Biss

  • 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.

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  • 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 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.”

  • biss 040517In a move to stand with college students and their families, the Illinois General Assembly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a Student Loan Bill of Rights Tuesday, with the Illinois House voting 98-16.

    Sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss, the initiative of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office will hold lending companies accountable to bad-faith practices like roping students into loans with terms they may not understand or pressuring borrowers into deferments that ultimately serve only to prolong their indebtedness and harm their credit.

  • biss 031517 2SPRINGFIELD – Illinois college students who borrow money to pay for their education could be better protected from predatory lenders with the help of a student loan bill of rights, a measure sponsored by Senate Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

    The Illinois Senate reaffirmed its support for the effort Wednesday when it voted 37-19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s August veto of Senate Bill 1351.

    “Student debt is a real problem in Illinois,” Biss said. “This legislation takes a significant step toward tackling the problem, and it will make life better for student borrowers throughout the state, especially as the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility to people who are working hard to have a better future.”

  • 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.

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  • minwage 053017Today the Illinois House approved Senate Bill 81 which increases the minimum wage in Illinois. The measure was initiated in the Senate and increases the minimum wage over five years to $15 per hour by January 1, 2022.

    Senate President John J. Cullerton statement on House approval of a minimum wage increase:

    “The Senate has been waiting a long time for this. I hope that my assurances that this will get a vote in the Senate helped give the House members the courage to do the right thing. The Senate is ready to take this up if the House can get the paperwork over to us.”

  • biss 052917SPRINGFIELD – Private equity firms would have to disclose the currently secret investment fees they charge to Illinois’ public pension funds under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that was approved in the Senate Monday.

    These sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are exempt from disclosure to taxpayers under Illinois sunshine laws. Even the boards that oversee the pension funds are kept in the dark about some fees.

    Biss maintains that this kind of secrecy flies in the face of a steadily growing national and global movement toward more transparency.

    “This is not a time for Illinois taxpayers to be paying fees they don’t know about,” he said. “If you’re concerned about the asset levels in the pension funds, you should be concerned about the fees you’re paying. That is the only expenditure that is secret from you right now.”

    Senate Bill 779 would attempts to increase the state’s pension funds’ investment transparency by requiring that:

    • pension systems disclose agreements with alternative investment funds and certain provisions of those agreements;
    • alternative investment fund managers and general partners disclose certain investment fees paid directly or indirectly to the alternative investment fund;
    • if an investment fund utilizes the Institutional Limited Partners Association template, the fund will be in compliance with the disclosure requirements;
    • disclosures would be published on the systems’ websites and subject to FOIA.

    The provisions of Senate Bill 779 would apply to every large retirement system or pension fund regulated by the Illinois Pension Code, as well as the Illinois State Board of Investment. The disclosure requirements would apply to new agreements proposed or executed after Jan. 1, 2018.

    The Teachers Retirement System, the largest system in Illinois, currently has nearly $8.5 billion invested and committed to the private equity asset class.

    According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

    Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

    “Common sense says that if we have that greater level of transparency, we’ll pay lower fees and have better returns,” Biss said. “We should know the fees we pay, and that knowledge will allow us to negotiate better deals on our pension funds. That’s a winning formula for taxpayers.”

    Senate Bill 779 now will go to the House for consideration.

  • pre exist 052917SPRINGFIELD – As Washington sends mixed signals about the future of affordable health care for millions of Americans, the Illinois Senate on Friday voted to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage to Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions.

    House Bill 2959 garnered bipartisan support in the Senate’s 46-5 vote. The measure now has been approved in both the Senate and the House; it is expected to be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.

    “This legislation guarantees that health insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions – something that roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have, according to the federal government,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) sponsored it in the House.

    On May 4, Congress passed the American Health Care Act 217-213, which would allow states to opt out of community ratings in the individual markets. These ratings provide a way of spreading risk by setting rates for health insurance among a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

    Under the act, if this restriction is removed, states could vary premiums by health status for people who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year. The state would be required to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, either through a reinsurance system that would pay money directly to insurers or by setting up a high-risk pool. The state would not be required to provide insurance coverage for these patients.

    Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released findings that the state waivers allowed by the bill pending in Congress could lead to skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, such as an extra $1,000 per month for maternity coverage in states that waive certain coverage regulations for insurers. Additionally, the CBO found that many people with pre-existing conditions simply would be priced out of coverage in states that use the waivers.

    “While it’s unclear how all of these changes in Washington will shake out in the end, Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said.

    “House Bill 2959 will help to protect vulnerable Illinoisans who rely on the ACA and are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them. Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents all over the state.”

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  • biss 031517 2SPRINGFIELD – A measure that would bring fairness to Illinois’ income tax system, close the wealth divide and help to resolve the state’s budget crisis passed in the Senate this week.

