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General Assembly approves expanding women’s health care coverage

holmes-womenhlthcareSenate Democrats argue for greater insurance coverage, 3-D mammography

SPRINGFIELD — Women should not face cost barriers when considering whether to undergo a more thorough 3-D imaging process that can more accurately detect breast cancer, say Illinois Senate Democrats as new legislation passes the General Assembly to address women’s health needs.

“Increased access to more thorough, more modern forms of medical technology will mean fewer of our mothers and daughters and sisters taken from us by breast cancer,” said Senator Linda Holmes, D-Aurora.

House Bill 3673, which passed the Senate today, would require 3D mammograms to be covered under women’s comprehensive health insurance plans. A related proposal, Senate Bill 54, sponsored by State Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago 10th, requires annual three-dimensional mammograms to be covered under women’s insurance plans.

Currently, insurance companies must cover an annual, flat image scan at regular intervals for women over 40. Such scans can potentially miss abnormalities, particularly in women with denser breast tissue. Three-dimensional scans find 40 percent more invasive cancers than 2-D scans and better visualize any abnormalities, according to the American Cancer Society.

Using the newer method gives doctors a clearer view and could eliminate mistaken diagnoses, Mulroe said.

“Breast cancer is deadly and devastating to families. Early detection not only saves lives and the related cost of future treatment, but it also eliminates the anxiety women experience waiting for the call back date,” Mulroe said.

The measures have met with broad support among Senate Democrats.

“It is critically important that women have access to breast cancer screenings,” said Senator Iris Y. Martinez, D-Chicago 20th. “Women have a much better chance of surviving from breast cancer if it is detected early.”

“It’s always important to me to support legislation that improves women’s access to health care,” said Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, D-Chicago 16th, a co-sponsor of both measures. “Breast cancer is a leading killer of Illinois women, and early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment, so I applaud these efforts to connect all women – particularly those who are low-income – to regular screenings and the highest quality of care.”

“These proposals make cutting edge medical technology more accessible for more women,” said Senator Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake. “In the long run, that’s not just going to save money, it’s going to save the lives of our mothers and daughters.”

House Bill 3673 and Senate Bill 54 await concurrence votes in their respective chambers before going to the governor.

Holmes’ push for equality in business ownership heads to governor

holmes-womenbizLegislation creates council to assist women entrepreneurs
 
SPRINGFIELD — To provide a clearer view of women-owned businesses and the challenges they face in Illinois, State Sen. Linda Holmes successfully carried legislation to create a commission aimed at studying and assisting women entrepreneurs.
 
Holmes is the Senate sponsor of the legislation, introduced by State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia in the House. The Women’s Business Center of Aurora called for the proposal.
 
“We still conduct business in a climate where women have fewer mentors and fewer role models who share the personal experience of being a woman and a business owner,” Holmes said. “The Women’s Business Ownership Council this legislation creates will take a thorough look at the complexities surrounding this issue.”
 
The Women’s Business Ownership Council will be part of the Governor’s Office’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Of the nine members of the panel, at least five must be women with a controlling ownership or executive duties within a business. The group will meet quarterly, issuing reports and recommendations to improve the climate for businesswomen.
 
Holmes is the Senate sponsor of House Bill 642, which passed the Senate yesterday and awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

Senate passes employment agency reform by Holmes, Attorney General Madigan

holmes-empl-agencySPRINGFIELD — Working alongside Attorney General Lisa Madigan to crack down on unlicensed employment agencies, State Sen. Linda Holmes advanced a plan out of the Illinois Senate Wednesday.

“There are employers out there flouting the law, exploiting some of the most vulnerable workers in some of the lowest-paid jobs,” Holmes said. “I’m gratified to work with Attorney General Madigan to toughen enforcement and protect jobseekers. I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this important legislation.”

The legislation seeks to address regulations that have not seen substantive updates in decades and that currently provide inadequate tools for the Attorney General’s Office to enforce compliance.

Workers who have been placed by such unregulated agencies have alleged numerous instances of abuse they have suffered at the hands of employers, including being made to work 6-day work weeks of 12-hour shifts to pay off referral fees, being referred to jobs that pay below the minimum wage, being housed in crowded and substandard conditions and being denied medical treatment for on-the-job injuries.

“My office initiated this legislation after uncovering instances of low-income and immigrant workers being subject to dangerous and often illegal working conditions. They were placed in those conditions by employment agencies that were frequently operating without licenses,” Madigan said. “This bill will strengthen our laws so that we can stop licensed and unlicensed employment agencies from taking unfair advantage of Illinois workers.”

In addition to providing civil penalties for such violations, Holmes’ proposal directs the Department of Labor to create and maintain a database of employment agencies with suspended or revoked licenses, requires employment agencies to keep records of their placements longer and provides whistleblower protection to employees who report misconduct.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1859. It proceeds to the House for consideration.

Holmes, Comptroller Munger strengthen state auditing, seek transparency in spending

holmes-comptrollerSPRINGFIELD — Collaborating with Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger to enforce greater fiscal discipline and seek out efficiencies and transparency in state funding, State Sen. Linda Holmes sponsored two proposals that passed the Illinois Senate today.

“I was happy to work with Comptroller Munger on these two common sense proposals,” Holmes said. “As we work together to address the state’s fiscal difficulties, I’m looking forward to further bipartisan work.”

Senate Bill 1404 further clarifies a law meant to bring the accounting practices of all state agencies into line with one another. A 2011 report by the Auditor General’s Office discovered that the state had been using more than 260 different accounting systems, many described as “antiquated.” The proposal clarifies the auditing practices of state agencies that don’t have their own internal auditor.

Originally introduced by Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka before being taken up again by Munger, Senate Bill 1405 creates a task force with the aim of studying state funds and searching for funds that can be consolidated or otherwise eliminated. Doing so would potentially promote greater efficiency and transparency in state operations. Currently, the state maintains over 900 funds. In contrast, the State of Wisconsin maintains about 60 funds, Comptroller Munger said.

“Illinois has more funds than any other state by far, which makes it incredibly difficult to see how state money is spent,” Munger said. “There is no reason to have a Fish and Wildlife Fund and a separate Salmon Fund. Isn’t salmon a fish?”

“I thank Sen. Holmes for her leadership on these two important bills in the Senate that will go a long way toward improving efficiencies and increasing transparency in state spending,” Munger added.

“Our first responsibility to the people of Illinois is good stewardship of state government,” Holmes said. “With these initiatives, we’re working toward being more watchful and less wasteful.”

The two pieces of legislation proceed to the House for consideration.

Sen. Linda Holmes

Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes

Assistant Majority Leader
42nd District

Years served: 2007 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture (Vice-Chairperson); Commerce and Economic Development (Chairperson); Executive; Labor; Local Government (Vice-Chairperson); Telecommunications & InfoTechnology.

Biography: Elected to the Senate in 2006; born March 16, 1959, in Chicago; received a bachelor's degree from the National College of Education (now National-Lewis University); First woman president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry; Full-time state legislator.

Associated Representatives:
Barbara Hernandez
Stephanie A. Kifowit