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  • cunningham 050919SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that seeks to deter threats from being made against schools on social media was approved by the Senate Criminal Law Committee Tuesday.

    “False threats against our schools not only cause a panic, but also trigger costly emergency responses that divert first responders’ attention away from situations where they’re really needed,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “School safety is a serious issue and we need to do all we can to deter false threats from being made.”

    Under Illinois law, a person commits the offense of disorderly conduct when he or she calls 911 for the purpose of making a false complaint or providing false information, including a threat against a school.

    House Bill 1579 expands the offense to include threats made on any platform, including social media. Current law only covers threats made by telephone or threats that specifically mention the use a bomb.

    If an individual is convicted of transmitting a false threat, he or she must also pay for the costs of the emergency response the threat triggered.

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

    “According to law enforcement in my district, threats of violence against schools are increasingly coming through social media rather than the phone and make no mention of a bomb,” Cunningham said. “We’re in the social media age right now and this trend is only going to continue. We need to update our laws to reflect modern concerns.”

    The measure further allows the court to order a mental health evaluation for a minor charged with disorderly conduct for transmitting a threat to a school.

    “Police and health care providers need to work together to determine whether or not a threat is legitimate,” Cunningham said. “We need to use every tool available to make sure our students aren’t at risk.”

    The measure will now go before the entire Senate.

  • cunningham 041219SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a measure Thursday introduced by State Senator Bill Cunningham that would crack down on assault and public indecency in prisons and jails.

    Senate Bill 416 would allow a prison warden to revoke up to 90 days of pre-trial credit or good behavior credit from an individual if the prison disciplinary board sustains charges of public indecency, assault or battery on a peace officer.

    The legislation would further allow prison wardens to revoke up to 365 days of credit for each subsequent charge that has been sustained by the prison disciplinary board.

    “Peace officers have dangerous jobs and it’s imperative that we protect these men and women just as well as they protect us,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “These penalties will be an effective deterrent against inappropriate behavior in our prisons and make them safer for both the guards and the inmates, themselves.”

    The Senate approved the measure in a 57-0 vote. The bill will now go before the House of Representatives.

  • semi idling 041019SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a bill sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham Wednesday that would prohibit diesel trucks from idling excessively in residential areas.

    Senate Bill 1256 would prevent diesel trucks over 8,000 pounds from idling for more than a total of ten minutes in an hour if the vehicle is within 200 feet of a residential area in Cook County.

    Cunningham credited Cook County residents living near a trucking yard for bringing the issue to his attention. The residents identified persistent noise and air quality issues with the trucking yard, located near the corner 119th St. and Central Park Ave. in Merrionette Park, that needed to be addressed. 

    “Residents of my district are sick and tired of the noise and pollution coming from trucking lots located near residential areas,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This is a straightforward measure that will make a positive difference in the lives of many Cook County residents.”

    The measure passed with no opposition. It will now go before the House of Representatives.

  • IFFA AwardSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham was named Legislator of the Year by the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois (IFFA) on Wednesday for his advocacy on behalf of firefighters and other first responders in the Illinois State Senate.

    “I’m honored to be chosen for this award I want to thank the IFFA for its continued advocacy on behalf of Illinois firefighters,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “I look forward to continuing to work with the IFFA and first responders throughout the state to promote the interests of Illinois firefighters.”

    Cunningham has worked on behalf of first responders in Springfield since he first joined the General Assembly in 2011. Last session, he introduced legislation to protect Chicago firefighters’ pensions by allowing them to transfer credit from their previous service to their current pensions.

    “Illinois’ firefighters are heroes who put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to keep us safe,” Cunningham said. “State government needs to look out for these brave men and women the way they look out for us.”

  • cunningham 031419SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham has introduced a measure that would create groups tasked with retrieving Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) cards after they have been revoked.

    Although state law already allows the state to revoke FOID cards if an individual is deemed unfit to carry a firearm, there is no system currently in place to ensure that a FOID is physically revoked to prevent further gun purchases. Senate Bill 715 would create firearm Revocation Enforcement Groups charged with recovering FOID cards that have been revoked by the state of Illinois.