    Senate Bill 1719, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would close the carried interest loophole that enables ultra-wealthy hedge fund and private equity managers to avoid paying millions of dollars in Illinois taxes.

    “Wealthy hedge fund managers are exploiting an archaic tax loophole and profiting off the backs of Illinois taxpayers,” Biss said. “We have a corrupt tax system in which ordinary people aren’t receiving the government services they help to pay for because the state is broke, in part because of a tax loophole that helps the rich get richer.”

    The legislation would establish a 20 percent privilege tax on a former of compensation known as carried interest beginning July 1, 2017. The tax is on the fees earned from the investment strategy of the investment manager, not on the investment itself.

    Estimates are that the legislation annually could generate between $473 million and $1.7 billion for the state.

    Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative, a Chicago-based organization, commended Biss and the Illinois Senate for passing the legislation.

    “This is great news for Illinois residents who have been languishing under an extended budget impasse,” Patel said. “Illinois needs new revenue. Senate Bill 1719 generates significant revenue, raising it from those who have profited for years off a rigged tax system, instead of asking for more sacrifices from our most vulnerable residents.”

    Biss said this is just another step toward correcting inequities that are baked into Illinois’ tax system.

    “There is no reason for the State of Illinois to aid billionaires in finding ways to shelter their income,” he said. “Everyone should have to pay their fair share of income taxes. And if lawmakers in Congress won’t help us right this wrong, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”

  • biss 051717SPRINGFIELD – Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s role in implementing the package of bills considered today by the Illinois Senate:

    “Gov. Rauner expects lawmakers to give him unchecked freedom to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program that insures the poorest Illinois children and senior citizens, but he’s given us absolutely no reason to trust his judgment about what’s best for the people of Illinois.

    “Gov. Rauner has refused to do his job and introduce a balanced budget and instead has claimed in public to support bipartisan Senate negotiations while secretly torpedoing that same work. We have no reason to trust him with carte blanche authority to destroy our safety net and punish the most vulnerable.

    “I am not willing to give Gov. Rauner emergency rulemaking authority to implement Trumpcare in Illinois or cause undocumented children to lose coverage.

    “In the meantime, Gov. Rauner is doing his best to dismantle the Community Care Program that tens of thousands of seniors rely on to live in dignity in their homes, and I cannot support a budget that facilitates his efforts to do just that.

    “Our state urgently needs a budget, and I will continue to do all I can to move us toward a fair budget resolution that adequately funds our priorities. I stand ready to work with anyone toward that goal, and I am prepared to compromise.

    “But I will not accept the premise that we must balance our budget on the backs of senior citizens and the poor.”

  • 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 BissSPRINGFIELD – Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement today regarding his vote in support of House Bill 40, legislation that ensures women in Illinois continue to have access to important reproductive health care:

    “Consider what we know about how President Trump sees America. We know he has objectionable views on women’s autonomy, and we know his administration has been surprisingly eager to scale back laws supporting groups of people who fought hard to earn basic civil rights in the first place.

  • 05042017CM1039Defendants would not be able to use a victim’s sexual orientation as an excuse for seeking a reduced murder charge under legislation that passed unanimously in the Illinois Senate Friday.

    Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) sponsored Senate Bill 1761, which is commonly known as the “gay panic defense” bill. Under the legislation, panicking about the discovery, knowledge or disclosure of a victim’s sexual orientation cannot qualify as a mitigating factor for murder.

    “Although these types of criminal defenses are rare, they still happen from time to time around the country,” Biss said. “As we continue to take steps to ensure equal rights for those in the gay, lesbian and transgender community, the government must send an unmistakable signal that sexual orientation should never be grounds for committing an act of violence.”

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  • biss 040517SPRINGFIELD – The Rauner administration’s sudden move to halt its drive to privatize the jobs of 124 unionized prison nurses shouldn’t offer sense of comfort to those whose jobs are on the line, state Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.

    Biss, an Evanston Democrat, noted that Gov. Bruce Rauner reverted to his anti-union rhetoric earlier this month when he said nobody would miss state workers should they choose to go on strike. Previously the governor had expressed support for state workers and ensuring they continue to be paid during the state budget stalemate.

    “The Rauner administration did the right thing by putting the brakes on its plan to outsource these prison nurse jobs, but I remain wary of the governor’s motives, particularly given his inconsistent and recently strident anti-union statements. I wouldn’t blame any of these nurses if they aren’t ready to breathe a sigh of relief just yet.”

    Biss voted for legislation that would have stopped the administration’s plan to lay off the nurses currently employed by the state in prisons and privatize their jobs with an out-of-state corporation. The administration said the laid-off nurses would have an opportunity to reapply for their positions with the corporation, presumably at lower salaries.

    The legislation passed in both houses of the Legislature and made it to the governor’s desk.

    The administration intends to reverse its plan to lay off the nurses and continue contract negotiations with them instead, it was announced this morning.