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Tom Cullerton passes measure to make college affordable

Published: Friday, May 22, 2015 12:19 PM

tc-collegeSPRINGFIELD-Illinois may soon join 14 other states in making college more affordable for students.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed an initiative that requires public universities and community colleges to give students who score a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) exams college credit.

“The cost of tuition continues to grow, and when we add the cost of housing, textbooks and living expenses, students either end up with years of debt or lost opportunities. This is one small step we can take to make college more affordable,” said Cullerton. “No one should be discouraged from attending one of our state’s public universities or community colleges due to financial need.”

AP classes improve access, affordability and on-time graduations. If high school students take enough advanced courses they can possibly graduate a semester or year earlier which results in thousands of dollars in savings and less student debt.

This legislation will clear up any inconsistent policies at public universities and community colleges, as well as make Illinois competitive with neighboring states that already accept a score of 3 or higher.    

“We can’t blame students who go out of state to schools in Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky who have this policy. However, we can’t afford to lose our best and brightest to these schools,” said Cullerton. “This legislation will allow us to compete to keep these students home.”

House Bill 3428 passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Tom Cullerton designates PANDAS Awareness Day

Published: Friday, May 22, 2015 12:00 AM

tc-panda-finalSPRINGFIELD-  Eighth birthdays are extremely important to children. It’s supposed to be a day full of cake, presents and friends. However, this wasn’t the case for Charlie on his eighth birthday.

Charlie woke up on his birthday with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). The little boy who once loved performing in talent shows and putting on skits was now scared of crowds and talking to his friends. There was an immediate change in his personality.

PANDAS is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and other tics after a child has had a strep infection. Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. The symptoms are severe enough to prevent children from attending school.

After two months of looking for answers, a doctor diagnosed Charlie with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).

Early detection is key. After observing Charlie, his mother Kate Drury was quickly able to diagnosis her younger son with PANDAS when he displayed early symptoms.

To raise awareness and educate medical professionals, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed Senate Resolution 237 to designate October 9 of 2015 and 2016 as PANS, PANDAS, and PITAND Awareness Day in the State of Illinois.

“Education is essential to early detection. I have three young children at home, stories similar to Charlie’s display the immediate need to educate medical professionals and the general public on the PANDAS symptoms,” said Cullerton. “No one wants to see children suffer. The faster we diagnose children affected by PANDAS, the quicker we can begin treatment.”

PANDAS is potentially a lifelong disease that is estimated to affect nearly 175,000 children and adolescents in Illinois. It has even been found in adults.

SR 237 passed the Senate unanimously.

Martinez breaks down language barrier in the court room

Published: Thursday, May 21, 2015 05:24 PM

martinez-courtSPRINGFIELD — Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) secured Senate passage this week of legislation allowing people who are not comfortable speaking or understanding English to be aided by an interpreter in the court room.

“Our state is diverse and language assistance is often necessary to ensure that court proceedings are as fair as possible,” Martinez said. “People who can’t hear or are not fluent in English should be able to know what is going on in the court room. Illinois should be a leader in making its court system accessible to all residents.”

Currently, courts in Illinois must appoint language interpreters in criminal cases but not in civil cases.

Senator Martinez is working to correct this disparity. Under her plan, an interpreter must be appointed in a civil case for any party or witness who is determined unable to understand or express the English language. For instance, someone who is deaf would have a sign language interpreter in the court room.

Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions such as businesses. Common civil cases include divorces, contract disputes and personal injury cases.

“Justice is blind. It also needs to be multilingual,” Martinez said.

House Bill 3620 now goes to the governor’s desk for signature.

Senator Haine continues working for medical marijuana

Published: Thursday, May 21, 2015 05:13 PM

haine-medmar-extensSpringfield - Legislation passed the Senate today extending the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP) to four years from the date the first medical cannabis dispensary gets registered by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR).  Senator Haine (D-Alton) is the chief Senate sponsor of the measure.

In February, with the approval of the Governor, DFPR issued authorizations to 51 medical cannabis dispensaries. These dispensaries have until June 2 to be officially registered to operate. Therefore, this most recent measure will likely extend the MCPP an extra 18 months.

With the support of Sen. Haine, the original Medical Cannabis Pilot Program was signed into law in 2013.

“This program was signed into law two years ago and still has yet to be effectively implemented due to bureaucratic barriers from the previous administration,” Haine said. “This legislation sets a new deadline for this program to get up and running. It is time to quit dragging our feet. Let’s get this done and give patients access to the care they need.”

In January, new updates to the medical marijuana laws were signed into law. These updates included increased authority to regulators, revised criminal background checks for patients and updated the laws on DUI regulations for medical cannabis patients.

The Legislation, House Bill 3299, passed out of the Senate today and will be sent to the governor.

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