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  • Automatic voter registration moves forward in Illinois (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Biss advances stingray guidelines for police

    biss stingrayPolice in Illinois would have better guidance about the use of cell tower simulators – or stingrays – and the responsible collection of cell data under legislation that unanimously passed in the Illinois Senate on Tuesday.

    Senate Bill 2343, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would regulate the police use of cell tower simulators for surveillance. These simulators, more commonly known as stingray devices, act as cell phone towers and trick phones in a particular area into thinking they are connecting to a phone tower operated by a service provider.

    Police can use the fake tower to determine someone’s location, the serial numbers of phones in the area and more. In addition to collecting data on targeted individuals, police can collect data on dozens or hundreds of other innocent people in the process as well.

    “As advances in technology enable police to more efficiently investigate and solve crimes, it’s important that we help them to know they are following state law and the parameters of the Constitution,” Biss said.

    “Additionally, we must adopt measures that help to ensure privacy for citizens who have done nothing wrong but may find that data from their cell phones was collected and stored by law enforcement for no legitimate legal reason.”

    Senate Bill 2343 now goes to the House for consideration.

  • Biss advances Student Loan Bill of Rights

    biss 031517SPRINGFIELD – Senator Daniel Biss’ groundbreaking measure to protect Illinois college students from crushing education debt advanced out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 1351 establishes the Student Loan Bill of Rights in Illinois to provide as much protection as possible for student borrowers, a population that frequently is targeted by bad actors in the student loan industry.

    “At a time when a quarter of student loan borrowers are behind in their payments, we need to make sure borrowers understand their rights and have access to resources that will prevent them from defaulting on their loans,” Biss said. “I am pleased to work with Attorney General Lisa Madigan on behalf of student borrowers, and I encourage each of my colleagues to support this measure.”

    The Student Loan Bill of Rights would help to ensure students and their families receive clear information about the money they borrow for higher education and how their student loans are serviced. Among the protections offered in the legislation:

    • Requires student loan services to provide specialized employees to assist borrowers with questions about loan payments, explain repayment options and evaluate a borrower’s financial situation to determine which payment plan is appropriate.
    • Requires loan servicers to give borrowers accurate information on billing statements and properly process borrowers’ payments, and bars servicers from charging unreasonable fees.
    • Requires loan servicers to tell borrowers when and how their federal loans may be discharged due to a borrower’s disability or a problem with the school the borrower attended.
    • Requires loan servicers to provide information so cosigners know the conditions of being released from their obligations.
    • Requires servicers to follow procedures when a loan is transferred to a new servicer to ensure continuity and ensure borrowers’ payments are properly handled.
    • Ensures borrowers have the right to request information and file account disputes with their servicer and appeal any servicer determination.
    • Creates a student loan ombudsman in the office of the attorney general to assist borrowers with student loans.
    • Establishes a student loan servicing license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to qualify, oversee and discipline services for violating the Student Loan Bill of Rights.
  • Biss calls on governor to renegotiate state’s interest-swap deals

    biss interest swapSen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) today called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to seek to renegotiate lucrative interest-rate swap deals that send $6 million in taxpayer money to big banks every month at the expense of Illinois’ poorest residents and struggling college students.

    An alarming new report indicates the state of Illinois is engaging in the same kinds of interest-rate swap deals that crippled the finances of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. So-called “swap” arrangements perversely penalize the state for low interest rates caused by the global financial crisis.

  • Biss demands clarity on state payments from Comptroller's Office

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  • Biss legislation barring prison room-and-board lawsuits heads to governor

    biss052516A measure that would bar state government from suing inmates and parolees for the cost of their prison room and board will go to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.

    The legislation, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was approved by members of the Illinois House on Wednesday. It previously was approved by the Senate.

    “Gov. Rauner has the opportunity to put an end to a practice that is unfair, overly punitive and fails the cost-benefit test. The state collects far less from these lawsuits than it costs to pursue them,” Biss said.

    Senate Bill 2465 would prohibit the Illinois Department of Corrections from suing current and former inmates to recoup the cost of their incarceration. Illinois has had a law allowing the state to sue inmates since 1982, but it was rarely used until recently. A Chicago Tribune investigation raised questions about the practice.

