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IL Senate makes 2015 year of volunteerism

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

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.

Cunningham votes to protect local school funding

040114 CM 0304csSPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Bill Cunningham today voted against legislation that would cost local suburban schools nearly $22 million in state funding according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s projections. The proposal, which would create a windfall of funding for many poorer downstate schools, would also drastically slash state funding to suburban schools that are struggling to make ends meet with current levels of funding. 

“Our school system is in desperate need of education funding reform, but this is not the right proposal. I commend the sponsor for taking up this monumental task, but I simply cannot support a proposal that would cut state funding to school districts in the southwest suburbs by nearly 90 percent,” Cunningham said.

However, Cunningham continues to remain optimistic that substantive education reform will be a major topic of discussion in the General Assembly.

“While I can’t support this proposal, it is a positive first step in education funding reform. I look forward to continuing to work with legislators across the state to support more equitable education reform, along with a property tax relief package to take the burden of school funding off of local property owners,” said Cunningham.

The legislation, which passed today with a vote of 32-19, will be sent to the Illinois House of Representatives.

Senator Bush issues statement on Education Funding Reform Plan

040214cm0205RSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) issued the following statements after today’s Senate passage of the Education Funding Reform Plan:

“We have made huge strides over the last year,” said Bush, who is a member of the Education Funding Advisory Committee. “We got the conversation started and have identified undeniable problems with the current funding formula but I don’t yet believe this proposal is ready for passage.”

Senator Bush represents 16 Lake County school districts under the reform plan. However, in the funding reform proposal passed today, some of those districts, such as Wauconda Community Unit School District 118 and Winthrop Harbor School District 1, stand to lose as much as 80% of their state funding.