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  • prop taxesChicago – Every year, hundreds of properties in Cook County are lost by homeowners to so-called "tax scavengers," who buy houses at auction when the owner fails to pay property taxes. Oftentimes, homeowners are caught off guard, having missed their property tax bill in the mail or because they failed to keep up with confusing paperwork.

    “Property owners can find themselves in crisis situations because they’re unaware their property taxes went unpaid,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs.

  • opioids 030719SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham to combat opioid overdoses by improving emergency response time passed the State Senate in a bipartisan vote Wednesday.

    “We’re facing a crisis when it comes to overdoses in our state and we need to empower our first responders to act quickly,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “It’s time for lawmakers to get aggressive in the fight against opioid abuse.”

    Senate Bill 1258 would require emergency medical technicians in Chicago to report treatment of an individual experiencing a suspected or actual opioid overdose to the city for use in the Overdose Detection Mapping Application (ODMAP), developed by the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).

    The ODMAP provides real-time overdose data throughout an area to mobilize an immediate response to an overdose spike. Each suspected overdose is plotted to a map that allows local officials to identify trends and develop strategies to more effectively respond to overdoses.

    “This program will be an effective tool as we try to prevent overdose deaths,” Cunningham said. “I encourage my colleagues in the House to pass this measure quickly to provide desperately needed help for the people of Chicago.”

    Senate Bill 1258 passed 54-0. It will now go before the House of Representatives.

  • cunningham 030719SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Bill Cunningham has introduced a bill this legislative session that would seek to solve residential noise and air quality issues by prohibiting diesel trucks from idling excessively in residential areas.

    Senate Bill 1256 would prevent diesel trucks from idling for more than a total of ten minutes in an hour if the vehicle is within 200 feet of a residential area.

    Cunningham credited Cook County residents living near a trucking yard in Merrionette Park for bringing the issue to his attention. The residents identified persistent noise and air quality issues with the trucking yard that needed to be addressed. 

    “Illinois residents should not have to deal with excessive noise and poor air quality at their own homes,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This bill is intended to finally bring some peace and quiet to families that live near these commercial trucking yards.”

    Senate Bill 1256 is currently in the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee.

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    SPRINGFIELD – A measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham to combat opioid overdoses by improving emergency response time cleared the Senate Public Health Committee in a bipartisan manner Tuesday.

    “The prevalence of opioid addiction and overdose in our country is a crisis and we need to find immediate solutions to prevent opioid-related deaths,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Our first responders are heroes in this fight and we need to ensure they have every tool available to respond quickly and effectively to suspected overdoses.”

  • cunningham 022817SPRINGFIELD – Home owners and small businesses in Chicago’s southwest suburbs will see a decrease in their property tax bills thanks to a new state grant program aimed at providing relief to school districts in high-taxed areas. 

    The Property Tax Relief Grant was a part of a historic school funding reform law that brought millions of dollars to school districts in dire need of funding.

    “Our communities should not be forced to choose between providing a high quality education for students and keeping property tax rates manageable for homeowners and businesses,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “These grants will ensure that our students have access to a great education without paying for it at the expense of local taxpayers.”

    Several school districts in the 18th Senate District will be eligible for the tax relief grant, including: 

    • Evergreen Park Community High School District 231: $965,999.66
    • Community High School District 218: $5,788,140.28
    • Oak Lawn Community High School District 229: $2,125,024.36

    In order to receive the state grant, eligible school districts must submit an abatement resolution to their county clerks by March 30. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) will then distribute the grants once receiving all abatement certificates.

    More information on the Property Tax Relief Grant and a listing of each eligible school district can be found at www.ISBE.net/proptaxrelief.

  • cunningham 022817SPRINGFIELD – An initiative that will help spur redevelopment of a key piece of industrial property in Chicago Ridge will become law after state legislators voted this week to override the governor’s veto of the plan.

    The measure, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, prohibits land owners from disconnecting their property from a municipality if the land is contained within a tax increment financing district.

    The current owner of the long-abandoned Yellow Freight trucking yard on Harlem Avenue wants to disconnect from the city’s TIF district, but a developer looking to rehabilitate the 90-acre property wants to utilize the benefits of the TIF district.

