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Stadelman passes measure to direct federal funds to at-risk students

stadelman 042617SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) secured passage of legislation today that will protect federal funding for the Rockford public school district.

The measure, effective July 1, ensures federal funds meant for Title 1 programs go to help low-income children rather than paying into teachers’ pensions and could free up millions of federal dollars for Rockford public schools.

“Right now, school districts are being required to use federal funds that are meant to go to students to pay down the state’s pension debt,” Stadelman said. “This disproportionately affects at-risk students in the districts that need help the most.”

The legislation allows school districts to pay into federally funded teachers’ pensions at the same rate as all other teachers, cutting the districts’ contribution rate from 45 percent to 7 percent. Individual teachers’ pensions would not be affected.

Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent, testified in committee in favor of the legislation last month.

“What we’re advocating for is to let those federal dollars go to what the teachers and the principals in those schools say they need most, which is support for struggling students,” Jarrett said. “This is an opportunity for equity for those schools.”

Title 1 funding provides federal assistance to school districts with high percentages of low-income students to make sure their educational needs are met. Schools can use the funds for schoolwide programs or programs targeted at individual students, but they are intended to bring students up to the state’s academic standards.

SB 195 passed unanimously in the Senate and will move to the House for consideration.

Murphy advances plan to protect First Amendment through Senate

murphy 042617SPRINGFIELD- In response to a Park Ridge developer who sued residents for speaking against his potential project, no longer will residents who voice their concerns at public meetings be subject to lawsuits thanks to legislation advanced by state Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines).

“Everyone should be able to express their concerns in a public forum; it’s a fundamental right under the First Amendment,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, state law is now unclear. This proposal protects the rights of citizens so they no longer will face retribution for standing up for their best interests at a public hearing.”

Because of ambiguity under current law, about 20 residents were named as defendants when the developer filed suit to overturn the commission’s decision to reject the plan.

Murphy’s legislation, Senate Bill 731, passed the Senate 57-0 and will head to the Illinois House for consideration. 

Expanding the Organ Donor Registry passes Senate

hunter org donSPRINGFIELD – With nearly 5,000 people on the Illinois organ donor waiting list, families may soon see a second chance at life for their loved ones thanks to legislation sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register for the state’s First Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry when they receive their driver’s license or identification card.

“Choosing to give life to another is a wonderful gift,” Hunter said. “Opening the donor registry will broaden the number of overall donations and save countless lives. For donors, their decision to register can turn a troubling time into a source of comfort for families and individuals in need.”

Under current law, an individual must be at least 18 to join the registry. While this legislation leaves the decision up to teenagers, Senator Hunter and Secretary of State Jesse White encourage youth to discuss their decision with their parents.

This month, Senator Hunter celebrated National Donate Life Month. All around the nation, advocates and organizers are encouraging individuals to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. The campaign has not only been designed to increase the donor registry list, but to also celebrate those that have helped save lives through the gift of donation

By joining the First Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry, 16- and 17-year-olds can give consent to donate their organs and tissue at the time of their death. However, the procurement organizations, Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network and Mid-America Transplant, are required to contact a parent or guardian to ensure approval of the donation. Ultimately, the parent or guardian will have the opportunity to overturn the child’s decision.

Senate Bill 868 passed 56-0 and moves to the Illinois House of Representatives for further debate.

Sen. Holmes named Humane Society Legislator of the Year

holmes humane awdSPRINGFIELD – For her efforts supporting and passing animal welfare bills, State Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, was awarded this year’s Humane Society Legislator of the Year Award.

"It is an honor to receive this award,” Holmes said. “I am a lifelong lover of animals, so when I became a senator it was second nature to support legislation that protects animals.”

The Legislator of the Year Award is given to the General Assembly member who best advocates for the wellbeing of animals. Sen. Holmes has sponsored numerous animal welfare bills throughout her career. This year, she is sponsoring measures to ban elephants from traveling exhibitions, control feral cat populations and create adoption plans for research animals, as well as several other pieces of animal welfare legislation.

“On behalf of our members, supporters and allies in Illinois, we are proud of the animal protection initiatives that Senator Holmes has championed in our state” Humane Society of the United States Illinois State Director Marc Ayers said. “She is a leader bringing both sides together to achieve amazing advances in our movement and continues to support our efforts to protect companion animals and wildlife, among other important animal welfare protections.”

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization. It provides hands-on care and services to more than 100,000 animals each year.