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Transparency to increase at state-run veterans homes as Cullerton measure becomes law

vets presser 031318VILLA PARK – To better serve Illinois veterans and their loved ones, state veterans facilities will now be required to submit biannual reports to the General Assembly.

House Bill 5784, sponsored by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), became law on Monday, requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to regularly inform the general assembly about the health and welfare of the residents at each state-run veterans facility. The DVA must also keep the GA informed of any epidemics or cases involving a communicable disease.

“This bipartisan measure will promote transparency and hold Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration accountable for the care and service our nation’s heroes receive at state-run facilities,” Cullerton said. “For far too long the governor’s administration has continued to conceal the facts.  My goal is to ensure there is a series of checks and balances to prevent avoidable catastrophes such as the Legionnaires’ epidemic.”

In December 2017, WBEZ Radio in Chicago released a report of the earliest cases of Legionnaires’ disease in 2015. The timeline of events showed a six-day delay between the Department of Public Health knowing an epidemic was occurring and their release of this information to the public. Family members of the victims said they were not notified of an outbreak before the press release.

Those families of victims have filed lawsuits against the state claiming negligence.

“It is a shame that our U.S. servicemen and women were put in harm’s way by Gov. Rauner’s administration. However, we must act now to shine some light onto the care of veterans receive and work to keep them safe,” Cullertons said.

 House Bill 5784 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support goes into effect immediately.

Tom Cullerton’s new law strengthens employment protections for service members

veteran civjob 082718VILLA PARK— A new Illinois law will ensure service members’ rights are protected while they are serving our nation.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) sponsored Senate Bill 3547 which modernizes state military service member employment rights. The updates to the law protect modern operational reserve forces.

This bipartisan measure was signed into law on Sunday and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

“It’s important that we ensure state laws are modernized with the growing needs of our military members,” Cullerton said. “While our service men and women are sacrificing their lives to protect our country they should not have to fear losing their civilian jobs.”

Cullerton’s budget transparency measure is now law

tcullerton 050218VILLA PARK – A new Illinois law sponsored by State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) will mandate transparency and accuracy in the governor’s annual budget proposal.

The governor signed Cullerton’s House Bill 5814 on Friday, which will force all future governors’ offices to record late interest payments as a separate line item in agency appropriations.

The law will paint a clearer picture of the state’s financial standing and slow the depletion of funding needed to provide vital services to Illinois residents.

“All future governors will be forced to present realistic appropriations budgets in the future thanks to this bill,” Cullerton said. “We need to make sure governors, regardless of political party, do not attempt to hide behind phony numbers.”

Currently, most late payment interest penalties accrue at a rate of 12 percent per month for bills unpaid after 90 days, while health care bills accumulate interest at a rate of 9 percent after 30 days.

The interest penalties are paid from the same appropriation line, depleting the amount a state agency can spend for its operations. Cullerton’s measure forces the governor’s budget to include separate line item requests to for prompt pay interest payments.

The comptroller’s January 2018 Debt Transparency Report confirmed that taxpayers owe approximately $887 million in interest penalties despite paying out over $140 million in penalties in 2017.

“As legislators, we can’t negotiate a responsible budget when we don’t know how much money is owed or where it is going,” Cullerton said. “Utilizing responsible accounting practices in state government will allow the citizens of Illinois to know how and where their valuable tax dollars are spent.”

This bipartisan measure is an initiative of Comptroller Susana Mendoza and is supported by the Better Government Association.

House Bill 5814 passed the House and Senate with unanimous support and goes into effect immediately.

Cullerton’s new law takes aim at sexual harassment buyouts

tcullerton 040218VILLA PARK – A new law will require taxing bodies to notify the public if they enter into a severance agreement with an employee or contractor that has been accused of sexual assault or discrimination.

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) championed House Bill 4242, which will apply to schools, community colleges, units of local government and other taxing bodies. This measure was signed into law on Thursday. 

“This will put a stop to using taxpayer dollars to line the pockets of administrators and employees who are guilty of sexual harassment or discrimination,” Cullerton said. “The Me Too Campaign movement continues to be an essential effort to push our society toward a zero-tolerance atmosphere. This law moves Illinois a step in the right direction.”

The law requires the taxing body to notify the public within 72 hours of their entry into the agreement.  The notification would include the name and title of the person receiving the payment, the amount of the payment, and whether the reason for the severance was for alleged sexual harassment or sexual discrimination.

“This has been going on too long and it’s time we put a stop to it,” Cullerton said. “This law promotes government accountability and transparency—two things we need more than ever.”

House Bill 4242 is a response to a separation agreement entered into by Des Plaines Elementary District 62 with Superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. Williams received a buyout of $127,000 after the school district received several complaints alleging sexual harassment. The separation agreement prohibited the district and Williams from disparaging each other and prevented the district from mentioning the sexual harassment allegations in reference letters. 

The district was aware when it hired Williams that he had faced allegations of misconduct in his previous position as assistant superintendent in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but nonetheless hired him after a supposed “thorough vetting."     

“I will continue to fight for initiatives that help inform the public as to where their vital dollars are being spent,” Cullerton said. “The only way to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse is to hold people accountable.”

House Bill 4242 passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support and goes into effect immediately.

Sen. Tom Cullerton

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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