    Illinois has discretion in determining which inmates and parolees to sue. Most of them are poor and had received modest inheritances or civil settlements involving private matters or their arrest.

    The state has recovered about a half-million dollars since 2010, but most of it was from two inmates.

    “By pursuing these lawsuits, the state sends the wrong message about what it means for inmates to pay their debt to society,” Biss said. “Rather than encouraging them to make a fresh start when they’re released from prison, Illinois is choosing to push them toward a life of poverty, reliance on government support or recidivism.

    “That’s the wrong approach, and I hope Gov. Rauner will see it that way, too.”

  • Biss legislation would end lawsuits against inmates for room and board


  • Biss measure requires presidential candidates to release tax returns in Illinois

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  • Biss praises updates to Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience law

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  • Biss presidential tax return disclosure bill advances in Senate

    biss 031517 2SPRINGFIELD – Presidential candidates would have to release five years’ worth of income tax returns before they could appear on the ballot in Illinois under a measure sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss than advanced out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 982 also would apply to candidates for vice president. Under the legislation, candidates who don’t comply at least five days before certification of the ballot for the general election would not appear on the ballot.

  • Biss prison lawsuit bill unanimously moves out of committee

    biss oped0216A proposal by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) to prohibit the state of Illinois from suing inmates for the cost of their incarceration passed out of committee unanimously this morning.

    The legislation, Senate Bill 2465, now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

    The bill calls for an end to the Illinois Department of Corrections practice of suing inmates and parolees to recoup the cost of their room and board while in prison.

    “This legislation rights a wrong that is being inflicted upon a segment of Illinois’ population that tends to be overlooked or ignored,” Biss said. “I look forward to full passage of Senate Bill 2465.”

    Most of the inmates targeted by the state’s lawsuits are poor. In some cases the state sued them after learning they had received modest inheritances or settlements from civil lawsuit involving private matters or regarding their arrest or incarceration.

    Read more about the issue.

  • Biss right of conscience legislation heading to governor (AUDIO)

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  • Biss Statement on Leaders' Budget Meeting

    biss snapSPRINGFIELD — Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement about Tuesday's scheduled budget meeting between Illinois' legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner:

    "For the first time in more than six months, Gov. Bruce Rauner will convene a meeting with Illinois’ four legislative leaders on Tuesday.

    It's easy to be cynical about such a meeting — painfully easy, in fact. But as we enter the sixth month of the fiscal year with no budget in sight, those of us who are focused on the devastating human consequences of this situation need to hold on to whatever hope we can find.

    This prolonged situation has already inflicted untold harm by destroying the state’s vital human services network, by worsening its already bleak financial picture and by marring its fiscal reputation so severely that it will take years to recover.

    The damage is evidenced each time a human services provider closes its doors, each time a teenager has nowhere to go to be safe after school and each time a family is turned away for counseling services.

    All of this is happening because Gov. Rauner has steadfastly refused to negotiate about the budget until the General Assembly capitulates to his demands to enact a radical anti-worker agenda. The fact of the matter is that this agenda can't pass because a majority of legislators simply don't think support his ideas. That's how democracy works — and Gov. Rauner will only get his way by convincing those of us who disagree with his ideas to change our minds, not by taking innocent hostages.

    It’s time for Gov. Rauner to end the stalemate and start negotiating with the state’s elected lawmakers. Illinois needs a budget now. Everything else, including the governor’s anti-worker agenda, must wait."

  • Biss stingray measure signed into law

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  • Biss urges Illinois sanctuary cities to stay the course

    biss 012617EVANSTON – Evanston, Chicago and other Illinois cities are doing the right thing in vowing to stand strong against President Donald Trump’s efforts to shame and coerce them for offering sanctuary to immigrants, state Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.

    “President Trump’s actions this week are further evidence that he lacks a moral compass,” said Biss, an Evanston Democrat, in denouncing the president’s executive order pledging to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities around the nation.

    “I am incredibly proud of Evanston’s record of reassuring immigrants that they are welcome in our community,” he added. “It’s shameful that a local decision now is under attack by a U.S. president who is committed to dividing people rather than bringing them together.”

