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  • Asst. Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez and Sen. Omar Aquino

    More than two dozen community agency leaders turned out at a recent forum to tell local senators that the state is overdue on a new program that puts people to work building up our communities.

    It’s been nearly a decade since the state last invested in roads, bridges and school construction.

    Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez and Senator Omar Aquino hosted the town hall and workshop to make sure local agencies know how to apply for state funding and assess the local needs as support grows across the state for a new, state-sponsored construction program.

    “We wanted to make sure we expanded what people knew about the capital bill, that it goes into infrastructure, it goes into brick and mortar stuff, and how we’re going to be creative in making sure that we’re getting equitable dollars in our districts,” Aquino said.

    Over 30 local community agencies ranging from health, social service, the arts and afterschool programs gathered at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture for the Oct. 24 event.

    “The two-year budget impasse hurt many organizations out there, so now we want to make sure we engage them so that we will be able to start doing some new things,” Martinez said. “I think the most important thing is our civic engagement, so our constituents can see that we’re working for them and we’re ready to respond to their concerns.”

    Speakers included Becky Locker, Director of Policy and Budget for the Illinois Senate Democrats; Jen Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council; Colleen Smith, Legislative Director for Illinois Environmental Council and Representative Luis Arroyo.

  • Sen. Pat McGuire

    SPRINGFIELD — The bicameral, bipartisan Higher Education Working Group chaired by State Senator Pat McGuire today announced a series of measures to help Illinois residents afford college and attain degrees.

    Two financial aid proposals highlight the package. House Bill 5020 will help students access four years of Monetary Award Program grants, giving students and their families assurance that a MAP grant won’t be “one and done.” Senate Bill 2927 incentivizes Illinois’ public universities to provide more scholarships using Institutional Matching, a new $25 million state fund. These scholarships will be available to families with annual incomes of up to $150,000 for a family of four.

    Other proposals developed by the six Democrats and six Republicans comprising the working group assist students transferring from community colleges to public universities and provide regulatory relief to Illinois’s 12 public university campuses.

    “This legislative package shows what happens when both parties work together toward a common goal,” McGuire said. “We want to make earning a community college or university degree in Illinois more certain and more affordable.”

    Details on the full slate of proposals can be found here.

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    Assistant Majority Leader Antonio “Tony” Munoz (D-Chicago) reminds drivers to be cautious when driving on expressways and move over when approaching a vehicle stranded on the side of the road.

    In 2000, Lieutenant Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway. As a way to commemorate his life and protect emergency personnel from accidents or injury, Scott’s Law was passed to enforce penalties on drivers who cause accidents, injuries, or don’t yield to emergency vehicles.

    Recently, that law was expanded to cover all stranded motor vehicles as far too many accidents have occurred involving vehicles stranded on the expressway.

  • Sen. Patricia Van PeltSPRINGFIELD – Use of controversial gang databases by police would be reformed under legislation introduced today by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt.

    “My goal is to reform the use of gang databases so that we can ensure the data is accurate and can be effective in helping reduce gang-related activity while still protecting people’s rights.” Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, said. “We need to make sure people aren’t being added to the gang database when they shouldn’t be, something that has proven to be problematic for countless Chicagoans over the years.”

    The legislation was crafted after experts, advocates and community members voiced their concerns at an April 20 Senate committee hearing about the Chicago Police Department’s use of gang databases and its effect on communities.

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  • Sen. Martin A. SandovalSPRINGFIELD – Recent atrocities have highlighted a need for greater security at large-scale public events, and a plan by Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-Chicago) in the Illinois Senate is working on providing it.

    Sandoval’s Senate Bill 2562 would give law enforcement the authority to use drones to prepare for or monitor security at large-scale events like concerts or rallies. The measure passed out of the Senate this week.

  • harmon 050218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) passed legislation today that would create safe zones in Illinois in which immigration enforcement is limited.

    The measure requires the attorney general to put in place a model policy by April 1, 2019, on limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent permissible at locations including state-funded schools, state-funded medical treatment and health care facilities, public libraries, facilities operated by the secretary of state and state courts.

    These safe zones were in the original version of the Trust Act that passed the Senate but were amended in the House and not in the final version signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last year.

  • bennett 040218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is working with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to protect student loan borrowers from losing professional licenses as they work to pay off their debt.

    Senate Bill 2439 would prevent Illinois licensing agencies that regulate 38 professions from denying, revoking or suspending licenses to individuals who are in default on their student loans .

    “There are many things we can do to collect debt for student loans, but taking away someone’s livelihood is counterproductive, to say the least,” Bennett said. “This bill will end this punitive practice and protect licensed professional from becoming trapped in insurmountable debt.”

  • tcullerton 050218SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Tom Cullerton is working with the Better Government Association to put a stop to bloated golden parachutes for failed state employees.

    Senate Bill 3604 eliminates severance packages for employees that have been fired for misconduct and limits government-paid severance packages to an amount no greater than 20 weeks of compensation. Cullerton expects it to be heard by the full Senate this week.

