step back a little bit, you got to understand they (senate leadership) didn’t know I was going to be in this role any more than I did a month and a half ago. So the fact that when I accepted and was appointed, and I gave them my priorities, I really didn’t know what the process was. I told them what I wanted. I told them my background, they were very aware of it. And I feel like I was very well accommodated. Higher Ed, obviously with the University of Illinois, Danville Area Community College and Parkland critical areas for me, labor, ag, and I’m also on Health and Human Services. So the fact that I was provided those those opportunities I couldn’t have asked for a better a better landing point in those areas. And those were the ones I requested. Those were the ones they gave. And so the stars aligned on that.
BM: We’ve talked some about the unfortunate circumstances of you being appointed to this office. And unfortunately, when when something like that comes about there’s there’s also infighting to a certain degree. You mentioned earlier about trying to work with Rep. Ammons on getting some things accomplished in the district. There was certainly some chatter, people around her at least saying that she deserved the Senate seat because of the service that she’d put into the General Assembly. I’m just wondering if you had a chance to talk with Rep. Ammons at all about the situation, and just how you would characterize your relationship with her at this point.
PF: So fortunately, for me, I’ve known Rep. Ammons for years. And I think I’ve worked well, although not in this capacity, with her office. They’ve always been open and willing to assist, and I fully appreciate that. She and I sat on the floor of the house during the Governor’s speech, we had a good dialogue, we both agreed that we’re going to work together to help the people of the district, and I felt very comfortable having that conversation. So, you know, I’ve heard there are those things, but based on the relationship and the conversations that I’ve had with her, I don’t feel that. I don’t sense that. I believe that we’re both going to do our best to work for the benefit of the people we serve in a professional manner. I don’t have any concerns about that at all.