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Cunningham votes for balanced budget that prioritizes education

cunningham 050919SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs, voted Friday in favor of a responsible, balanced state budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes greater investment in education at all levels.

“I’m proud to support a bipartisan, balanced budget that reflects the priorities of our state,” Cunningham said. “With the turmoil of the last few years behind us, we’re showing our commitment to leading Illinois down a path toward certainty and stability.”

Among the provisions in the budget are increases to education funding, including an additional $50 million for K-12 education that will bring property tax relief to homeowners. The plan also includes an extra $50 million for the MAP program and another $10 million for the AIM HIGH program, which provides grants to middle-income students who wish to pursue a college degree.

“An investment in our students is an investment in the future of Illinois,” Cunningham said. “Education funding has always been a priority for me and I’m glad to see that we’re making a commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of public education in our state.”

The budget also includes a full payment of the Illinois’ pension obligations for the seventh year in a row, the longest stretch in the state’s history.

“In the past, the General Assembly had a bad habit of kicking the can down the road in regard to our pension commitments,” Cunningham said. “The theme in this budget is stability and that’s paying our full pension obligation provides and has provided for almost a decade.”

Cunningham passes measure to improve access to benefits for Chicago police

cunningham 030719SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a bill sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham Thursday that would ease the financial burden on Chicago police officers who litigate to receive certain benefits.

Under current law, the board of trustees for the PABF can issue a denial of the continuance of a duty or occupational disability benefit for a member. Members can appeal the denial, but the cost of litigating the appeal can be a heavy burden.

House Bill 2470 would require the Policeman’s Annuity Benefit Fund of Chicago (PABF) to pay court costs, litigation expenses and reasonable attorney fees for members who were unfairly denied duty or occupational disability benefits.

“Officers earn their benefits by risking their lives day in and day out to protect us and they shouldn’t have to face a financial barrier to accessing them,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “This bill is a major win when it comes to protecting the hard earned benefits these men and women deserve.”

The PABF may still strip an officer of benefits if an officer intentionally and unjustifiably delays proceedings and is ultimately convicted of a felony related to his or her service.

House Bill 2470 passed the Senate 50-8. It will now return to the House of Representatives for concurrence before going to the governor’s desk.

Cunningham champions officer suicide prevention measures

cunningham 052219SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate has approved two measures aimed at preventing suicide and promoting mental health among police officers and firefighters.

House Bills 2766 and 2767 both passed with bipartisan support, marking a major win in the fight against mental health concerns plaguing first responders.

“Officer suicide has become an epidemic in recent years and it’s time to take serious action to help our law enforcement community,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “I’m committed to doing all I can to make sure officers have all the resources they need available to stop these tragedies from continuing.”

House Bill 2766, on which Cunningham is a cosponsor, creates the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act. The act includes provisions to implement training for individuals tasked with providing peer support counseling to colleagues, requires police and fire departments to develop disciplinary measures for those who violate confidentiality agreements and creates a civil cause of action for employees whose employment status is adversely affected by information obtained during a counseling session.

“The best person to provide support for an officer or firefighter who is experiencing mental health issues is a peer who understands the pressure they deal with at work,” said Cunningham. “This legislation will empower these men and women to provide ample support for their colleagues and ensure the confidentiality of peer support is protected.”

House Bill 2767, which Cunningham sponsors, would require the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to develop a course addressing the issues of officer wellness and suicide prevention. The course would be included in the training requirements police officers must complete before graduating the police academy and would also need to be completed every three years after graduation.

The training would be required to include recognizing signs of work-related cumulative stress, issues that may lead to suicide and solutions for intervention with peer support resources.  

“There’s been a stigma for far too long among law enforcement officers that seeking help for mental health issues makes you weak or unfit for your work,” Cunningham said. “There’s nothing further from the truth and I hope that this course will preempt this myth by showing officers that it’s okay to ask for help.”

House Bill 2766 passed the Senate 48-7. House Bill 2767 passed the Senate 55-0.

Cunningham passes measure to deter threats of school violence on social media

cunningham 051619SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a measure sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham that would help deter false threats from being made against schools on social media.

“These false threats are terrifying for students, faculty and parents and they divert emergency response resources away from where they’re needed,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “There needs to be a mechanism that punishes bad actors and deters these scares from happening.”

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.

“Threats to schools are often linked to mental health issues that need to be treated for the well-being of both the individual making the threat and those around them,” Cunningham said. “This provision will empower law enforcement and mental health professionals to work together to find the best course of action in dealing with a school threat.”

The measure passed the Senate unanimously.

Senator Bill Cunningham

 Cunningham2014

18th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture; Energy and Public Utilities (Chairperson); Executive Appointments; Higher Education; Insurance; State Government.

Biography: Served in the House from 2011-13; full-time state legislator and lifelong resident of the southwest Chicago area; born July 21, 1967; graduate of Saint Barnabas Grammar School (1981), Mount Carmel High School (1985) and the University of Illinois Chicago (1990); former advisor to Cook CountySheriff Mike Sheahan and former chief of staff to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; youth soccer coach; parent representative on the Sutherland Local School Council; lives in Beverly with wife, Juliana, and two daughters, Madeline and Olivia.

Associated Representatives:
Kelly M. Burke
Frances Ann Hurley