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  • Senator Cunningham (D-Chicago) discusses his proposal to ensure that DNA testing taken after reported sexual assaults are sent to the proper labs for testing.


  • Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) takes a moment to restate the importance of MAP grants for Illinois students and institutions of higher learning on January 28, 2016.


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  • cunningham 052318SPRINGFIELD – Local school boards would have the final authority to approve or decline new charter schools under legislation passed out of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee today by State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat representing Chicago and parts of the Southwest Suburbs.

    The legislation, House Bill 5175, eliminates charter schools’ ability to appeal a local school board’s decision to deny or not renew a charter school. Under current law, a charter school applicant may file an appeal with the State Charter School Commission, who can reverse the school board’s decision.

    “Local school boards are deeply invested in the communities they serve and ultimately know what’s best for their schools,” Cunningham said. “The State Charter School Commission shouldn’t be able to reverse decisions by local leaders elected by voters in that community.”

    The legislation leaves in place a provision allowing charter schools to be approved by referendum if at least five percent of the voters in a school district petition the school board.

    HB 5175 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

  • cunningham 022817SPRINGFIELD – On Tuesday, the Illinois Senate pushed through legislation that would finish funding state services through the end of the current fiscal year. The legislative package included legislation that would send promised MAP grant money to students for the current fiscal year.

    “The state of Illinois committed to assisting students in bettering themselves by attending a university or community colleges,” Cunningham said. “We need to send the money we promised these students so that they aren’t left hanging with the bill.”

    The legislation also would fund critical human service programs who saw what little funding was available from the stopgap proposal end on December 31.

    “Groups like Sertoma, Park Lawn and Sandbox Learning Center have gone for far too long with no certainty that funding is coming,” Cunningham said. “Today, we were able to give them some hope by starting to pass this compromise.”

  • cunningham 031518SPRINGFIELD – Rank-and-file Chicago firefighters would have greater oversight and control of funding intended for their department under legislation passed by the Illinois Senate today.

    Sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley, House Bill 5197 would establish a Foreign Fire Insurance Board, an entity that will be entrusted with the expenditure of fire insurance fees collected exclusively from insurance companies whose corporate headquarters are located outside of Illinois.

    Currently, the City of Chicago receives about $5 million in fire insurance fees, which are directly deposited into the city’s general fund. HB 5197 would transfer control of those funds to a newly-established Foreign Fire Insurance Board and require the City of Chicago to turn over fire insurance revenue to the board.

    “The legislation streamlines the flow of tax dollars and allows the Chicago fire fighters to determine how revenue intended for their own department is used,” said Cunningham, a Democrat representing parts of Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs. “The funding will now go directly to fire suppression instead of being spread throughout the city budget.”

    Advocates of the legislation say it will improve Chicago Firefighter’s safety and effectiveness through enhancements in their equipment and training. The funds will be used to purchase of items such personal protective gear, tools, fire apparatus, enhanced training and for firehouse improvements.

    “This newly-created board will draw on the knowledge, experience, and expertise of the rank-and-file to purchase items that allow them to safely operate in the many hazardous situations they routinely encounter,” said Robert Tebbens, Director of Political Action for Chicago Firefighters’ Union. “It will also give their families confidence that they will return home safely.”

    Under current law, the Chicago Fire Department is the only fire department in the state that does not have a fire insurance board.

    The fire insurance board would consist of the department’s fire commissioner and six elected trustees.

    HB 5197 now heads to the House for approval.

  • cunningham 022817SPRINGFIELD – A bipartisan measure to close a conflict of interest loophole in Illinois statute became law on Tuesday.

    “Good government should apply to everyone throughout the state,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham. “This new law will help ensure grant awards aren’t compromised by conflicts of interest.”

    The new law bans members of the Illinois Energy Conservation Advisory Council from receiving any state grants for teaching continuing education regarding any rule proposed by the council. The measure received unanimous support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.

    “This is not the end of our work. We need to continue as a state to close these loopholes and this law is just a step in the right direction,” Cunningham said.

    The new law is effective immediately.

  • cunninghamSPRINGFIELD—Local law enforcement will work to keep guns out of the hands of people who have orders of protection against them thanks to a new Illinois law.

    House Bill 6331, sponsored by Senator Bill Cunningham, will require the state police to notify local police agencies to assist in seizing a Firearm Owners Identification Card when that person’s card has been revoked by a judge in an order of protection case. 

    “If law enforcement is going to successfully protect victims of domestic violence, all police agencies must have the information they need to enforce court orders," Cunningham said. "As the law stands today, the state police must shoulder the entire burden on their own. That's not fair to the state police or to the victims of domestic violence."

    Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago. 

  • cunningham ag edSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate prioritizing agriculture education in the state.

    Senate Bill 2975, subject to appropriation, would create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for an agriculture education teacher. If a school district is creating a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth year.

