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Comptroller post to be decided by voters

JBT010815SPRINGFIELD— Today, State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) voted to maintain the strength of democracy in Illinois by allowing voters to choose their representation, should an unexpected vacancy arise in a statewide office.

“We have enacted a number of government accountability and transparency measures since I came into office in an effort to change the stigma attached to state government and regain the trust of our citizens,” Bertino-Tarrant said.  “This vote reflects my commitment to working for my constituents.”

House Bill 4576, which passed the Senate today, creates a special election for state comptroller in 2016. With the recent passing of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka the legislation will allow voters to select a new comptroller at the next general election. The special election is a solution that allows voters to pick their statewide leaders as quickly as possible at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Bertino-Tarrant also supports legislation to combine the offices of treasurer and comptroller by constitutional amendment, which could save an estimated $12 million a year.

“Combining these two offices can save the state millions of dollars every year,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “As we continue to work to save money and reduce waste and redundancy, this measure should certainly be at the top of that list.”

Combining the two state offices would require a constitutional amendment, which means that voters would need to approve doing so through a ballot referendum in the 2016 general election.  Bertino-Tarrant believes it is important to give voters that opportunity.

“Today’s special session was called to ensure that the people of Illinois got the voice and vote they deserve,” she said. “I look forward to working toward giving them that same voice and vote on the government consolidation issue when we come back to Springfield for regular session.”

Senator Bertino-Tarrant moves forward with Plainfield Park Board appointee selection process

082814JBTIn an effort to involve community input, State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) has formed a selection committee of four Plainfield community residents who will be responsible for reviewing resumes and conducting interviews of applicants interested in serving on the Plainfield Park Board.

“I feel that community members involved with the selection process is especially critical due to the reasons we were called on to intervene in the first place,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “I want to ensure that we make the best decision possible for the Plainfield Park District and for our community.”

State law requires Senator Bertino-Tarrant to appoint one individual to the Plainfield Park Board.

The selection committee, which will be comprised of a municipal government official, a park advocacy official and two community residents, will narrow the pool of initial applicants to two individuals. Senator Bertino-Tarrant will then make her appointment based on that final pool.

Interested applicants must be eligible to serve on the park board by having resided within the Plainfield community for at least one year prior to the appointment.  A person is not eligible to serve as park commissioner if that person is in arrears in the payment of a tax or other indebtedness due to the park district or has been convicted in any court located in the United States of a felony.  

Individuals interested in applying for the Plainfield Park Board position must submit a resume, along with answers to the following questions:

1.    Please explain the vision you would bring to the Plainfield Park District if you were selected to serve?
2.    What skills and experiences do you have that would be an asset to the park district?
3.    If you have ever been a member of a public body or organization that has experienced conflicts, please describe how you worked to resolve such conflicts.

Applications for the park board appointment will be accepted through Friday, September 5, 2014.  Interested individuals should send their resume and answers to the application questions to Senator Bertino-Tarrant’s district office at 15300 Rt. 59 Unit 201, Plainfield, IL or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Please contact Senator Bertino-Tarrant’s district office at 815-254-4211 with questions or for additional information.

Senator Bertino-Tarrant’s pension fix signed into law

082714JBTA new law was signed by the governor today that rectifies an error in the Illinois pension code.

After spending her first year in the General Assembly immersed in pension reform, State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) was stunned to discover that if a mistake was made while calculating a person’s pension benefits, the pension system had no legal recourse to rectify the error.

“We all know that mistakes can happen. However, the systems should have the authority to fix errors,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

The new law makes changes to the General Assembly Retirement, State Employee Retirement and Judges Retirement Systems by allowing them to recalculate pension benefits, if they determine that the benefits originally awarded were incorrect.

In 2011, a state employee retired from his position as a Secretary of State investigator with the State of Illinois. Nearly a year later, the State Employees Retirement System Board notified the employee that they had miscalculated his pension, resulting in an overpayment.

The Board informed the employee his monthly pension would decrease and arrangements to collect the overpayment would be forthcoming. The employee opposed the change to his benefit and sued the system.

He won.

An Illinois Appellate court decision was released on January 13, 2014 that stated SERS did not have the statutory power to adjust a person’s payment once it was set.  

The new law changes the language of the pension codes, ensuring that this sort of mistake won’t cost taxpayers money. If the benefit amount is calculated too low, the recipient will receive a lump sum of the difference between what they were owed and what they actually received. If the benefit was set too high, the system can recoup its overpayment by lessening future benefit amounts, as long as the mistake is discovered within three years of the benefit being awarded.

Finally, if the mistake is not discovered during the three year threshold, the system can no longer recoup the over payment, but can adjust future payments to reflect the correct benefit amount.  

Both the teachers and university employees’ pension systems already had language in their respective pension codes allowing them to recalculate a pension when a mistake is discovered.

“My argument during pension reform debate has remained the same,” Bertino-Tarrant said.  “Retired workers should get what they have earned. The same principle applies here.”

Senator Bertino-Tarrant’s universal 9-1-1 proposal signed into law

SB3313 Signing 1A measure to ensure that 9-1-1 can be dialed from any phone line was signed into law on Monday.

State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, feels that the universal number that we teach children to use in case of emergencies should always work.

“The three digit emergency number that we learn should work from anywhere,” Bertino-Tarrant said.  “This is a common sense approach to better safety.”
 
The new law requires newly installed business phone systems to allow users to dial "9-1-1" without needing to pre-dial a code, such as "9."

The law stems from a tragedy that occurred in Texas last January. The universal number that we teach our children to dial in emergencies did not work when a 9 year-old girl attempted to dial it from a Texas hotel room, as her mother was being stabbed to death.

The hotel, like many hotels and business complexes nationwide, was on a closed business circuit and the young girl didn’t realize that she needed to dial a 9 to reach an outside line.

 “Children and adults must be able to easily reach emergency operators in a time of crisis,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “This law will help ensure that senseless tragedies are prevented.”

The new law will go into effect July 1, 2015.

Sen. Bertino-Tarrant

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49th Senate District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Commerce and Economic Development; Education (Chairperson); Insurance; Labor; Licensed Activities (Vice-Chairperson); Transportation; Subcommittee on Capital (TR); Subcommittee on Special Issues (ED) (Sub-Chairperson).

Biography: Lifelong educator; former Will County superintendent and secretary of Will County Regional Board of School Trustees; B.A., Illinois State University; MS, University of St. Francis; EdD., Loyola.

Associated Representatives:
Mark Batinick
Natalie A. Manley