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Hunter, DCFS create new youth scholarships

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 04:38 PM

HunterDCFS052814Plan to expand DCFS’ Department Scholarship Program sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) gained senate approval today. The measure requires DCFS to provide scholarships for a minimum of 53 students every year.

“Teens under DCFS’ care will have a greater opportunity to attend college without worrying about the financial strain,” said Hunter, Majority Caucus Whip. “We’ve seen the costs of college skyrocket, incomes slash and a gap widen between high school graduates and students with higher degrees. This program would help close that gap.”

The measure changes current law by increasing the number of students awarded scholarships from a maximum of 48 to a minimum of 53. The plan also increases the length students can receive assistance from only four consecutive years to at least five.

Beginning August 24, DCFS will collect data regarding the success of the program. The department will monitor the number of youth applying for and receiving scholarships, the percentage of recipients completing their degree within five years, and the outcomes five and 10 years after being awarded the scholarships.

“We are restructuring the program to ensure the dollars are used wisely,” said Hunter, while discussing the measure on the floor. “This program has been in operation for over 40 years. It’s important for us to support young people interested in attending college.”

House Bill 4652 now goes to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

Haine to Feds: Protect American-made steel

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 03:17 PM

052714CM0393SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) introduced a resolution Wednesday urging the U.S. Department of Commerce and President Obama to investigate unfair South Korean trade practices.

There have been recent reports of low-quality, Korean-made steel being dumped into the U.S. market. These goods are being brought into the U.S. through deceptive trade practices and are being sold far below the fair market price.

“This cheap, low-quality steel is hurting the American economy and the federal government shouldn’t sit by while this happens. The Granite City steel works employs skilled workers who could face losing their jobs it their first-rate product continues to be undercut by shoddy foreign steel,” Haine said.

Senate Resolution 1243 urges the Department of Commerce to investigate South Korean companies' trade practices and protect the value of American-made steel.

When it is adopted by the Senate a copy of the resolution will be sent to President Obama.

IL Senate makes 2015 year of volunteerism

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:40 AM

Hunter052814This month, the Illinois Senate passed bipartisan plan designating 2015 as the Year of Service and Engagement.   Sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), the resolution declares to strengthen infrastructure of volunteerism in the State.

“Volunteerism is a part of Illinois’ history and culture,” said Hunter, Majority Caucus Whip. “We’re a state built on the foundations of service and organized movements that have influenced the rest of the country.”

In Illinois, Senate bipartisan leadership seeks to foster volunteerism within the state by hosting a Senate forum on volunteerism. The forum will serve as a platform to rebuild the human element of the state’s infrastructure.   In 2012, Illinois ranked first among the nation’s 10 largest states in terms of volunteering. The state ranked 25th among all states with nearly 360 million hours of services valued over $8 billion.

“Volunteer opportunities have the potential to lead to jobs,” said Hunter. “They provide similar skill sets as paid positions but show a commitment to the community and self-improvement.”

Senate Resolution 1002 was adopted as amended.

Biss measure eases burdensome rules for architects and engineers

Published: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 08:12 PM

Waives TOEFL requirement for foreign nationals who have earned degrees in the U.S.

052714CM0293SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) was pleased today with the Senate's passage of his legislation removing unnecessary barriers to skilled foreign nationals' licensure to work as engineers and architects in Illinois.

"Foreign nationals who desire to work in Illinois as architects and engineers help build safe, high-quality infrastructure and are a key part of the highly-educated workforce that consistently attracts businesses to the state," Biss said. "Doing away with redundant requirements and unnecessary delays in the licensure process will improve our business climate and show we are a state that welcomes global talent."

Current Illinois law requires applicants for architecture, engineering and structural engineering licenses who are native speakers of languages other than English and obtained their degrees outside the United States to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Biss' legislation allows this requirement to be waived when the applicant has earned a graduate degree from an American university. Foreign students must pass the TOEFL in order to be admitted to U.S. graduate programs in the first place and, by successfully completing advanced courses taught in English, have already proven their English language competence. Requiring these architects and engineers to pay to retake the TOEFL or order and wait for proof of their scores presents a hardship that serves no public purpose and may cause some professionals to accept employment elsewhere.

Biss is grateful for the support of numerous architects and engineers who currently live and work in Illinois, as well as the South Asian Research and Policy Institute, the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, the Asian American Coalition of Chicago, the Association of Chinese American Scientists and Engineers, the Philippine Engineers and Scientists Organization and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

The legislation, House Bill 4535, will now go to the governor, whose office is also supportive of the measure.

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