SPRINGFIELD – One Bunker Hill student asked a question and a new law that goes into effect with the new year is answering it.
Maddie Heflin, a fifth-grader at Wolf Ridge Elementary School, wondered why there isn’t playground equipment that kids with disabilities can use.
Luckily one of the people she asked was State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).
“Accessible playground equipment exists but she wanted to know why it isn’t in our parks and playgrounds. If we can provide equipment that lets them play freely with their classmates, it will promote acceptance and inclusion of students with disabilities,” Manar said.
Maddie’s question lead to House Bill 3457, which is now a new law directing the Illinois Department of Natural resources to prioritize park grants to purchase accessible playground equipment. Manar sponsored the proposal in the Senate.
The proposal was approved by the lawmakers this spring and signed by the governor. It goes into effect Jan. 1.
Grants from DNR’s outdoor recreation program are already prioritized based on the useful life of facilities, safety needs and other factors. This proposal adds universally accessible swings, ground-level play features, wheelchair-accessible tables and ramped equipment to that list of priorities.
“Maddie’s question and her concern for others is what led to the creation of this law. Thanks to her help every student will have a chance to participate, and it will teach children at a young age to ignore any stigma around disability,” Manar said.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to re-invest in clean coal would help jolt the industry that has endured a crippling decrease over the years.
“The coal industry was a major source of income and jobs for the rural parts of our state. When it started to slow down, thousands of jobs were downsized and many mines were closed,” said Manar. “Investing in clean coal technology and creating a system for those companies to partner with local utility companies will give this industry a much-needed boost.”
The plan, Senate Bill 3426, would create the Clean Coal Technology Development and Utilization Fund and call for greater investments in clean coal producers on behalf of the state. The fund would then be solely used to fund clean coal project investments by the Illinois Finance Authority.
In addition, the measure requires that local utility companies utilize energy created by the clean coal sites as a source of power for their customers.
“This plan is a two-fold investment. It provides the capital to create clean coal projects, as well as the customer base to sustain the projects there afterwards,” said Manar.
Senate Bill 3426 is currently pending in the Illinois Senate.
CHICAGO-- With one day left for Governor Rauner to sign or veto bipartisan Automatic Voter Registration legislation, the Just Democracy Illinois coalition joined the bill’s legislative sponsors to call on Governor Rauner to sign the bill into law on Thursday.
“Automatic Voter Registration will add eligible Illinois voters to the rolls, make our voting lists more accurate, and save taxpayers money over time,” said Abraham Scarr, Co-Coordinator of Just Democracy Illinois and Director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “We urge Governor Rauner to seize this opportunity to modernize voter registration in Illinois.”
Spending more won’t fix inequity
SPRINGFIELD – Students and taxpayers in Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10 are being disadvantaged under Illinois’ antiquated system for funding education. The current education formula funnels money to largely wealthy districts that have the resources to spend as much as $30,000 per student. Recent data suggests that Paxton-Buckely-Loda CUSD 10 spends roughly a third of that per student, about $9,696. Reforming the state’s education funding formula could send more state money to Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner is pushing to put more tax dollars into the system that shortchanges Paxton-Buckley-Loda. He toured the high school Thursday.
State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) appreciates the governor’s commitment to improving education, but is trying to win support for a modern school funding system that better recognizes the needs of schools like Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
“Increasing our investment in education alone will not get to the heart of the inequity between Illinois’ school districts,” Manar said. “It’s disheartening to hear the governor tell students, teachers and parents all over the state in struggling school districts that he will fix the problem, while he refuses to commit to implementing a more equitable funding formula.”
Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Paxton-Buckley-Loda, based on the needs of its students. Under the reform plan, Paxton-Buckley-Loda could see an additional $237,000 in annual state aid, or about $170 more per student. Manar notes that this pending legislation would not require more spending, as the governor has proposed, at the state level.
