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.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.”
SPRINGFIELD—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to notify local police agencies to assist in seizing a Firearm Owners Identification Card when that person’s card has been revoked by a judge in an order of protection case.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.
SPRINGFIELD—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.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.
SPRINGFIELD - 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.
CHICAGO—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.”
SPRINGFIELD—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.
SPRINGFIELD—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.
Proposal 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.
Legislation product of investigation into perks for higher education presidents
SPRINGFIELD—Community colleges and state universities may see a lot of changes coming soon when it comes to administration pay and severance packages.
State Senator Bill Cunningham proposed a reform package after the Senate Democratic Caucus Report on Higher Education Executive Compensation revealed lavish perks, golden parachutes and a lack of transparency in hiring and firing of administrators.
“This was about taking steps to protect taxpayers and tuition payers from abuse by college and university administration,” Cunningham said. “Lavish perks, like country club memberships, were forcing students to pay more and taxpayers to cover more costs when tuition was not enough.”
SPRINGFIELD—Hairdressers and nail technicians throughout Illinois soon will be trained to properly detect signs of domestic violence or sexual assault thanks to legislation being pushed by Senator Bill Cunningham in the Illinois Senate.
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 training will educate salon professionals about the signs of domestic violence or sexual assault as well as how to support and connect their clients with resources for help.
“When I met my wife she was working as a hair dresser to put herself through college and she would be witness to stories of abuse from clients, yet she would not know what steps to take,” Cunningham said. “Ensuring more people are aware of what sexual assault or domestic violence looks like and what steps they can take to help fight against it, we can stand up and protect victims.”
The legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Fran Hurley. It is an initiative of the Chicago Says No More movement.
“Our coalition is very grateful to Senator Cunningham and Representative Hurley for leading the way in a private-public alliance that will make it possible to responsibly assist a victim asking for help,” said Kristie Paskvan, founder, Chicago Says No More. “We also appreciate the collaboration of Cosmetologists Chicago as we prepared our curriculum which will be presented by professionals trained in addressing domestic violence or sexual assault.”
The legislation has passed the Senate and returns to the House for a final vote before going to the governor’s desk.
SPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed a measure that would help bring justice to victims of sexual assault by ensuring police departments follow-up on potential matches on DNA test kits.
Senate Bill 2221 would require that if a police department did not follow up with the state police on a positive match, then the state police would notify the proper state’s attorney. The legislation also requires that an annual inventory be taken by both the state police and local police of all DNA kits in their possession.
This legislation comes in response to a situation that occurred in the Village of Robbins, Illinois. The local police department was notified of a positive match on a DNA test kit. The department though did not follow up on the potential match.
“With an issue like sexual assault, we need to take every imaginable step to bring justice to all of these cases. The ramifications of not following up on these matches could be devastating to our criminal justice system,” 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.
SPRINGFIELD—On Wednesday, Senator Bill Cunningham urged his colleagues on the Higher Education Committee to pass legislation that would reform the financial practices surrounding how higher education administration is compensated.
The reforms were launched after a report revealed inappropriate financial practices occurring at institutions of higher education, including the recent scandal at the College of DuPage.
“Our institutions of higher learning throughout Illinois have continued to be plagued by controversies involving excessive compensation for college administrators, which only cost the taxpayers and the students more money,” Cunningham said.
SPRINGFIELD – College students needing to buy a new computer for school use or who utilize special needs services could soon be able use their Illinois’ College Savings Plan to do so due to a measure being pushed by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.
“In today’s society every college student needs a computer to even think about succeeding in college,” Cunningham said. “It is just as necessary as textbooks.”
The measure, Senate Bill 1758, would add computers and other technology based expenses to the definition of qualified expenses for the purposes of one’s Illinois’ College Savings Plan. Expenses from special needs services connected with enrollment or attendance would also be defined as qualified expenses.
“It is unfair for a college or university to put extra cost requirements on a student with special needs to successfully attend and then the state rejects the student’s ability to use their Bright Start Account to pay for those required expenses,” Cunningham said.
The measure was passed out of the Senate’s State Government committee on Wednesday and moves to the full Senate for final passage.
SPRINGFIELD—Legislation passed by Senator Bill Cunningham will help local police keep guns out of the hands of people who've had orders of protection issued against them.
House Bill 6331 would require the state police notify law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction to assist in seizing a FOID card when the person’s FOID card has been revoked because they were the subject of an existing order of protection.
Currently, while a FOID card could be revoked for an existing order of protection, the state police were not required to provide notice to law enforcement agencies that would have jurisdiction due to an oversight in the law.
“This loophole could have huge ramifications in our criminal justice system. We need to push this through to ensure the state police and local law enforcement are able to have and share the necessary information to protect and serve their communities,” Cunningham said.
The legislation has passed both chambers and goes to the governor for approval.
CHICAGO— Senator Cunningham recently sent a letter to an official at Palos Community Hospital urging the hospital to reconsider their current plans to close Palos Health and Fitness Center and attempt to protect the facility and the services it provides.
Members of the fitness center were recently notified that the facility would shut down May 1. The facility which is run by Palos Community Hospital was set for demolition to make space for a new office building.
The facility offers many opportunities for residents to continue on a path to recovery from an illness or injury. It also allows many to be able to continue on a path to living a healthy lifestyle by offering many services including medical programs and nutrition training.
Senator Bill Cunningham recently opposed the proposal to close the community health and fitness center over an approval to build a new office building instead.
“This facility provides unique services that many in the community utilize to leading a healthy lifestyle,” said Senator Cunningham. “I respectfully ask that Palos Community Hospital reconsider their decision or find a way to continue to provide this excellent service to their community.”
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