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  • peters 010919SPRINGFIELD —State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) joined colleagues on Wednesday to be sworn in to the Illinois State Senate, replacing former Senator Kwame Raoul.

    Peters is a former community organizer who was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side. He overcame immense personal hurdles in his early life, having been born deaf and with a speech impediment, and credits his community for never letting him down.

    “I hope my appointment to the Senate shows other young people that it doesn’t take bootstraps to succeed – it takes community,” Peters said. “As senator, I will give back to those who gave me a chance by focusing on issues important to my district, like a balanced budget, criminal justice reform, clean energy jobs and quality public education.”

    Peters has also been named secretary for the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. He will represent the 13th Senate District, which stretches along Lake Michigan from downtown Chicago through the South Side.

    For more information on Senator Peters and to contact him, visit his website at www.senatorrobertpeters.com.

  • bush harmon 120618State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) discussed the state’s progress toward gender equity at a panel in Springfield on Wednesday.

    The panel, hosted by the Better Government Association and Gatehouse Media, asked participants to examine the progress made since the start of the #MeToo movement and what else needs to be done. Senator Jil Tracy and Rep. Carol Ammons also spoke.

    Bush said she struggled during her first four years in Springfield, feeling like her thoughts and opinions did not carry as much value as her male colleagues. But, she said, the cultural shift of the past few years has affirmed her value, and she hopes it has for all women.

  • bicentennial IntroGraphic

    On December 3, 1818, Illinois became the nation’s 21st state. As we celebrate our state’s 200th birthday, we asked senators to talk about people or places in their districts that represent the best of Illinois’ rich past and how that is shown in local history, tourism, culture or community impact.

    Here are three compilation videos of our senators at sites in their districts that they believe exemplifies the best of Illinois' past, present and future. Click here to see each individual video, and for more Bicentennial information, visit http://ilikeillinois.com/.

     

     

  • link 040618SPRINGFIELD – A longtime champion of stricter tobacco legislation, State Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) moved today to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a proposal to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old.

    “For the first time in years, tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise,” Link said. “Raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 will cut down on access for teenagers and curb the next generation of adult smokers.”

    It has been more than 10 years since Link’s Smoke Free Illinois legislation banning smoking in most public places went in to effect. Since Smoke Free Illinois, there has been a 20 percent decrease in hospitalization of various smoking-related diseases. But with the advent of e-cigarettes, tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise for the first time in years.

    “Smoke Free Illinois was a major step forward in improving the health of our residents and making Illinois a better place to live,” Link said. “Tobacco 21 builds on those efforts and moves us one step closer to a healthier, smoke-free Illinois.”

    Limiting access to cigarettes has proven effective in reducing the rate of tobacco use among teens. In October 2014, Evanston became the first Illinois community to adopt Tobacco 21. Since then, tobacco use among high schoolers has dropped by 37.5 percent.

  • Voices Act

    The Illinois Senate took steps to combat human trafficking Wednesday by voting to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the Voices Act. The bill would empower immigrant trafficking victims to come forward by protecting them from deportation if they help bring to justice the people behind these human trafficking rings.

    “These traffickers prey on underprivileged women and children, taking advantage of their fear of law enforcement to subject them to unthinkable atrocities,” State Senator Martin A. Sandoval (D-Chicago) said. “The Voices Act is an effort to fight back and go after the real criminals – human traffickers.”

    Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) joined members of the Senate in overriding the veto of legislation that helps human trafficking and crime victims obtain visa certification paperwork from law enforcement within 90 business days. Munoz released the following statement after the vote:

    “As rhetoric from the White House continues to instill fear in our immigrant communities, we want to continue encouraging victims of human trafficking and other severe crimes to work with law enforcement. I’m glad we were able to move this legislation forward and hope to see it enacted into law.”

    State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement:

    “The governor’s veto was an ill-advised, knee-jerk response to the word ‘immigrant’ becoming politically charged over the last several months. This is a commonsense piece of legislation that simply expedites a process already in place to assist victims of terrible crimes like kidnapping, rape and human trafficking. I am glad we were able to put partisan politics aside today and override the governor’s veto, hopefully creating a speedier path to safety for those who come to our country fleeing unimaginable circumstances.”

    Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) issued the following statement:

    “This legislation should have been easy for any governor to sign. What it does is simple – it helps people who are fleeing violence and human trafficking get to a safe place. Beyond that, it helps our law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute those crimes by empowering victims to work with police. Everyone deserves justice, no matter their skin color or their immigration status. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and I am glad we were able to override the governor’s politically motivated veto.”

    State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) released the following statement after the vote:

    “Victims of human trafficking and other severe crimes need our support as they help capture from those committing crimes against them and escape terrible situations. This legislation creates a process that ensures they have the documentation necessary to request a visa and encourages them to work with law enforcement. I encourage my colleagues in the House to approve this measure.”

  • jjc 053118SPRINGFIELD — As part of an ongoing effort to combat human trafficking, the Illinois Senate voted Wednesday to speed up the process through which victims can get federal immigration relief. The 40-12 Senate vote set aside a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

    Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, the chief sponsor of SB 34, issued the following statement regarding the successful vote to override the governor and protect victims of human trafficking and other heinous crimes.

    “Just as lawmakers have come together to raise awareness and fight back against human trafficking, we came together to make sure the existing process works for these victims. This system was created to empower victims to come forward knowing they’ll be protected if they help us bring to justice the people behind these horrible crimes. The veto was a mistake and today we are one step closer to setting the record straight.”

    Background information:

    In 2000, the federal government created special immigration visas for victims of human trafficking and other specific crimes who work with police. The list of crimes includes: abduction and kidnapping, blackmail, female genital mutilation, being held hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, murder, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, torture and trafficking.

    Information about the immigration relief offered to these victims by US Citizenship and Immigration Services can be found here:

    https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/victims-human-trafficking-other-crimes

    SB34 — known as the VOICES Act — simply puts a 90-business day deadline on local authorities to wrap up the paperwork required by the federal visa process. The visas and the process already exist. The proposal simply adds a deadline for action. If local authorities don’t believe the person should qualify for a visa, they can state that in the federal paperwork.

    The override effort now moves to the Illinois House. If House members similarly override the veto of SB 34 it becomes law.

     

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    SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) led the Senate today in overriding Gov. Rauner’s veto of a proposal to increase the age to legally buy tobacco products in Illinois to 21.

    “Raising the age has been proven to eliminate the availability of tobacco for teens that are 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old,” Morrison said. “Since most current smokers started when they were teens, it is vital we work to cut off that supply and prevent the development of a deadly, lifetime habit.”

    Morrison introduced Senate Bill 2332 in January and teamed with health care advocates and local Lake County students to increase support among lawmakers for the proposal. After passing the Senate in April, the measure passed the House in May but was vetoed by Gov. Rauner in August. 

    “With the rise of easily concealable and fruit and candy flavored tobacco products, Tobacco 21 is important now more than ever—protecting children, reducing smoking rates, saving lives, and reducing healthcare costs,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association.

    A key benefit to raising the age is documented decreases in the number of high schoolers who smoke. In Chicago, authorities recorded a drop from 13.6 percent in 2011 to 6 percent in 2017. Raising the age was cited as a key component of the decrease.

    Illinois would join six other states that have raised the age to purchase tobacco, including California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine. In Illinois, more than 20 municipalities have raised the age, including Highland Park, Buffalo Grove, Evanston and downstate Peoria.

    Today’s override passed on a 36-19 vote and now heads to the Illinois House for consideration.

  • 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.

  • Kennedy expressway

    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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