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The Majority Report 11/11/17 - 'Women break barriers when they mobilize'


Steans: Women break barriers when they mobilize

Women's CaucusDemocratic women senators were joined by their Republican colleagues in announcing the creation of a Senate Women’s Caucus, an effort prompted in part by heightened awareness of sexual harassment and accusations of misconduct in Illinois government.

“We’ve seen throughout history that when women mobilize and claim their seat at the table, they break barriers and find solutions to the most stubborn of problems,” said Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and a Senate budget point person. “I expect this caucus will do the same for the women of Illinois.”

Watch video from the announcement.

The caucus will promote and advance women’s issues within the Legislature and support women senators from both political parties. Although sexual harassment in the workplace will be an issue of focus for the caucus, the group hopes to become the leading voice on a range of issues facing women in Illinois. It also intends to offer support for women within the workplace, institutions of education and home.

“The Women’s Caucus brings together a diverse group of legislators from across the political spectrum,” said Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights). “We recognize the importance of being bipartisan so that Senate leadership will respect our efforts. We intend to be taken seriously.”

The announcement capped off a week during which the Senate approved legislation to ensure sexual harassment policies apply to lawmakers and staff, established workplace training and discipline standards for lobbyists and gave a newly hired inspector general more time to investigate pending ethics complaints.

In all, four measures were passed to address lapses in current policy regarding sexual harassment in the General Assembly. Read more about the legislation.


Lawmakers roundly reject governor’s vetoes

Senator HastingsIt was a good week for Illinois student borrowers, small businesses and taxpayers who want more accountability from the government, as lawmakers overrode numerous vetoes to enact reasonable measures on behalf of their constituents.

The Debt Transparency Act, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), demands better accounting and reporting practices by state agencies so that the comptroller can understand the true extent of the bill backlog at any given time.

“There is no reason that state agencies cannot do a better job of communicating with the comptroller each month about invoices they’ve received that will need to be paid,” Manar said.

The student loan bill of rights, sponsored by Democratic Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston, was overridden in the House after previously being overridden in the Senate. An initiative of the state attorney general, lending companies will be held accountable to bad-faith practices like talking students into loans with terms they may not understand or pressuring borrowers into deferments that prolong their indebtedness and harm their credit.

Lawmakers also overrode the governor’s veto of House Bill 302, sponsored by Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago), which requires insurance companies to search electronic records back to the year 2000 to determine if life insurance policyholders have died and take steps to get money to beneficiaries.

“It is easy to lose track of life insurance policies – for our elderly loved ones to lose paperwork in a move or to forget they exist because of the passage of time of the ravages of dementia,” Collins said. “I’m glad my colleagues saw, as I did, that the right thing to do is to stand on the side of families who don’t have a small army of financial advisors to handle these issues in the darkest of times.”

Cursive handwriting will continue to be taught in Illinois public schools because of another successful veto override. Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) led the initiative in the Senate, noting that it promotes the practical and fundamental values cursive writing has in education.

And Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) sponsored a measure overridden by lawmakers that makes it illegal for expatriate corporations, which utilize tax havens to avoid paying taxes, to submit bids or enter into contracts with state agencies.

“Corporations that use offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes should not be rewarded with state contracts and business,” he said. “If businesses are going to avoid paying taxes, they should not be making money off of taxpayer dollars.”


Senators turn attention to statewide teacher shortage

Education CommitteeTeachers nationwide often skip Illinois when they’re looking for a job because of low starting salaries, licensure difficulties, lack of mentoring and other issues, members of the Senate Education Committee were told in Decatur during a hearing about the statewide teacher shortage.

“There are committed and dedicated educators in our community,” said Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Shorewood Democrat and chairwoman of the committee. “It’s our duty to ensure we help quality individuals, who want to be in the classroom, be successful.”

Education professionals testified about the reasons for the shortage and possible solutions, such as making it easier to out-of-state educators to be certified in Illinois, addressing pay disparities, better marketing of the profession to college students, offering new teachers more professional support and mentoring opportunities, identifying “high-need” school districts that have particular difficulty attracting applicants and developing stronger relationships between universities and school districts.

“Attracting quality educators to our state is vital to our education system and providing our children with the best possible education,” said Senator Kimberly A. Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood and vice-chairwoman of the committee.

“We need to offer teachers support for things they were not taught to deal with in school, provide mentoring opportunities, identify districts with higher needs that have a harder time attracting teachers and work to strengthen the high school-to-classroom pipeline.”

Later in the week, committee member Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) noted that lawmakers took a step toward easing the bureaucracy that contributes to the shortage when they overrode a veto of legislation allowing active substitute teachers to seek a refund of the $50 fee they’re required to pay when they apply for a state license.

“We have empty classrooms because of a statewide teacher shortage, a rapidly shrinking pool of substitutes and students who are suffering as a result. Curbing fees and eliminating unnecessary red tape will help address some of these problems,” he said.

In case you missed it


Senator Melinda Bush, Grayslake: Lawmakers approve plan to protect monarch butterfly habitats, milkweed | The Associated Press

Senator Cristina Castro, Elgin: Time for ethics commission to get serious about sexual harassment in Springfield | Daily Herald, Arlington Heights

Senator Bill Cunningham, Chicago: Cunningham, state representatives hosting tax seminar for residents | Evergreen Park Patch

Senator Bill Haine, Alton: Caffey, Haine honored by Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial | The Telegraph, Alton

Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park: Oak Park couple helped inspire law aimed at providing tax relief for seniors | Oak Leaves, Oak Park

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Bipartisan override of debt transparency veto clouds Rauner’s view | Chicago Sun-Times

Senator Laura Murphy, Des Plaines: Murphy hosting fraud-prevention seminar in Des Plaines | Daily Herald, Arlington Heights

Senator Steve Stadelman, Rockford: Stadelman discusses Women's Wellness Fair on Rockford moring show | WTVO-TV, Rockford


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