    Trump signed the executive order Wednesday. Evanston has been a sanctuary city since 2008 but strengthened its local ordinance in November following the presidential election. Chicago has been a sanctuary city since 1985. Cook County also has a sanctuary ordinance.

    It’s unclear how much federal funding could be at stake for more than 300 U.S. sanctuary cities, states and counties as a result of the executive order.

    “President Trump has presented these municipalities with a choice between money and morality,” he said. “We’re going to stand up to his threats and any attempt to strip them of federal funds. But if they do lose federal dollars, at least they can sleep at night knowing they did the right thing.”

  • Biss: Abuse, neglect of developmentally disabled is a crisis, not a political opportunity

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  • Biss: DHS hiring as service providers languish

    biss dhsSen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) today questioned why a state agency is expanding its payroll while failing to pay hundreds of struggling non-profit agencies that are contracted to provide important services on the state’s behalf.

    Officials from the Illinois Department of Human Services revealed during an appropriations hearing that the agency hired about 800 new employees between July and December 2015.

    Meanwhile, DHS has not been paying the agencies it contracted with throughout Illinois to provide vital human services for impoverished and underserved people on behalf of the state.

  • Biss: Illinois needs small donor matching to amplify local voices in government

    biss 040616SPRINGFIELD – The only way to blunt the influence that wealthy donors maintain over government is to return power to the people by amplifying the voice of small donors through public financing of elections, Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.

    Biss, an Evanston Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1424, which creates the Small Donor Democracy Matching System for Fair Elections Act.

    The legislation would establish a small donor matching system for statewide races in Illinois, including governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senators and state representatives.

    Small donor matching empowers average people to compete financially and ideologically with special interests and wealthy donors. It also opens up the playing field to more diverse candidates for office and offers more options at the ballot box.

    “This is about who decides,” Biss said. “Life is getting harder for more and more Americans every day because people who are already doing well have all the power in government – powerful people who are shamefully out of touch with the people they represent.

    “We’re only going to fix this problem if we weaken the connection between money and political power and make it easier for small donors’ voices to be heard.”

    Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence the money in Illinois elections by doing the following:

    • Contributions between $25 and $150 from local donors would be matched 6:1 by public funds.
    • Limits would be set on the amount of public funds available to each candidate.
    • Candidates would not be able to accept contributions of more than $500 from a single donor.

    The cost of the program is estimated at $1 per Illinois resident annually, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the proposal.

    “It’s time for Illinois to step up to the plate and implement this long-overdue reform, which would ensure that the voices of local donors are amplified in Illinois elections,” David Melton, ICPR senior advisor said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to run for office and participate in the political process, not just the 1 percent of wealthy donors and candidates.”

    Jay Young, political director for Common Cause Illinois, noted that Illinois witnessed unprecedented campaign spending in 2016, including nine statehouse races that exceeded $2 million in contributions and a comptroller’s race that soared past the $12 million mark.

    “The voices of ordinary citizens in this state are being drowned out right now by the unlimited spending of wealthy political donors,” Young said. “We believe that proposals like the one Senator Biss has put forward will allow the people to take back their democracy from these powerful special interest groups.”

  • Biss: Lawmakers should override governor’s veto of caregiver pay hike

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  • Biss: Munger, Rauner repeating Illinois' most devastating mistakes

    biss snapSPRINGFIELD — In response to the recent announcement from the comptroller’s office that Illinois will skip its November pension payments, Senator Daniel Biss (D – Evanston) has issued the following statement:

    The budget impasse continues to wreak havoc on the people of Illinois, and the longer we go without a resolution, the more pain that will be felt. With each day comes more news about Illinoisans unable to get basic services, devastating nonprofit closures and additional mistakes that will take far longer to remedy than they take to create.

    Indeed, just this week, Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that she will not make the state's November pension payment, a practice that has indisputably led to the current condition of our state pension systems.

    Skipping this payment is simply repeating the biggest mistake of our past, and it puts our state's fiscal stability at even greater risk. We know what happens when we short our pension systems, and credit agencies do, too.

    For all the talk about getting rid of “business as usual” in Springfield, this certainly feels like more of the same.