The Majority Report 05/01/16 - Fighting for the future


Fighting for the future

Fighting for the futureMore than 800 Chicago State University students received their diplomas Thursday in an early ceremony moved up weeks for fear the school would run out of money and shut down due to an ongoing state budget impasse.

A last-minute, $600-million higher education deal will, for now, keep the doors open at Chicago State, Eastern Illinois University and other state schools.

But the stop gap plan isn’t enough to offset the long-term damage that’s been done as the schools have gone nearly a year without any state support. Layoffs and program cuts are still expected at Chicago State and other schools.

Senator Emil Jones III was at Thursday’s graduation ceremonies – the 358th commencement for the nearly 150-year-old university. As happy as he is for the CSU graduates, he’s equally concerned for the underclassmen who increasingly are victimized by the budget showdown that began when Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected the entire higher education budget last year.

“We’re talking about state schools and students at state schools. The state obviously has a responsibility to these institutions and their students,” said Jones, a Chicago Democrat. “These are our schools and our students. They’ve been abandoned and that’s simply not right.”

Jones said he hopes bipartisan talks will continue and quickly lead to a comprehensive budget deal that restores funding for schools and student aid before Illinois’ once world-renowned higher education system suffers irreparable damage.

Stop gap: Lawmakers, governor reach higher ed deal
In the news: CSU holds early graduation ceremony due to lack of funds
In the news: CSU graduation ceremony turns into political rally
In the news: Cash-strapped CSU celebrates graduation amid financial strife


Bertino-Tarrant: No pension for predator

Bertino-Tarrant: No pension for predatorDisgraced former U.S. House speaker and admitted child abuser Dennis Hastert should have no claim to a state pension from his years as an Illinois state representative, Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant of Shorewood said last week.

“I don’t want taxpayers’ dollars providing a retirement to this predator,” said Bertino-Tarrant, a lifelong educator.

On Wednesday, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison for bank fraud stemming from his efforts to cover up sexual abuse of students dating back to his time as a teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville.

Bertino-Tarrant sent a letter Thursday to the General Assembly Retirement System asking that it immediately take steps to suspend and revoke Hastert’s public pension benefits from his time as state lawmaker.

Hastert went on to serve in the Illinois General Assembly before being elected to Congress and becoming the longest-serving Republican U.S. House speaker in history.

The Illinois Teachers Retirement System revoked Hastert’s teacher pension on Wednesday, but the General Assembly Retirement System has not taken steps to revoke his roughly $28,000 yearly lawmaker pension.


Harmon, Giffords call for greater gun dealer accountability

Harmon, Giffords call for greater gun dealer accountability

Senator Don Harmon and former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords are calling for greater accountability from Illinois gun dealers in an effort to curb violent crime with illegally purchased guns.

Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is the Senate sponsor of legislation that would give state authorities and police agencies the tools they need to encourage better business practices by federally licensed gun dealers, while holding corrupt gun dealers accountable.

During a news conference in Chicago announcing the formation of a new statewide effort known as the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, Harmon noted that licensed gun dealers are an important link between gun manufacturers and the public. While most Illinois gun dealers strive to be responsible and do the right thing, he said, others are negligent and engage in practices that fuel illegal gun trafficking.

“Yes, many guns are being trafficked into our communities from outside of the state. But consider this: 40 percent of guns used in crimes in Chicago between 2009 and 2014 came from Illinois,” Harmon said. “And the state of Illinois doesn’t have the tools and authority it needs to combat illegal or negligent business practices that threaten Illinois families.”

Giffords, who survived a 2011 assassination attempt during a meet-and-greet event with constituents in Tucson, and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, co-founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, which advocates for commonsense solutions to gun violence in America.

Read more about the legislation
• In the news: Giffords shows support for Illinois gun bill (Chicago Tribune)
• In the news: Giffords pushes for gun control measure in Chicago (WBBM Newsradio, Chicago)
• In the news: Giffords comes to Illinois to promote gun dealer legislation (WLS-TV)


In case you missed it

Sandoval, students want ugly ‘alien’ label out of state law books

Sandoval, students want ugly ‘alien’ label out of state law books

Calling the term “illegal alien” a bigoted label from a bygone era, Senator Martin Sandoval of Chicago and high school students are pushing legislation to replace “alien” with “undocumented immigrant” in Illinois law books.

“The word ‘alien’ is really offensive. It's not just rude but it dehumanizes undocumented people, and that's not right," said Uriel Hernandez a ninth-grader at Solorio Academy High School.

"All workers, documented or undocumented, pay taxes and do their fair share, so there is no such thing as an "illegal" person," added fellow ninth-grader Delila Lopez.

Students at Solorio Academy took up the issue and brought it to Sandoval’s attention. The academy is in Gage Park, which is home to one of the highest undocumented immigrant populations in Illinois.

In turn, Sandoval sponsored Senate Bill 3021, which would officially make the change in all state laws. The Senate could take up his proposal as early as this week.

“These are words bigots use to label people,” Sandoval said. “We need to move past these bygone eras of racism and bigotry and recognize the reality around us. Let’s stop labeling and start welcoming our neighbors and co-workers.”

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: South side pastors push for school funding reform (WLS-TV, Chicago)

Senator Daniel Biss, Evanston: Lawmakers on higher education law, overhauling public education funding (Chicago Tonight, WTTW)

Senator Pat McGuire, Joliet: Higher education funding plan a ray of hope in budget impasse (Daily Southtown)

Senator Iris Y. Martinez, Chicago: Illinois weighs college aid for students in the US illegally (The Associated Press)

Senator Heather Steans, Chicago: Seize chance to decriminalize personal-use pot amounts (Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times)

Senator Mattie Hunter, Chicago: Cook County officials press for action on youth employment to combat Chicago violence


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