    “Giving out golden parachutes to poorly-behaved public officials isn’t just bad policy, it’s theft,” Cullerton said. “This is a commonsense reform that protects the public from bailing out bad actors. It is plain and simple – if you betray the trust of DuPage County taxpayers, you will not be rewarded with taxpayer money.”

    The BGA and Cullerton have been working together to fight the misuse of taxpayer dollars.

    "For too long, taxpayers have had to foot six-figure severance deals to make public executives go away,” said Madeleine Doubek, the BGA's Policy and Civic Engagement Director. “Being asked to leave, often under questionable circumstances, shouldn't be like hitting a lottery jackpot. With Sen. Cullerton's leadership, the Government Severance Pay Act will bring a fair, commonsense approach to ending golden parachutes."

    Elected government officials are frequently advised to grant rich severances in an attempt to head off employment litigation, Cullerton said. By adopting the Government Severance Pay Act, state lawmakers can set a clean, clear path that will eliminate those decisions for elected officials. Similar policies are in place in other states, including Florida.

    “Now is the time to get control of these huge buyouts and institute some best practices,” Cullerton said.

    Cullerton has continued to call for tougher regulations to stop state universities and community colleges from buying out administrators that are under investigation or found guilty of mismanagement. This is another step in his quest to put an end to this wasteful practice.

    “Our state cannot afford to waste a single penny, especially to help folks who treat taxpayers like their own personal piggy bank,” Cullerton said. 

    If passed by the full Senate, the bill would go to the House for further approval.

  • tcullerton 050118SPRINGFIELD – The State of Illinois currently does not have a procedure in place to alert police and emergency professionals of missing veterans, but State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is working to change that.

    Cullerton advanced House Bill 4212, which expands the use of the Endangered Missing Person Advisory system—also known as Silver Alert – to veterans who are believed to have physical or mental conditions related to their service.

  • stadelman 041918SPRINGFIELD – In many school districts, students who are unable to pay for lunch can be stigmatized with a special wristband or handstamp and, in some cases, even denied lunch.
     
    To stop this practice known as “lunch shaming” in Illinois, State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) passed Senate Bill 2428 through the Illinois Senate.
     
    “Forcing students to go without lunch is punishing them for the mistakes of their parents,” Stadelman said. “All students, regardless of their parents status or  income level, deserve to have a hot lunch.”

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  • murphy 042618SPRINGFIELD — Lottery winners’ identities would not automatically be disclosed under legislation sponsored by State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines).

    The Illinois Senate today approved Senate Bill 211 to allow Lottery winners of more than $250,000 to submit a written request that their identity be kept confidential.

    “Illinoisans should have a right to their privacy,” Murphy said. “The government should not force Lottery winners to disclose their identities just because they were lucky enough to win. Though this legislation affects a small portion of the population, I think the right to privacy is an important principle.”

    Currently, Lottery winners’ names, city of residence, date the prize is won and amount of winnings are matters of public record and are therefore subject to public disclosure laws. Under this amended legislation, winners’ identities would only be available through a FOIA request.

    Senate Bill 211 now advances to the House for further consideration.

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  • sims 042618SPRINGFIELD—Businesses along Illinois’ borders will be able to better take advantage of state resources thanks to legislation that passed the Senate today.

    State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) is the sponsor of Senate Bill 3285, which aims to help businesses located in Illinois identify existing and often underused state resources.

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  • Sen. Hunter works to expand influenza research and prevention SPRINGFIELD – After an increase in hospital visits during what was reported as an extremely harsh flu season, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago) increased efforts to provide students and parents research and prevention materials regarding influenza.

    “There was a very rapid increase in the number of people going to see their doctors or health care providers with flu related symptoms,” said Hunter. “We have to get in front of this issue by providing children and families the information they need to live healthy lives.”

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  • Sen. President John J. Cullerton and British Consul General of Chicago, Mr. John SavilleToday, Senate President John J. Cullerton welcomed the British Consul General of Chicago, Mr. John Saville. Mr. Saville spoke about the relationship and trade between the US and UK, and the value of exports from Illinois to the UK.

    Mr. Saville joined the FCO in 1981 and has had a range of Diplomatic Service appointments including as Deputy Head of Mission in Cuba and as High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam. His most recent appointment was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

  • aquino 042318SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Omar Aquino’s (D-Chicago) proposal to allow bilingual participants in an educator preparation program was recently approved by the Illinois Senate. The legislation would increase the amount of bilingual teachers by creating the Growing Future Educators Program, a pathway to a paraprofessional license.

    The measure, Senate Bill 2844, advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

    Aquino released the following statement:

    “Our students need bilingual educators and Illinois has plenty of talented people with firsthand experience as English language learners who are willing and able to do the job. The aim of the Growing Future Educators Program is to connect these talented people with careers in education while improving the capacity of our schools to educate bilingual students. I hope that this program receives the same bipartisan support that it has received in the Senate as it advances through the legislative process.”