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The Majority Report 10/27/17 - Senate Democrats reaffirm support for students, workers and others


Senate Democrats reaffirm support for students, workers

Sen. Daniel BissIllinois Senate Democrats rejected several gubernatorial vetoes last week, reaffirming their support for college students, collective bargaining and entrepreneurs.

The Senate overrode a veto of the student loan bill of rights, a measure sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that will help to protect college students from predatory lenders when they borrow money to pay for their education.

“Student debt is a real problem in Illinois,” Biss said. “This legislation takes a significant step toward tackling the problem, and it will make life better for student borrowers throughout the state, especially as the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility to people who are working hard to have a better future.”

Senator Ira Silverstein’s Collective Bargaining Freedom Act protects workers’ rights by blocking Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign to engage municipalities in creating right-to-work zones – an effort that puts corporate profits before workers. The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of the measure.

“Illinois’ future success depends on its support of the middle class,” said Silverstein (D-Chicago). “Workers and employers should not be restricted from bargaining collectively as they continue building our economy, and local governments have no place enforcing a rule that constrains this freedom.”

Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) was among those who joined in overriding the veto.

“Since taking office, the governor has attempted to roll back employees’ rights and weaken the unions on the backs of which this state was built. All employees benefit from collective bargaining, even those that do not participate in organized labor,” she said. “I hope this vote sends a strong message to the governor that I will not support his attack on the middle class.”

The Senate also overrode Rauner’s veto of the entrepreneur learner’s permit program, legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora).

This pilot program is designed to encourage business growth by reimbursing first-time business owners in information services, biotechnology and green technology for some costs of state licensing and permits. In his amendatory veto, the governor removed a spending cap and expanded the program to all industries. Holmes said his changes would turn a smart business-development measure into a potentially wasteful program.

“This is a surprising and confusing decision by Gov. Rauner, who has presented himself as a fiscally responsible reformer,” Holmes said. “We should return to a much more limited, responsible version of this pilot program that can be expanded if it is successful.”

The Senate will return to Springfield Nov. 7 for the second week of the fall veto session.


Bush advances tax credit for flood victims

Sen. Melinda BushLake County residents whose property was damaged during July flooding could receive an income tax credit of up to $750 under a measure sponsored by Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake).

The Senate approved Senate Bill 403 by a vote of 53-2. It will go to the House for consideration.

“The flooding that occurred this summer cost Lake County residents thousands of dollars,” Bush said. “While some individuals have received insurance reimbursements, many are still waiting on the money they need to rebuild. This tax credit would provide much-needed relief to flood victims who have lost so much.”

The measure allows a natural disaster income tax credit in counties where a state disaster proclamation was issued in July. To qualify, property owners must have reported damage to the appropriate authority. Those who received a reimbursement from an insurance company are not entitled to the tax credit.

The measure applies to property owners in Lake, McHenry, Kane, Cook, Carroll, Henry, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson and Whiteside counties.


Harmon suggests medical alternatives to opioids

Sen. Don HarmonSenator Don Harmon plans to introduce a measure aimed at tackling Illinois’ opioid crisis by providing medical alternatives to prescription painkillers.

The Alternatives to Opioids Act would allow people who have been prescribed opioids for a medical condition to apply for a temporary medical cannabis card instead. Harmon, Illinois Senate president pro tempore and an Oak Park Democrat, plans to introduce the legislation during the second week of the fall veto session.

“Research shows that as the number of opioids prescribed has risen over the past few decades, so has opioid addiction, overdose and death,” Harmon said. “This is a crisis, and it is rapidly getting worse. Research has also shown that medical cannabis is a safe alternative treatment for the same conditions for which opioids are prescribed.”

In Illinois, the opioid-related death rate increased 120 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Clearly, what we’re doing now is not working,” Harmon said. “This is a problem that touches citizens in every corner of our state. Medical cannabis is the most readily available alternative, but we should consider any other option that reduces the carnage inflicted by the opioid epidemic.”

Illinois created the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program in 2013 and is one of 29 states to have legalized medical marijuana.