    “We need to prioritize agriculture in our schools. Our economy is driven by agriculture and yet so many students throughout the state have very little opportunity to learn about it,” Cunningham said. “This legislation would allow schools like the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences to easily maintain or create agriculture education programs.”

    The legislation would also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education. Only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “We need to emphasize the careers agriculture offers, and one of those is teaching the next generation about those opportunities,” Cunningham said.

    The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

  • cunningham 050217SPRINGFIELD – Families in Mount Greenwood, Beverly and Morgan Park could soon see increased enrollment opportunities to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHAS) because of legislation passed by the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.

    Senate Bill 447, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), would allow for 40 more seats to be opened up to local families and would statutorily authorize the special education cluster that currently exists at the school

    “The Ag School is a top-tier school, and anytime it is possible we should be increasing access to schools like these,” Cunningham said. “By doing this we allow more families to have an opportunity to keep their kids closer to home.”

    CHAS was created by state law more than 20 years ago. Though the school has provided special education services for years, those programs were not recognized by state law until the introduction of Senate Bill 447.

    “Special education services should be guaranteed at schools, like the Ag School, that offer students unique education experiences,” Cunningham said. “This measure helps accomplish that and provides some stability for families in our community.”

    The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

  • cunningham ag edSPRINGFIELD – After learning about an outlandish severance package given to an outgoing community college president by a lame duck board of trustees, Senate Bill Cunningham knew something had to change.

    Cunningham proposed a package of reforms that was signed into law today, making the hiring and firing process of college administrators more transparent and fair to both taxpayers and students.

    The package includes a proposal that would require community college boards and university boards partake in a minimum of four hours of professional development training that ranges from labor laws to ethics training.

    “We need to protect taxpayers and tuition payers,” Cunningham said. “Tuition is on the rise in part because of abuse in the hiring and firing of chief administrators of our state universities and community colleges.”

    Another proposal in the package would ban a lame duck community college board from approving a new contract with less than 45 days left before the next election.

    Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago. 

  • cunningham 022817SPRINGFIELD – On Thursday, Senator Bill Cunningham and officials from the University of Illinois announced a new financial aid program that will be a part of the larger University of Illinois “Investment, Performance, and Accountability Commitment.” The goal of the commitment is to set a tuition cap and increase access to the University of Illinois for Illinois students.

    “This new program continues to drive home the fact that universities like the U of I system should be finding ways to bring real results for Illinois taxpayers,” Cunningham said. “This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensure taxpayer money being spent is doing what it is supposed to be doing, helping Illinois.”

    The legislation, Senate Bill 222, would guarantee a minimum level of funding for the University of Illinois system in return for the system meeting certain benchmarks including a tuition cap and increased access for Illinois students. The forthcoming amendment looks to help U of I achieve the goals set. If the university system were to fail their expectations the state could withhold a portion of the guaranteed funding.

    “This legislation could be a template for other universities throughout the state,” Cunningham said. “It provides stability in university planning and gives the Illinois taxpayers tangible results on how that money is being spent.”

    Senate Bill 222 is currently under consideration by the Senate’s Higher Education committee.

  • cunningham dcfs wardsSPRINGFIELD - Wards of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who run away or go missing from the system will now have additional protections to help find them and keep them out of the hands of predators. Two pieces of legislation, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, were signed into law to help create a system to locate missing wards that are reported as well as enhancing penalties for criminals who exploit those missing wards.

    “The protection of our children, regardless of circumstance, is a priority. With the passage and signing of these important pieces of legislation, our most vulnerable children will have better protection and, hopefully, a better life,” said Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat.

    Senate Bill 1775, also known as the Safeguard our Children Act, spells out what is required from DCFS once a youth in their custody is reported missing. The legislation states that DCFS must report the missing youth to local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Illinois State Police must also develop a network to help with locating missing DCFS wards.

    From 2011 to 2013, residential DCFS facilities reported 29,425 incidents of missing wards, averaging 27 runaway reports per day. Many residential facilities do not report the runaways to local law enforcement.

    “There have been numerous cases of DCFS wards going missing, where, unfortunately, law enforcement was not made aware of the missing child,” Cunningham said. “This new law will help us to find runaway wards as quickly as possible, helping protect them from possible exploitation.”

    Also signed into law was Senate Bill 201, which allows sentencing courts to consider a defendant’s knowledge of a prostitution victim’s DCFS status when sentencing. Many wards of the state are extremely susceptible and are in need of extra judicial protections. The legislation specifically states that judges may consider the fact that a criminal knew their victim to be a ward of DCFS and consider that knowledge as an aggravating factor when imposing sentences.

    "A series of recent articles reported that human traffickers often specifically target and recruit wards of the state who reside in group homes. Predators see them as especially vulnerable and susceptible to being lured into a life of prostitution," Cunningham said. "The new law would enable judges to enhance the sentences imposed on pimps and traffickers in those cases."

    Cunningham has worked closely with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart over the years to help craft good public policy in the criminal justice and corrections field. These two new laws are a direct result of that good working relationship.

