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  • 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 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.
  • lecture hallSPRINGFIELD – As the White House rolls back federal protections for student loan borrowers across the nation, the Illinois State Senate sent a clear message Wednesday that it won’t succumb to pressure from loan services and their lobbyists.

    Legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that would establish a student loan bill of rights in Illinois and help to protect students from predatory college lenders passed in the Senate Wednesday.

    “The fact that the student loan industry sent high-powered lobbyists to Springfield to fight against these practical, commonsense protections for middle- and low-income families tells me that we’re on the right track with this legislation,” Biss said.

    “Students are drowning in debt the second they complete their education. It can take decades to dig out from that kind of financial burden, and quite often students quickly fall behind on their payments or end up in default. This is no way to start a life, a career or a family.”

  • Sen. Daniel Biss

    Joining the chorus of workers and Illinoisans who voted overwhelmingly in favor of an increase to the minimum wage, State Senator Daniel Biss called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign legislation the Illinois Senate passed that would increase the hourly wage to $15.

    “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is starting to fade away,” Biss said at a press conference in Chicago this week. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will help that a lot, but it goes beyond that. The state spends $5 billion subsidizing corporations that aren’t willing to pay their workers a living wage. We can’t afford that. Corporations need to pull their weight.”

    Biss was joined by Adriana Alvarez, a worker at McDonald’s and a single mother.

    “I’m urging Governor Rauner to do the right thing and sign the bill,” Alvarez said. “For me personally, a single mom with a five-year-old, it would mean I would be able to afford everything he needs.”

    (Spanish version available HERE)

    Biss is the chief co-sponsor of Senate Bill 81. The legislation would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2022, starting with an increase to $9 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2018. It awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

  • 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.

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  • biss 112818The Illinois Senate honored Senator Daniel Biss’ term in office today with a resolution celebrating his service as his term comes to an end, as the Senator from Evanston thanked his colleagues and family for their support during his endeavors in the General Assembly.

    Coming to the Senate from the Illinois House of Representatives in 2013, the Harvard graduate and holder of a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT was known for his advocacy of women, minorities and LGBT persons, his interest in modernizing Illinois law to address rapidly evolving technologies and his creation of the Secure Choice Savings Program for retirees.

  • 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.”

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  • 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 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 022818Citing studies that clearly show a drastic increase in the elderly population projected over the next decade, Senator Daniel Biss joined state Rep. Chris Welch to announce a measure that would put Illinois on the path to a system of universal long-term care for the state’s elderly and disabled populations.

    “Here’s the question we need to be asking: In a world where the population is aging, what is our responsibility to one another?” Biss said, speaking at the Capitol today. “Should we hope that families will, on their own, be able to care for their aging loved ones? Or should we instead come together as a community and decide, jointly, that everybody has a human right to age with dignity near their family, in their community. That’s the moral thing to do.”

  • SPRINGFIELD – Following the Illinois Senate’s passage of a compromise on gun dealer licensing, Senator Daniel Biss issued the following statement:

    “It is long past time to improve our nation’s inadequate gun laws to save lives. This measure provides our law enforcement agencies more information about gun purchases,” said Biss (D-Evanston). “This long-overdue regulatory action should be the first step toward comprehensive gun safety reform.”

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  • 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."