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Tom Cullerton: Governor vetoes legislation to help caregivers for developmentally disabled

TCullerton collegeVILLA PARK – State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is gravely disappointed with the governor’s decision to veto legislation that would help caregivers for the developmentally disabled.

“The governor continues to stress the importance of a kind and compassionate Illinois, however, I fail to see how we are being kind or compassionate when we don’t pay direct service personnel a fair wage,” Cullerton said.  “We all know that you don’t enter into this profession for the money. However, it’s important that we allow these workers the ability to support their families.”

The initiative, House Bill 5931, would have raised the minimum wage for direct service personnel to $15 an hour. These higher wages would have allowed DSPs to stay on the job with many families instead of leaving to find work that allows them to provide for themselves.

“Any time we can pass legislation to help our developmentally disabled population, it makes us a stronger and better state,” Cullerton said.

Cullerton recently pushed legislation that would help those struggling with developmental disabilities, including adding length of time as a factor to determine need for those on the Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS).

“The DSP workforce crisis is the sad and frightening reality of the 27,000 people with developmental disabilities served in the Illinois system.  Our service system is crumbling,” said Kim Zoeller, President & CEO of the Ray Graham Association. “With the average wage of $9.35/hour, providers like Ray Graham Association struggle to recruit qualified DSPs.  The work is physically demanding, emotionally draining and includes working with challenging and sometimes destructive behaviors.”

Illinois ranks 45th out of 50 states in spending on community services for people with developmental disabilities.  The workforce crisis is so serious that a federal court monitor has found Illinois to be out of compliance with the federal Ligas Consent Decree that is in place to ensure access to appropriate services.

“It’s our duty to take care of those who provide vital services for our most vulnerable population. They should be compensated fairly,” said Cullerton. “By vetoing this legislation, the governor is working against the best interests of Illinois’ disabled population.

Cullerton legislation to keep retired police dogs with officers becomes law

tc police dogs signed 081316VILLA PARK – State Senator Tom Cullerton’s initiative to keep retired police dogs with their handlers was signed into law Saturday.

Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed Senate Bill 3129, which creates the Police Dog Retirement Act.

“Our family dog Brenna is a part of our family. These police dogs become a member of the officer’s family,” Cullerton said. “The special connection formed between an officer and their dog should be honored. We should want to give retiring police dogs a loving home.”

Senate Bill 3129 requires a retiring police dog to be offered to the primary handler of the dog. If the officer doesn’t wish to keep the dog it can be offered to another officer or employee, a nonprofit organization or a no-kill animal shelter.

“We need to take advantage of this opportunity to protect the special bond formed between an officer and their police dog,” said Michele Kasten of the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners.

Cullerton believes this is not only a way to honor the service of Illinois police officers but also a cost-effective way to give police canines a safe and responsible home.

Senate Bill 3129 was signed into law Saturday.

Tom Cullerton’s college administrative reforms signed into law

tc suicideprevVILLA PARK – State Senator Tom Cullerton’s college administrative reforms were signed into law today.

This reform package was advanced by Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, in response to the repetitive reports of abuse and misuse of taxpayer dollars at the state’s universities and community colleges, in particular the College of DuPage, located in Cullerton’s backyard.

“These new laws are necessary first steps to stop waste, fraud and abuse at our state universities and community colleges, “ Cullerton said. “We need to put an end to the days of college administrators banking on executive perks at the expense of our college students.

One of the new laws will prevent a lame duck community college board from entering into a new contract with a college administrator starting 45 days prior to Election Day through the rest of their terms.

Cullerton knows that with these new laws we will be able to better protect taxpayers and tuition payers from future scandals

The reform package would also require that community college and university boards be required to take four hours of professional development training in topics that include labor laws, open meetings act requirements, or ethics training.

“We need to find ways to make a higher education more affordable in Illinois,” Cullerton said. “These new laws were a long time coming and will help keep some control on the rising costs of higher education.”

Recognition Process (Senate Bill 2155) – Provides that for a  community college to be recognized by ICCB, the college must show compliance with applicable state and federal laws regarding employment, contracts and compensation.

Community College Trustee Training (Senate Bill 2157) – Requires new college board trustees to complete four hours of professional development training that range from labor laws, open meetings act, freedom of information regulations, ethics and financial and accountability oversight.

Preventing Lame-Duck Decisions (Senate Bill 2158) – Prohibits community college boards from entering into new employee contracts or changing existing employee contracts 45 days prior to Election Day for trustees and extends through the lame-duck period until the first meeting of the new board.

In 2009, Former DuPage Community College President Breuder’s contract extension was approved by a lame-duck board.

Transparency at Community Colleges and State Universities (Senate Bill 2159) – Promotes transparency by requiring contract terms, annual performance reviews of administrators and forbids contract buyouts in cases of pending criminal charges.

University Board Training (Senate Bill 2174)- Requires every voting member of a public university governing board to complete a minimum of four hours of professional development leadership training that range from labor laws, open meetings act, freedom of information regulations, ethics and financial and accountability oversight.

Cullerton looks forward to working with his colleagues next legislative session to further reform administrative costs at state institutions of higher education to move the state forward and protect Illinois’ college students.

Tom Cullerton’s initiative to honor Illinois veterans signed into law

TCullertonVILLA PARK- Illinois National Guard members will soon be able to receive veterans status on Illinois identification cards thanks to State Senator Tom Cullerton’s initiative that was signed into law today.

Senate Bill 2173 addresses complaints from National Guard members not being classified as veterans since they had not been called to active duty by the President of the United States, Congress or the Governor of Illinois. 

“We need to honor all sacrifices made by our veterans, especially in Illinois,” Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat said. “This is one simple step we can take to work toward giving veterans benefits they deserve.”

Cullerton served in the Army from 1990 to 1993 as an infantryman. He draws on his own experiences to improve the lives of people in his district and those throughout Illinois.

Senate Bill 2173 also clarifies that the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs will certify and verify the status of veterans for Illinois identification cards.

“Serving our country is one of the most honorable things you can do,” Cullerton said. “And in return, it’s our duty to provide our returning veterans with resources to honor the sacrifices they have made to protect our values.”

Senate Bill 2173 goes into effect immediately.

Sen. Tom Cullerton

tcullerton-hs

23rd Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Energy and Public Utilities; Insurance; Labor; State Government; Transportation; Veterans Affairs (Chairperson); Sub. on Utility Rate Regulations (Sub-Chairperson).

Biography: Born Sept. 20, 1969; studied at the University of Kansas; former village president and trustee of Villa Park; married (wife Stacey), three sons.

Associated Representatives:
Deb Conroy
Diane Pappas