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New law strengthens life insurance protections for grieving families

life insuranceCollins: “This is just one way that state government should be fighting inequality.”

SPRINGFIELD – Grieving families who might be unaware their departed loved one left them a life insurance policy would be protected by a stronger Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act under new legislation by State Sen. Jacqueline Collins and Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs that passed the Illinois General Assembly today.

“As our technology and our best practices are updated and improved, we need to consider how that can also improve our accountability to the taxpayer and the consumer,” Collins said. “Dementia might rob an elder of the memory of their insurance policy, and not every grieving family has somebody on retainer to keep such affairs in order. In an age when we can computerize and automate these matters, we owe it to them to make the effort.”

Tom Cullerton works to give DuPage County parents tools to fight opioid epidemic

Opioid epidemicSPRINGFIELD - DuPage parents may soon have easily found educational information to prevent heroin and opioid addition, thanks to Villa Park Democrat State Senator Tom Cullerton.

Cullerton passed House Bill 3161 which will require the Department of Human Services to create and maintain a website to educate the public on heroin and prescription opioid abuse.

“We need to equip every single person who touches the life of a young person with the necessary resources to combat the heroin epidemic,” Cullerton said. “This is a simple step the state can take to make sure DuPage parents have a place to turn to help their children avoid or kick this deadly addiction.”

Clayborne resolution reflects on 1917 East St. Louis Race Riots

clayborne estl 1917SPRINGFIELD – In May 1917, East St. Louis witnessed one of the worst race riots ever seen in the United States. Sparked by attacks on African American men and women following a union rally, the riots culminated in the burning of black neighborhoods and malicious attacks and murders of African-American men and women.

Senate Majority Leader James F. Clayborne (D-Belleville) passed a resolution Monday in remembrance of the events that took place 100 years ago.

“It is important we take time to reflect on and remember these events,” Clayborne added. “While we have made progress in race relations since the East St. Louis riots 100 years ago, our society remains contentious on race-related issues. To move forward, we must remember past actions and ensure the past does not repeat itself.”

In 1917, East St. Louis industry was booming. To fill the gap in the labor market, factory recruiters began looking toward the South for black workers. What became known as the Great Migration culminated in a competition for jobs. The labor issues became a racial issue, which quickly boiled over with rising tensions.

In early July 1917, the tensions became so bad that mobs of white men and women began setting fire to black neighborhoods, trapping people in their homes and shooting those who tried to escape.

With no effective interference from local police, the sheriff or military authorities, many African American men, women and children lost their lives, more than 300 buildings were destroyed and 6,000 people fled from their homes.  It took days for the National Guard to gain control of the situation.

“The events that transpired in 1917 were terrible to say the least,” said Clayborne. “The social, political and cultural ramifications these riots had on the community are vast. With this resolution I hope to draw attention to those events so the city, the state and the country can reflect on the atrocities of the riots and continue to heal.”

The measure, Senate Resolution 337, observes May 28, 2017, as a day of remembrance in the state of Illinois on the centennial of the 1917 race riots. A copy will be sent to Marla Byrd, the commissioner of the East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission and Cultural Initiative.

Read the resolution.

Biss: Taxpayers deserve clarity about fees paid by public pension funds

biss 052917SPRINGFIELD – Private equity firms would have to disclose the currently secret investment fees they charge to Illinois’ public pension funds under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that was approved in the Senate Monday.

These sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are exempt from disclosure to taxpayers under Illinois sunshine laws. Even the boards that oversee the pension funds are kept in the dark about some fees.

Biss maintains that this kind of secrecy flies in the face of a steadily growing national and global movement toward more transparency.

“This is not a time for Illinois taxpayers to be paying fees they don’t know about,” he said. “If you’re concerned about the asset levels in the pension funds, you should be concerned about the fees you’re paying. That is the only expenditure that is secret from you right now.”

Senate Bill 779 would attempts to increase the state’s pension funds’ investment transparency by requiring that:

  • pension systems disclose agreements with alternative investment funds and certain provisions of those agreements;
  • alternative investment fund managers and general partners disclose certain investment fees paid directly or indirectly to the alternative investment fund;
  • if an investment fund utilizes the Institutional Limited Partners Association template, the fund will be in compliance with the disclosure requirements;
  • disclosures would be published on the systems’ websites and subject to FOIA.

The provisions of Senate Bill 779 would apply to every large retirement system or pension fund regulated by the Illinois Pension Code, as well as the Illinois State Board of Investment. The disclosure requirements would apply to new agreements proposed or executed after Jan. 1, 2018.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest system in Illinois, currently has nearly $8.5 billion invested and committed to the private equity asset class.

According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

“Common sense says that if we have that greater level of transparency, we’ll pay lower fees and have better returns,” Biss said. “We should know the fees we pay, and that knowledge will allow us to negotiate better deals on our pension funds. That’s a winning formula for taxpayers.”

Senate Bill 779 now will go to the House for consideration.