The Majority Report 02/07/16 - Focus continues to be on education, budget


Education remains center stage, with Senate Democrats urging the governor to support college tuition grants for low- and middle-income students.

Governor asked to reconsider objections to MAP funding

Governor asked to reconsider objections to MAP fundingSensing the need for a cooling-off period, Senate President John Cullerton is giving Gov. Bruce Rauner two weeks to reconsider his vow to veto – for the second time – MAP funding for needy college students.

Senate Democrats voted in favor of Senate Bill 2043, which provides more than $397 million for the Illinois Monetary Award Program, as well as other spending for higher education. House lawmakers also approved the legislation.

Senate President John Cullerton urged the governor to consider his priorities and act in the best interests of the students who rely on MAP grants to be able to afford college – money that already was promised to them by the state.

The Senate will send the legislation to the governor on Feb. 16.

"I hope the governor uses the time to rethink his veto announcement," Cullerton said. "And I hope those who understand the importance of the state's student aid program will use the time to help convince the governor to do the right thing."

GET INVOLVED: If you want to encourage the governor to sign the bill to fund MAP grants, call the governor's office in Springfield at 217-782-0244 or do so through his website.

Reaction from Senate Democrats
Contact the governor


Van Pelt: ‘MAP grant gave me the lift I needed’

Van Pelt: ‘MAP grant gave me the lift I needed’Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-5th Senate) understands the importance of MAP grants to middle- and low-income students for whom college would be unaffordable otherwise. She's been in their shoes.

Long before she was a state senator, Van Pelt worked as a drill press operator at a steel mill. She made a good living, was able to provide for her family and planned to become a machinist at the mill. It closed down, though, and Van Pelt found herself working a retail job for one-third of the pay she'd earned at the mill.

She decided to go to college.

"If it had not been for the MAP grant, if it had not been available, if some governor had just cut it off, I may be still working as a clerk somewhere," Van Pelt said before casting a vote to fund MAP grants.

MAP made it possible for Van Pelt to earn an associate's degree in natural science. She got a better job and went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees.

"The MAP grant gave me the lift I needed to be able to just get back to where I was. I was a taxpaying citizen. I had contributed to society. But I found myself in a bad situation," she said. "And we have many people out there…that are in the same situation that I was in. We owe it to them to make up the difference."

Listen to Senator Van Pelt's complete remarks
Sign the petition to keep MAP funding


Biss: Reform doesn’t have to mean anti-worker policies

Biss: Reform doesn’t have to mean anti-worker policiesSenator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) explains that philosophical differences – not personality differences – are driving the budget stalemate in Springfield in a column he wrote for Crain's Chicago Business ("Even if you squint, Illinois doesn't look like Texas (or Mississippi)."

And rather than emulating the economic policies of Texas or Mississippi, Illinois would be better served by looking to economically successful states like Massachusetts and Minnesota that share Illinois' values and political traditions, according to Biss.

"Rauner says Illinois needs reform. Democrats agree. I presume anyone who's looked at our credit rating would agree," he wrote. "But reform doesn't necessarily mean extreme anti-worker policies — policies that have been rejected by Democrats all over the country — that increase poverty without reliably creating job growth."

• Read the full column here or here.



Cutting red tape for immigrant drivers

Cutting red tape for immigrant driversMost Illinois secretary of state facilities will be able to process temporary visitors drivers licenses without an appointment starting July 1, Senator Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) announced.

The change will make it easier for immigrants who want to obtain a TVDL.

"Now, instead of having to go through the extra step of having to schedule a meeting, all someone has to do is come to an SOS office at a time that is convenient for them," Martinez said.

A 2013 law enabled undocumented immigrants in Illinois to obtain TVDLs. Before that, many of them drove without licenses, car insurance and drivers' training. Since then, the Illinois secretary of state has issued 175,000 TVDLs, creating safer roads for everyone.



In case you missed it


State TaxesIllinois' finances would look very different today if it adopted tax policies similar to those of its Midwestern neighbors, according to a new video that breaks down the differences.

That's the message Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has been delivering around the state for years and that the Illinois Economic Policy Institute acknowledged in its new video that explains how Illinois stacks up against Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Iowa.

The takeaway: neighboring states are taxing more broadly and at higher rates than Illinois, which has lower rates and higher family incomes.

Read more about it
Watch the video


• Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park): We cannot rest until heroin problem is eradicated (Chicago Tribune)
• Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago): Sandoval receives international award for work on behalf of immigrants (
• Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora): Historic former Aurora St. Charles hospital to become senior living community (Chicago Tribune)


Illinois tops list for green-certified spaces: Illinois leads all other states in green building design, construction and transformation for the third year in a row, according to a new ranking.

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• Plans are underway for President Barack Obama's visit to the General Assembly Wednesday.


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