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Senator Harris seeks to protect student athletes’ rights

harris eqecopSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Napoleon Harris announced Wednesday he plans to pursue legislation to protect student athletes’ freedom of speech and make sure they aren’t punished academically or economically for taking a stand.

Harris’ interest in drafting Illinois protections follows news out of Missouri that Republican lawmakers want to crack down on African American football players who protested racial unrest on campus by refusing to play until the head of the university stepped down.

“I want to make sure our universities remain bastions of free speech and personal growth,” said Harris, a Harvey Democrat and former professional football player who starred at Northwestern University. “What was being discussed in Missouri is blatantly unconstitutional and treats students like they are property. I want to send a message that protects students’ rights before anyone gets any dumb ideas here.”

Last week, a Republican state representative in Missouri filed legislation that would strip student athletes of their scholarships if they refused to play for any reason other than health. Coaches could also be fined for supporting student protests.

Harris stressed that many student athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds and their athletic scholarships allow them access to higher education. It would be legally, socially and morally wrong to use those scholarships to silence student concerns. 

“Athletes are not employees of the university,” Harris said. “In fact, in many programs they bring in substantial revenue to universities, yet they do not reap the benefits. Nonetheless, they are still members of a civic society who have rights to speak out against what they see as wrong. I believe these students and student athletes have the right to engage in these discussions without fear of unjust action.

Senator Haine fights to keep U.S. Steel open in Granite City

haine ussteelSPRINGFIELD – When US Steel announced last March it were going to temporarily idle its Granite City plant, Senator Bill Haine (D-Alton) reacted quickly by filing a Senate resolution urging the president and Congress to review the national tariff policy on steel goods.

While the Granite City plant was able to avoid a temporary idle in May, bad news was delivered to the families across the Metro East just in time for the holiday season. The plant announced the temporary layoff of 2,000 workers. Senator Haine released the following statement:

 “This is catastrophic,” Haine said. “I cannot emphasize enough how important the steel industry is to the Metro East, Illinois and the United States. The Granite City plant has been in the area for generations. If this plant closes I cannot imagine negative impact it would have. Congress must do something to stop the dumping of Chinese steel into the American market. I am yet again calling on Congress and the president to do something about this. These trade practices are unfair and they result in Americans losing out important, quality jobs.”

Sen. Don Harmon: Local communities have waited long enough for their money

harmon 120715OAK PARK — State Sen. Don Harmon issued the following statement regarding Monday’s Senate vote to release $3.1 billion in local money that has been held up by the budget impasse in Springfield.

“Mayors and village leaders representing the communities in my district can no longer afford to wait for the release of money that the state collects but rightfully belongs to local communities – especially motor fuel tax dollars that are used to buy road salt and pay for snow removal,” Harmon said. “This money never should have been held up by the state in the first place.”

The legislation – Senate Bill 2039 – now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

Critical funding for winter road maintenance, domestic violence shelter programs and local shares of video gaming and motor fuel tax revenue are part of the package. Also included are:

•    $1 billion to the Lottery for prizes.
•    $582.5 million to IDOT for local governments share of motor fuel gas tax revenues.
•    $43 million to the Community College Board for career and technical education activities.
•    $45 million to the Department of Revenue so local governments can receive their share of video gaming proceeds.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
•    $31 million to IDOT to purchase road salt.
•    $2.5 million for breast cancer services and research.
•    $28 million for nursing home licensing and inspections.
•    $165 million for home heating bill assistance.
•    $77 million for 911-related costs.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health for the Tobacco Quitline.

Notably, however, a host of other programs and services remain in limbo because of the state budget stalemate. Public universities and community colleges are struggling to operate without budgets, and no money has been appropriated for student scholarships and grants.

In addition, human services programs are in jeopardy, including help for rape victims, the homeless, autistic children, at-risk youth, the poor and people in need of health care and mental health treatment.

“The fiscal year is nearly half over. It’s time to finish the important and long-overdue work of putting together a state budget so that we can offer universities, students and the state’s most vulnerable residents some peace of mind,” Harmon said.

Biss: Work must continue on state budget negotiations

biss 120715EVANSTON — State Sen. Daniel Biss issued the following statement regarding Monday’s Senate vote to release $3.1 billion, including local pass-through money, that has been held up by the budget impasse in Springfield.

“This is an important step in addressing some of the local consequences of Illinois’ prolonged budget stalemate, but our work is not finished,” Biss said. “Public universities and community colleges are struggling because they have not received state funding. Likewise, vital services are on hold for rape victims, the homeless, autistic children, at-risk youth, the poor and people in need of health care because of the impasse.”

The legislation – Senate Bill 2039 – now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

Critical funding for winter road maintenance, domestic violence shelter programs and local shares of video gaming and motor fuel tax revenue are part of the package. Also included are:

•    $1 billion to the Lottery for prizes.
•    $582.5 million to IDOT for local governments share of motor fuel gas tax revenues.
•    $43 million to the Community College Board for career and technical education activities.
•    $45 million to the Department of Revenue so local governments can receive their share of video gaming proceeds.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
•    $31 million to IDOT to purchase road salt.
•    $2.5 million for breast cancer services and research.
•    $28 million for nursing home licensing and inspections.
•    $165 million for home heating bill assistance.
•    $77 million for 911-related costs.
•    $3.1 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health for the Tobacco Quitline.

Biss noted that Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to deliver a budget address for the state in February, yet hasn’t delivered a budget for the state for the current fiscal year yet.

“We must come together, approve a comprehensive budget for the current fiscal year and set aside the differences that are preventing state leaders from having a robust budget negotiation,” Biss said.

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