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Harris: Education combats negative African-American stereotypes

African-American History

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey) is lead sponsor of legislation that was signed into law today requiring every community college and public university to offer a course studying the events of Black History.

“Education is the only way we can combat negative African-American stereotypes seen on the news, social media and in movies,” Harris said. “It should be a priority for our universities to offer a course that teaches students about our culture and the contributions we’ve made to society.”

The course must include:

  • The history of African slave trade, slavery in America and the vestiges of slavery in the United States
  • Contributions made by individual African Americans in government, the arts, humanities and sciences to the economic, cultural and political development of the United States and Africa
  • The socio-economic struggle which African Americans experienced collectively in striving to achieve fair and equal treatment under the laws of the United States

House Bill 4346 allows public institutions of higher education to meet this requirement through online program or course, and extends that opportunity to elementary and high schools which already have the requirement.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Murphy seeks transparency at Tollway hearing

Murphy072518At the urging of State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines), the Senate Transportation Committee convened a subject matter hearing on Tuesday morning in Chicago to discuss potential irregularities in Tollway procurement.

Illinois Deputy Chief Procurement Officer Jan Morrow, Tollway Director Liz Gorman and Tollway Chief of Procurement John Donato testified on procurement policies for engineering contracts and how proposals are reviewed.

“This was a good start to the conversation,” Murphy said. “We discussed the nuts and bolts of how contracts are awarded, but I’d like to see more transparency in the process. When politically connected organizations are awarded contracts, it erodes public confidence.”

The hearing was called following the award of a $6.6 million subcontract to Morreale Communications which was tacked onto an engineering contract. The CEO of Morreale is married to Republican State Representative Michael McAuliffe.

Though the Tollway contended that Morreale Communications disclosed the potential conflict of interest, State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) remarked that it is important to avoid the impression of a conflict of interest, which can be just as undermining.

During the hearing, State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) questioned some work Morreale was performing, such as writing speeches for the chairman of the Tollway, when the Tollway employs an 11-member communications staff. Donato testified that he believes Tollway communications staff’s budget is $1.6 million annually.

The Tollway was also under fire for a $157 million contract with Omega and Associates, a company which employs the children of Tollway executives. The firm has also contributed to board members’ charities.

“I’ll keep asking questions about these contracts and the award process,” Murphy said. “I believe the Tollway owes a transparent process and efficient use of funds to the public.”