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Cunningham training program rehabilitates properties, offenders

Cunningham-trng-programCHICAGO –Sheriffs and units of local governments will now have a new tool to address blighted properties, create transitional housing and reduce the number of inmates who reoffend under a new law signed by the governor.

State Senator Bill Cunningham (D- Chicago) sponsored the Neighborhood Restoration and Alternative Sentencing Act as a way to improve neighborhoods and train work-release inmates in practical, construction skills giving them a better chance at employment after completing their sentences.

“This is a unique solution that helps solve three separate problems facing communities in Illinois. It reduces the rate that former inmates reoffend because they can’t find lawful work, repurposes blighted properties and gives local governments new housing options,” Cunningham said.

The law authorizes Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to train county work-release inmates while rehabilitating, demolishing or rebuilding claimed property. The vacant houses targeted by the sheriff's programs are located in poor communities and have been foreclosed on by a bank.

The refurbished buildings can then be used by city and county governments as transitional housing to house the homeless, mentally ill or low income families.

This program, pioneered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, will apply to counties across the state.

The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Cunningham: New lottery ticket brings support to Special Olympics, Special Children’s Charities

Cunningham-polarA plan to help support the Special Olympics with a new lottery ticket was signed into law today. Senator Bill Cunningham (D – Chicago) cosponsored the legislation as it passed through the Senate.

The new law creates the Special Olympics Illinois and Special Children's Charities Fund, which would deposit all proceeds from a specially created lottery scratch-off ticket into an account with the Illinois State Treasury. Special Olympics Illinois would receive 75% of those funds for training, competitions and future programs. The remaining 25% would go to Special Children’s Charities funds.

"Helping pass this bill through the General Assembly was much easier than diving into Lake Michigan on a 17 degree day earlier this year," Cunningham said. "Either way, I am honored to support and promote the Special Olympics whenever possible."

Senator Cunningham has been an active supporter of the Special Olympics for years, having frequently participated in the organization's Polar Plunge fundraiser, during which hundreds of volunteers jump into the icy waters of Lake Michigan on a cold winter morning.

The lottery already helps fund special causes such as cancer research. “Go for the Gold” is the newest special cause scratch-off ticket proposed by the General Assembly. The Special Olympics have been going strong in Illinois since the first event was held at Soldier Field in Chicago in July 1968. Since then, the games have provided opportunities to over 21,000 athletes across the state.

The new measure passed both houses in May, and was signed into law by the governor on June 16.

 

PHOTO: Rep. Fran Hurley, Sen. Cunningham and Alderman Matt O'Shea before the 2014 Polar Plunge.

Cunningham votes to protect local school funding

040114 CM 0304csSPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Bill Cunningham today voted against legislation that would cost local suburban schools nearly $22 million in state funding according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s projections. The proposal, which would create a windfall of funding for many poorer downstate schools, would also drastically slash state funding to suburban schools that are struggling to make ends meet with current levels of funding. 

“Our school system is in desperate need of education funding reform, but this is not the right proposal. I commend the sponsor for taking up this monumental task, but I simply cannot support a proposal that would cut state funding to school districts in the southwest suburbs by nearly 90 percent,” Cunningham said.

However, Cunningham continues to remain optimistic that substantive education reform will be a major topic of discussion in the General Assembly.

“While I can’t support this proposal, it is a positive first step in education funding reform. I look forward to continuing to work with legislators across the state to support more equitable education reform, along with a property tax relief package to take the burden of school funding off of local property owners,” said Cunningham.

The legislation, which passed today with a vote of 32-19, will be sent to the Illinois House of Representatives.

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