    “This bill will stop the current owner of the property from scuttling the Chicago Ridge economic redevelopment plan for the property and the entire Harlem Avenue corridor,” Cunningham said.

    Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted Wednesday to override the governor’s veto. The House voted to override the veto on Nov. 14.

  • cunningham 052418SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham voted Wednesday to override the governor’s veto of legislation that would increase the age to legally purchase tobacco products in Illinois to 21.

    “Big tobacco has a long track record of targeting young people to sell their products,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This legislation demonstrates our commitment to improving the health of Illinois teenagers by limiting their access to tobacco and preventing lifelong addiction from developing.”

    The bill would make Illinois the sixth state in the country to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21. More than 300 municipalities across the United States have adopted Tobacco 21, including 24 communities in Illinois.

    Raising the tobacco purchasing age has been proven to reduce the number of high school students who use tobacco products. In Chicago, where Tobacco 21 is currently in effect, the high school smoking rate dropped from 13.6 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2017.

    The Senate voted 36 to 19 to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2332.

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  • cunningham 061318CHICAGO – A resolution presented by State Senator Bill Cunningham celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics and congratulates Special Olympic athletes, past and present, on their accomplishments.

    “As athletes and organizers from all over the world prepare to convene in Chicago to celebrate the Special Olympics’ 50th anniversary, I’m privileged to present Senate Resolution 1796 to commemorate the athletes who have carried this movement for their continuous inspiration over the past 50 years and to encourage the next generation of athletes and volunteers to get involved,” Cunningham said.

    While the official 2018 Special Olympic Games will take place in Seattle this summer, there is a week-long series of events taking place in Chicago from July 17-21 to celebrate the Games’ 50th anniversary and raise awareness and support of the Special Olympics and its “Choose to Include” movement. Over 70,000 athletes and supporters are scheduled to attend.

    Earlier this year, the Chicago Park District presented the Eternal Flame of Hope Monument as a permanent tribute to the organization and its athletes. The monument sits at the entrance of Soldier Field, the site of the very first Special Olympics.

    The Special Olympics was inaugurated in July of 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy, who invited 1,000 intellectually disabled athletes from 26 states and Canada to Chicago’s Soldier Field to compete in Olympic-style track and field events.

  • Sen. Bill CunninghamSPRINGFIELD – Illinois residents will no longer have to pay a fee to protect their identity when freezing their credit thanks to legislation that was signed into law today.

    House Bill 4095 is an initiative of Attorney General Lisa Madigan and State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat representing Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs.

    The new law will bar credit reporting agencies from charging consumers a fee to place or lift a freeze on their credit report, and gives consumers the ability to do so electronically or over the phone instead of by certified mail.

  • cunningham 031518SPRINGFIELD – Legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly today would eliminate long-term delays Cook County property owners face in obtaining refunds for flawed tax assessments and overpayments.

    Senate Bill 1979 aims to provide property owners with the money they are owed in a timelier manner by increasing the yearly limit on the amount of property tax overpayments that may be refunded to $5 million from $2.5 million.

    Each year, the current threshold is reached very quickly, which causes a long-term backlog in refunds that property tax owners are entitled to.

    HB 1979 is sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley, Democrats representing parts of Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs.

    “Property owners should not be put on a years-long waiting list to receive money that is rightfully theirs,” Cunningham. “This legislation would alleviate that backlog by doubling the amount of money Cook County is authorized to award each year for overpaid property taxes.”

    In 2017, 402 taxpayers did not receive a refund for their overpaid taxes, according to research Kensington Research & Recovery, a firm that assists taxpayers with obtaining refunds.

    There is currently an estimated $94.1 million in unclaimed tax overpayments, according to the Cook County Treasurer’s office.

    Cook County’s current system for issuing refunds for overpaid property taxes is simply unsustainable. Based on preliminary data, hundreds of taxpayers are set to go another year without receiving their refunds,” Hurley said. “Senate Bill 1979 will accelerate the process in which the nearly $100 million owed to property owners is recovered.”

    Under SB 1979, if payment of a claim for a refund would cause the total amount of taxes and interest for all claims to exceed $5 million for the given year, the refund will be paid in the succeeding year.

    SB 1979 awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

     

  • 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 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.