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Bennett advances plan to invest in Illinois families

mapgrant moneySPRINGFIELD- As college students begin to head back to campus, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed legislation to fund state college assistance grants.

Under Senate Bill 2043, the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants will continue to make college an option for students across Illinois.  This state assistance provides need-based aid to help pay for tuition and fee costs to help eliminate excessive college loan debt.

“Illinois students shouldn’t be discouraged from attending one of our public universities or community colleges due to financial need,” Bennett said. “The legislation we passed today will help more students obtain a college education without further jeopardizing their financial health.  

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission estimates that under Senate Bill 2043, that 125,000 to 130,000 eligible students will be approved for MAP grant assistance.  

“We need an educated workforce to continue to grow our economy,” said Bennett. “The investments we make in education will provide Illinois with a well-trained and competitive workforce.”

Last year, 6,697 students, approximately 25 percent of undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana received MAP grant assistance.

Senate Bill 2043 passed the Senate 37-0-14 and now moves to the House for consideration.

3D mammography to be covered by insurance

mulroe 3d passedSPRINGFIELD – Thanks to new screening methods such as tomosynthesis, breast cancer occurrences have been steadily decreasing since the early 2000s. A new law sponsored by Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) adding the screening method to the list of covered low-dose screenings was signed today by the governor.

“This is a medically proven screening method that increases detection rates and because of its sensitivity, helps reduce unnecessary call backs during an already stressful time,” Mulroe said. “It is a good practice to keep the medical industry moving forward when the technology is available.”

Previous technologies only took a single dimension view of breast tissue when screening for cancerous cells. Tomosynthesis, also known as a 3D mammogram, takes a multidimensional view of the breast during the screening. As a result, a 3D mammogram has a higher success rate of detecting cancerous cells that are often difficult to detect, due to either size or dense breast tissue.

Senate Bill 54 amends the insurance code by adding tomosynthesis to the list of definitions of low-dose mammograms. As a result, the insurance mandate will cover 3D mammograms as well as the traditional 2D mammograms.

“This law will not only help save lives of at-risk women who may not have known about this technology or may not have been previously covered, but also save them from additional stress and discomfort,” Mulroe said. “It is our duty to protect the health and well-being of people in this state, and if we can save them time, money and emotional hardship then that is a bonus.”

The law becomes effective July 1, 2016.

Sullivan: Extend firefighter exams for veterans

firefighter examSPRINGFIELD—Legislation allowing Illinois veterans between the ages of 35 and 40 to apply to become firefighters was signed into law Monday.

Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) sponsored the new law in the Senate, and Representative Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) initiated it in the House.

“Ability—not age—should be what qualifies a candidate, especially a veteran, to be a firefighter. Keeping fire departments fully staffed is always an issue—especially in rural areas—and we shouldn’t turn veterans away because of age,” Sullivan said.

The new law, House Bill 3203, allows veterans who turned 35 while serving in the military and are currently under the age of 40, to take an exam for a firefighter position.

Currently, no one who is 35 or older can apply to be a firefighter unless they have previously served as one.

The law applies to active duty or reserve members of the military, including national guardsmen.

The governor signed the law Monday, and it takes effect immediately.

Van Pelt legislation to lifts lifetime bars to employment signed into law

pvp teachSPRINGFIELD – Residents of Illinois who have been convicted of minor drug or sex offenses but have worked to turn their lives around may now have the opportunity to become educators in the state thanks to a new law sponsored by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago 5th).

The new law, proposed by the Illinois State Board of Education and Cabrini Green Legal Aid, to limit the types of convictions that would automatically disqualify individuals from employment within a school district, disqualify individuals from obtaining an educator’s license or result in revocation of an educator’s license.

House Bill 494 states that persons convicted of possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis as well as those convicted of misdemeanor public indecency and prostitution will not be automatically disqualified for school district employment or obtaining licensing. The legislation also allows convicted drug offenders who have turned their lives around to apply for employment and licensing after seven years without committing new offenses.

“Barring those who have made mistakes in their lives from gainful employment puts an undue burden on families and communities. By allowing those who have paid their debts to society a second chance, we are opening up opportunities to turn lives around and rebuild our communities,” Senator Van Pelt said.

The new law was co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans and was promoted by the State Board of Education, along with other community stakeholders.

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