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McGuire calls for specifics in governor’s higher education proposal

Senator Pat McGuireSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, issued the following statement after Illinois universities testified at committee hearing today. Many said that a looming $4.6 billion budget deficit in the governor’s budget proposal threatens programs and staff.
 
“I’m disappointed that thus far, Governor Rauner’s administration has presented a plan whose only detail seems to be that it will fall $4.6 billion short of its spending priorities,” McGuire said. “The governor’s unbalanced budget and systemic problems without remedies could be a death knell for universities in Illinois.”
 
Representatives from Southern Illinois University testified that more cuts could bring an end to majors, minors or even whole departments and could imperil regional health services. Western Illinois University reported it is using available unrestricted funds and has cut jobs, pay and programs.
 
On the possibility of further belt tightening, a representative of Governors State University said, “Our belt was gone in FY16,” and pointed out the university has already cut 22 programs and 62 positions, as well as imposed a 15 percent tuition increase.

Sandoval puts contractors on notice: “Do not participate in the construction of the wall”

Senator Martin A. SandovalSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-Chicago) announced today that he is sponsoring legislation to deter companies that do business with Illinois from participating in the construction of a wall along the nation’s southern border. He also released the following statement regarding President Trump’s speech before Congress about the wall:

"I emphatically reject President Trump’s plans to build a wall at the border with Mexico. This aberration will be built based on prejudices, hate and racism that go against our core values of what it means to be an American, and it will damage our relationship with Mexico – a good neighbor, partner and friend.

As a state lawmaker and Chairman of the Latino Caucus, I introduced a bill (SB 2091) that will label entities that do business with the state of Illinois and participate in the construction of the wall as a “restricted company.” This legislation sends a strong message that Illinois will not be part of this unreasonable and fiscally irresponsible project.
 
Illinois, like the rest of the nation, has been built by immigrants, so I will make sure our state continuous to be a friendly and welcoming place to people from other countries.”

Senator Michael E. Hastings promotes fair use of informant testimony

Senator Michael E. HastingsSPRINGFIELD - Donovan Allen was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 15 years based on testimony from a jailhouse informant who was provided incentives for testifying.

Because of DNA evidence, Allen's case was overturned.

State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) advanced Senate Bill 1830 to help prevent people like Allen from being wrongfully convicted.

“If defense attorneys provided similar incentives, they would be charged with bribing witnesses,” Hastings said. “Cases similar to Allen are showing us that you get what you pay for. If you incentivize testimony, people are likely to lie and innocent people go to jail.”

Some of the incentives offered to “jail house snitches” include criminal charges dropped or lighter sentences given.

Senate Bill 1830 puts protections in place to work toward giving defendants a fair trial. It will allow jailhouse informant testimony to be challenged for reliability as well as require the prosecution to disclose any intent to introduce informant testimony at least 30 days prior to the hearing.

”Sending the wrong person to prison doesn’t make our neighborhoods any safer,” Hastings said.

The Illinois Innocence Project approached Hastings to introduce this initiative to help promote a fair and just use of testimony from jailhouse informants.

"Illinois is once again paving the way as a leader in addressing the causes of wrongful convictions. This bill would add much needed protections to ensure the reliability of jailhouse informant testimony, which will help ensure the rights of the innocent,” Amol Sinha, State Policy Advocate with the Innocence Project said. “We thank Senator Hastings for his dedicated leadership and look forward to working with stakeholders and both chambers of the General Assembly to prevent wrongful convictions in Illinois."

Senate Bill 1830 passed the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Law with bipartisan support and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Van Pelt questions Rauner’s public health director on budget cuts

Senator Patricia Van PeltSPRINGFIELD – Even after cutting programs for AIDS, prostate cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the Illinois Department of Public Health still would need to cut an additional $20 million in programs to help balance the governor’s proposed budget, state senators learned Tuesday.

“I’m stunned Gov. Rauner didn’t consult with his own public health director about cuts to vital programs that would be needed to balance his own budget plan,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), chairwoman of the Senate’s Public Health Committee.

“Every state agency across the board would need to cut spending by 20 percent to achieve the balanced budget the governor wants. Those kinds of cuts in public health would have dire consequences, and people deserve to know what those cuts could be.”

Members of the Public Health Committee heard from Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah, who identified $3.85 million in cuts – far less than the reductions needed to achieve the savings Gov. Rauner requires. Shah told the panel he could cut $3 million from the AIDS drug assistance program, $143,000 from a prostate cancer awareness fund, $470,000 from the University of Illinois-Chicago and $240,000 from the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome awareness program.

The governor’s budget proposal includes $115 million for public health.

“Gov. Rauner has been begging lawmakers to give him the authority to make line-item budget cuts. Clearly, he’s not up to the task,” Van Pelt said.

Shah agreed to return to the committee next week with a list of $23 million in public health department cuts required to balance the governor’s proposed budget.