“I have advised the governor that he is making the same mistakes as his predecessors. He thinks we can spend our way out of this problem,” said Manar. “We spend $12 billion today on schools, and we have the least equitable system in America. We can spend that $12 billion better to drive better results and bridge the inequity gap.”
The new proposed funding formula takes student need into account, by providing more money to districts serving higher numbers of low income, special needs or English learning students. According to recent data, 49 percent of Paxton-Buckley-Loda students are low income, close to the state average.
Roughly 16 percent of students in the district have disabilities, higher than the state average of 14 percent.
As Illinois students begin preparing for mid-terms, Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the Senate’s Higher Education Committee at Joliet Junior College to hear from students, parents and state community colleges and universities on the impact the current budget impasse is having on higher education in Illinois.“Time's a'wastin' - first semester already has started. Governor Rauner, get on board,” McGuire said. “Support MAP and higher education funding so Illinois high school graduates and returning adults can earn the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy to make our state strong again.”
SPRINGFIELD – A proposal creating a commission that will oversee Springfield’s 10th Street Rail Corridor was signed into law Wednesday.
State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) sponsored the commission that aims to increase transparency and ensure accountability in minority hiring.
Manar and Scherer credited citizen participation, specifically the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, for this commission becoming a reality.
SPRINGFIELD – A measure designed to fill a projected workforce shortage in rural Illinois while connecting students with good-paying careers in health care advanced out of a Senate committee this week.
Senate Bill 888, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), would allow community colleges to award four-year nursing degrees in an effort to deepen the pool of qualified registered nurses available to be hired by Illinois health care employers.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree today is considered the national entry-level educational standard for a registered nurse. A 2015 report by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation indicated that about a third of registered nurses age 55 and older planned to retire within five years, prompting concerns about a statewide nursing shortage.
Manar said the district he represents, which spans rural and underserved areas of downstate Illinois, stands to be especially hard hit by the nursing shortage.
Currently in Illinois, only universities may award bachelor’s degrees in nursing, but they have not been able to address the nursing shortage in some areas of the state.
Community colleges are well suited to help four-year universities ensure hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and medical offices throughout the state have a pool of well-qualified nursing applicants from which to hire, Manar said, adding that it’s also a good way to stem the tide of young people leaving Illinois in search of jobs.
“This approach may be outside of the box for Illinois, but nationally we would not be an outlier. Eleven other states do this type of thing with their community colleges,” Manar said.
“This discussion is about something much bigger than simply the traditional mission of Illinois’ universities and community colleges,” he said. “This is about offering excellent health care, planning for the future, adapting to changing critical workforce needs, offering affordable options for job training, putting people in good-paying jobs and keeping young people in the communities – and the state –where they grew up. These are all vitally important issues in Illinois, and this legislation touches on all of them.”
Senate Bill 888 grants 20 Illinois community colleges the ability to award bachelor of science degrees in nursing and sets standards for establishing nursing programs, including accreditation, documenting unmet workforce needs and more.
It also calls for a four-year review of the effort by the Illinois Community College Board, including a comprehensive statewide evaluation of newly created programs and a written report submitted to the State Board of Higher Education, the governor and both chambers of the General Assembly before July 1, 2022.
The legislation does not require community colleges to offer the degrees. State money may not be used to establish or maintain the program, according to the legislation.
The measure advanced out of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee on Tuesday.
SPRINGFIELD – A controversial plan before Congress that would permit companies to fine workers who refuse to share their genetic information through workplace wellness programs has prompted Illinois lawmakers to tighten up a state law protecting workers from such repercussions.
“We’re seeing changes proposed at the federal level that are concerning to me and to others,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of Senate Bill 318. “The goal here is only to protect the genetic information of individuals when that information might be used against them in the employee-employer relationship.”
The legislation advanced out of the Senate Labor Committee Wednesday. It was prompted by news that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, in March proposed the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (HR1313).
Supporters said the measure would enable employers to have the “legal certainty” to promote good health while lowering health care costs. However, critics said it would allow employers to pressure workers to share their private genetic information by rewarding them with lower health insurance costs, while penalizing those who choose not to disclose such details.