Senate voices support for ‘Dreamers’

Senate President John J. CullertonIllinois Senators sent a message to the Trump administration and Congress this past week, urging the extension of an immigration program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people to study and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

“I think we are aware of the fact that the Trump administration back on Sept. 5 indicated that he was intending to rescind the program, but has since reconsidered,” Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said asking colleagues for support. “So, we are just simply urging the Trump administration and Congress to preserve the protections for the undocumented young people who are eligible.”

The Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. So far, it has allowed nearly 800,000 young people who were brought to the United States illegally to remain in the country. To participate in the two-year, renewable program they had to apply to the federal government, cannot have any serious criminal histories, must have arrived in the country before 2007 and when they were younger than 16.

Generally, these are children brought to the United States at young ages by their parents and who have never known any other country as their home. This group of young people has become known as Dreamers.

President Donald Trump announced in September that he planned to end the program and gave Congress six months to come up with a new one, though he has somewhat backed away from that hardline position since.

The Illinois Senate voted overwhelmingly to show its support for keeping the program, which affects roughly 42,000 young people in our state.

“I think it’s pretty well accepted that the studies have shown that our economy benefits from the DACA recipients who are residents of our state,” Cullerton said.


Senate Black Caucus cautiously optimistic about Amazon bid

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. LightfordAs Illinois submitted its formal bid to become home to Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, leaders of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus offered their support in the hope that the influx of jobs could help turnaround economic prospects in struggling communities.

“Job creation is a top priority for the caucus, specifically in our impoverished neighborhoods where unemployment rates soar due to lack of sustainable jobs,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), who also chairs the joint Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. “Preparation has to be our clear path toward future employment opportunities. It is our hope that we can work with Amazon and legislative leaders to ensure that our low-income neighborhoods benefit as well.”

The Amazon headquarters could bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the region.

Lightford’s optimism for the opportunities the Amazon headquarters represents was shared by other members of the Senate Black Caucus.

“Areas like the South Side of Chicago have suffered because of lack of job creation. I hope the incentives offered to Amazon not only interest them, but provide an opportunity for growth and financial stability for struggling communities,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).


In case you missed it


Senate President John J. CullertonSenate President Cullerton recently received the Susan G. Komen Civic Award for his ongoing efforts to protect women’s health and bring needed detection and treatment options to underserved communities.

The award was part of Susan G. Komen Chicago’s 20th anniversary celebration that featured Mario Lopez, the Emmy-winning host of “Extra” as the event’s celebrity ambassador.

Cullerton was recognized for his past work to protect and expand vital health services for women.

In 2007, he supported a law that requires insurance coverage and state standards for potentially lifesaving clinical breast exams. Two years later, he backed the Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act establishing crucial new state programs to fight breast cancer.

In 2011, he fought for a law that requires insurance companies to cover patients in cancer clinical trials. And in 2015, he dedicated himself to a law that requires insurance companies cover breast cancer screenings recommended by a physician.

More recently, Cullerton led legislative efforts to end a more than two-year state budget impasse and restore funding for breast cancer screenings for low-income women. That budget and cancer-screening funding was ultimately enacted by overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto.

“It is rare that you have the opportunity to cast a vote and know that you will save lives. That’s exactly what happens when we fund breast cancer screenings and treatment,” Cullerton said in accepting the award.

“It’s more than an honor, it’s my responsibility to support those initiatives. Access to health care should not, and cannot hinge on your income level or economic status. As a city, as a state and as a society, we will move forward successfully when we take steps together.”


Senator Scott Bennett, Champaign: Senate votes to override right-to-work ban | WAND-TV, Decatur

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Shorewood: Bertino-Tarrant advocates for Illinois’ small businesses | Chicago Tribune

Senator Bill Haine, Alton: Haine, Hoffman weigh in on levee deregulation efforts | Alton Telegraph

Senator Michael Hastings, Tinley Park: Hastings works to create new Illinois jobs | Daily Southtown

Senator Terry Link, Vernon Hills: Bill inspired by school board member could give felons second chance to run for office | Lake County News-Sun

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Manar, others discuss school funding reform | WAND-TV, Decatur

Senator Pat McGuire, Joliet: Joliet treatment center celebrates life-changing partnerships | Joliet Herald-News

Senator Steve Stadelman, Rockford: Stadelman to host women’s wellness fair | Rockford Register Star


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