    “I’m proud to have worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on this. We will continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable children and make their protection a priority,” Cunningham said.

  • cunningham 031518SPRINGFIELD – Individuals who threaten gun violence against schools on social media would be required to reimburse police departments for added security and emergency response costs under legislation sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat representing Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs.

    The legislation, Senate Bill 563, is aimed at reducing the trend of copycat threats in the wake of school shootings by updating the disorderly conduct statute, which is the state law most often used to prosecute individuals who make threats against schools. Under current law, those convicted of making threats are required to reimburse public safety agencies for response-related costs, but only if they make the threat via a 9-1-1 phone call or if they specifically threaten to use a bomb.

    “Most threats of violence against schools are no longer made through a phone call and increasingly, the threats make no mention of a bomb,” Cunningham said. “According to law enforcement agencies in my district, threats against schools are more commonly made via social media posts. The law needs to be updated to address this change.”

    In an additional effort to combat school shooting, the legislation would also give police departments the ability to immediately bring individuals who make threats against a school to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

    “The burden for determining whether a threat against a school is legitimate or just a prank should not fall solely on the police,” Cunningham said. “We need to empower our law enforcement and healthcare providers to work together and provide that safety net.”

    In drafting the legislation, Cunningham worked closely with Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan, whose department heightened security measures at local schools four times this year due to threats on social media.

    In some cases throughout the country, school administrators have ordered school closures as a pre-emptive measure following online threats.

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  • cunningham dom viol 081716CHICAGO—Hair dressers and nail technicians throughout Illinois will now be trained to detect signs of domestic violence or sexual assault and help the victims thanks to legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Cunningham that was signed into law on Friday.

    "My wife used to work as a hair dresser and she frequently heard stories from her clients who were victims of domestic violence," Cunningham said. "Unfortunately, she didn't have the knowledge or resources needed to help them. This new law will ensure that hair dressers will be trained to assist their clients who reach out to them for help."

    House Bill 4264 would require that cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians and hair braiders take a one-hour continuing education class about domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. The class would also provide them with resources to give to their clients.

    “I was proud to stand with activists like Chicago Says No More to say enough is enough,” Cunningham said. “Illinois took a proactive step in ensuring that domestic violence and sexual assault is not tolerated in this state.”

    Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago. 

  • cunninghamSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham during the spring legislative session pushed to expand and extend the successful accelerated resolution court, also known as Rocket Docket, in Cook County.

    The legislation, signed into law today, would add minor traffic and drug offenses to the program and extends the program’s sunset date to 2019. The Rocket Docket program expedites the adjudication of minor offenses by requiring they be tried with 30 days.

    “This program has been a success since day one in controlling overcrowding of Cook County Jail,” Cunningham said. “It also has been a success in lowering the financial burden on taxpayers who fund the jail.”

    Currently, the Cook County Sheriff refers defendants to the program and the Cook County State’s Attorney approves those referrals. For any defendant to be eligible they are not allowed to have any prior convictions for violent offenses within the past 10 years and must be unable to post bond.

    “It only made sense to keep a successful program running,” Cunningham said.

    Senator Cunningham represents portions of Worth, Orland and Palos Townships in the southwest suburbs and the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood, Beverly, Morgan Park and Auburn-Gresham in Chicago. 

  • cunningham 030118SPRINGFIELD – Local school boards would have the final authority to approve or decline new charter schools under legislation passed out of the Illinois Senate today by State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat representing Chicago and parts of the Southwest Suburbs.

    The legislation, House Bill 5175, eliminates charter schools’ ability to appeal a local school board’s decision to deny or not renew a charter school. Under current law, a charter school applicant may file an appeal with the State Charter School Commission, who can reverse the school board’s decision.

    “Local school boards are deeply invested in the communities they serve and ultimately know what’s best for their schools,” Cunningham said. “The State Charter School Commission shouldn’t be able to reverse decisions by local leaders elected by voters in that community.”

    The legislation leaves in place a provision allowing charters to be approved by referendum if at least 5 percent of the voters in a school district petition the school board.

    HB 5175 now heads to the House for concurrence.

  • cunningham hiedcompSPRINGFIELD—Higher education administrators will no longer be able to claim country club memberships as a part of their pensionable income thanks to a proposal pushed by Senator Bill Cunningham becoming law today.

    Senate Bill 2156 was one several new laws authored by Cunningham this year aimed at limiting perks for public college and university presidents in Illinois. The legislation was sparked by a scandal at the College of DuPage, where the president received a $750,000 severance package just to leave the college.

  • cunningham 040616Proposal would require more accountability at local police departments

    SPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham is pushing for a measure that would ensure local police departments are held accountable when it comes to sexual assault kits.

    The legislation, Senate Bill 2221, would require that if the local police department did not follow up on the positive match, then the proper state’s attorney would be notified by the state police. It would also require that an inventory be taken both at the state police and the local police departments of all DNA kits in their possession.