The Winston-Salem Journal, Foxx’s hometown newspaper, called the measure an example of “big government run amok,” in an editorial urging Congress to kill it.
Under Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act, employers must handle genetic testing consistent with the federal laws. It prevents employers from requiring genetic testing as a condition of employment, from changing terms of employment as a result of genetic information, or from classifying employees based on genetic testing. Further, it says testing done in the context of a workplace wellness program is available to employers only in aggregate form, not on an individual basis.
Manar’s proposed update to the law would bar employers from penalizing workers who choose not to disclose their genetic information or do not participate in a program that requires disclosure of their genetic information.
“I think we have a strong law in Illinois, but I don’t think it’s very strong about barring employers from penalizing employees,” he said.
SPRINGFIELD – Too many questions exist about Wexford Health Sources’ oversight of health care in Illinois prisons, which is reason enough for Gov. Bruce Rauner to cease efforts to outsource prison nurses to the Pennsylvania corporation, Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.
Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan plan to stop the governor from outsourcing additional medical and mental health service jobs from state prisons. Senator Sam McCann (R-Plainview) also is a co-sponsor of the plan.
SPRINGFIELD – As lawmakers around the country propose new ways to restrict voters’ access to the polls, State Senator Andy Manar is determined to expand access in Illinois, simplify voter registration, clean up the voter rolls and save money for taxpayers.
Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has re-introduced commonsense legislation to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois. Last year, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the effort even though it had bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.
SPRINGFIELD—With the deadline fast approaching for the governor to act, state Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to recognize the importance of the State Museum in Springfield –and its four branch sites— by signing a proposal that would re-open the institutions.
“The State Museum is a valuable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Illinois,” Manar said. “Keeping the museums open has widespread, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, so far, the governor is sticking with his decision to lock out the public. I’m hoping there’s still time to convince him to open the doors and restore access to these terrific public resources.”
Last October, Gov. Rauner shuttered the five State Museums under the guise of budget cuts and cost savings. However, the collections and displays all remain in place and employees remain on state payroll and report to their jobs in the locked museums.
Manar sponsored Senate Bill 317 to ensure that the Department of Natural Resources keeps the State Museums open to the public. The General Assembly approved the plan late last year and the Senate sent it to the governor’s desk on Dec. 9.
Under the state constitution, Gov. Rauner has until Sunday, Feb. 7 to act on the museum legislation.
SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to halt the proliferation of bath salts being sold by Illinois retailers passed through the Illinois Senate on Thursday.
Bath salts, specifically known as synthetic cathinones, can be consumed in multiple different ways by the user, and can mimic the effect of amphetamine or PCP and often times causes hallucinations.
“There has been a disturbing trend of abuse of these synthetic drugs over the past few years in Illinois and most notably in rural parts of the state,” Manar said. “This plan would help authorities stop the spread of bath salts by closing stores that knowingly sell these extremely dangerous and volatile drugs.”
Senate Bill 210 would create the Bath Salts Prohibition Act and ban retailers in Illinois from selling synthetic cathinones that are commonly sold under disguise and labeled as bath salts, plant food or jewelry cleaner.
Under the proposal, a retailer that is convicted of selling bath salts can have its retail license revoked, and guilty offenders can be charged with a Class 3 felony.
Mike Havera, the Christian County state’s attorney, testified in support of the bill before a Senate committee on April 13.
“It’s a different type of drug based on the commercial marketing of the drug targeting youth and targeting the ignorant or uneducated public, trying to market it as something that is not illegal.
“With my four years as public defender, I didn’t have any armed robbery cases. In less than four years as the Christian County States Attorney we’ve had 10 armed robberies and six of those attributable to bath salts. So we’re also seeing a violent nature…we’re seeing violent crimes quite often.”
Senate Bill 210 passed by a 53-0 vote and now moves to the House for consideration.
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