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Tom Cullerton works towards protecting families

tc-savingsSPRINGFIELD- Families with disabled family members may soon have an important resource to provide a secure financial future for their loved ones.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed Senate Bill 1383, which creates a tax-exempt plan to assist individuals and families in saving money to cover the expenses for people with disabilities.

“We need to give family members the right tools to provide their loved ones with disabilities the means to live their lives with pride and respect,” said Cullerton.

SB1383 creates the Illinois Achieving a Better Life Expectancy Act (ABLE Act), which creates accounts similar to tax-advantaged college saving plans where income earned in the account is not taxable. This legislation comes after the federal government passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 with bipartisan support.

Last week, Virginia was the first state to enact the program since the federal legislation was passed.

“This plan would lighten the load a bit and make it easier for families to save money as they continue to make important life decisions for their future,” said Cullerton.

Under this initiative, the Illinois Treasurer’s office would be responsible for creating ABLE accounts in accordance with federal rules and regulations. The accounts can be used to pay for qualifying expenses such as education, health, housing and transportation costs.

SB 1383 passed the Senate and moves to the House for consideration.

Tom Cullerton promotes good schools

tc-schlbdelectSPRINGFIELD- Local school boards make critical decisions concerning curriculum, negotiating teacher contracts and budgets.  However, only about 20 percent of registered voters show up to vote for these important positions.

Illinois residents may be given the opportunity to vote for their school board members alongside candidates for the White House and U.S. Senate under legislation Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed in an effort to fight voter fatigue.

“Good schools translate to good businesses in our communities. Voting in local school board elections means voting for the success of our students and economy,” said Cullerton. “We need to do as much as possible to increase voter participation for school board elections. We can’t force people to go out and vote but we can take steps to make it easier.”

Cullerton introduced Senate Bill 669 after observing an extreme decrease in voter participation during consolidated elections. In the 23rd State Senate District alone there was a 58 percentage drop off in voter turnout in the 2013 consolidated elections compared to 2014 general elections.

“We rely on school board members to make vital decisions about the future of our children and property tax dollars. These are decisions they shouldn’t take lightly and neither should voters,” said Cullerton.  

Under this measure, school board elections will remain nonpartisan.

SB 669 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and will now move to the House for consideration.

Tom Cullerton sponsors legislation to address O’Hare noise issue

tc-ohareSPRINGFIELD- Residents of Cook and DuPage counties may be one step closer to alleviating noise pollution caused by O’Hare International Airport.

A report released shows the Chicago Department of Aviation reported 39,500 noise complaints in the O’Hare area in January of this year. The noise complaints are part of an ongoing problem that continues  to escalate in communities surrounding the O’Hare Airport.

This week, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) moved one step closer to fixing this problem with his support of Senate Bill 636 and Senate Bill 637.

Under the new proposals, O’Hare would keep the existing runways intact, which would allow air traffic to be more evenly distributed. Currently some runways are only running at roughly 3 percent capacity. The effect of not using runways evenly has forced 97 percent of the air traffic and noise to communities directly east and west of the airport. This has resulted in the increased number of noise complaints.

“Residents of DuPage and Cook counties have legitimate complaints. There continues to be a definite negative impact on the quality of life for the residents of these communities,” said Cullerton. “These initiatives will move us one step closer to finding a long-term solution to alleviate these communities from unnecessary disturbances.”

Cullerton is also circulating a petition to urge the Federal Government to issue a study to examine the environmental and human health impacts caused by O’Hare International Airport. The petition is available online at SenatorTomCullerton.com.

He has been working on this issue with Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and intends to present copies of the petition to U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.

SB636 and SB637 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now moves to the House for consideration.

Tom Cullerton advances PANDAS awareness initiative

tcpanda-passesEighth birthdays are extremely important to children. It’s supposed to be a day full of cake, presents and friends. However, this wasn’t the case for Charlie on his eighth birthday.

He woke up on his birthday with unusual symptoms. The little boy who loved participating in talent shows and putting on skits was now scared of performing in front of crowds and talking to his friends. There was an immediate change in his personality.

The next two months of Charlie’s life were the hardest time for his family. He instantly displayed symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Charlie didn’t want to be touched or hugged. He feared his food and was deathly afraid of water to the point where he couldn’t shower or brush his teeth. When triggered, Charlie would go into fits of rage.  He suffered from hallucinations to the extent he was unable to recognize his mother or father.

Charlie’s mother was faced with a difficult situation, either being forced to institutionalize her son or place her other two children in the care of a loved one. After two months of looking for answers, a doctor diagnosed Charlie with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).

PANDAS is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and other tics after a child has had a strep infection. Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. The symptoms are severe enough to prevent children from attending school.

To raise awareness and educate medical professionals, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed a measure to create an advisory council to make recommendations to the Illinois Department of Public Health on awareness and education among doctors, school-based health centers and mental health providers.

Early detection is key. After observing Charlie, his mother Kate Drury was quickly able to diagnosis her younger son with PANDAS when he displayed early symptoms.

“No one wants to see young children suffer.  I have three young children at home, stories like Charlie’s display the immediate need to educate medical professionals and the general public on the PANDAS symptoms,” said Cullerton. “It’s our duty to ensure our children don’t suffer. The faster we diagnose children affected by PANDAS, the quicker we can begin treatment.”

PANDAS is potentially a lifelong disease that is estimated to affect nearly 175,000 children and adolescents in Illinois. It has even been found in adults.

Senate Bill 1684 passed the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

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