Cunningham legislation to aid Special Olympics

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 03:58 PM

041415CM0167SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) has passed legislation in the Illinois Senate to create the Special Olympics income tax check off, which is expected to generate thousands of dollars for athletic programs for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  
"The Illinois income tax check off program provides funding for a variety of worthy causes across the state by allowing tax payers to donate a portion of their tax return directly to charities," Cunningham said. "The Special Olympics are a worthwhile cause that, I believe, Illinois taxpayers will want to help come tax season.”
The Special Olympics is a global organization dedicated to helping those with disabilities through sports, education and health. The group, which was founded in Chicago more than 40 years ago, provides opportunities for nearly 22,000 Illinois athletes throughout the 102 counties of the state, including training, competitions and other opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage and experience the camaraderie of sport.
Cunningham is a long-time support of Special Olympics, having co-sponsored previous legislation to establish a state lottery game to benefit the charity and as an annual participant in the Chicago Special Olympics' Polar Plunge, during which he joins thousands in jumping into the icy waters of Lake Michigan to raise pledges of financial support for special athletes.  
The Illinois income tax check off program provides the opportunity for Illinois taxpayers to fund a variety of charities. There cannot be more than 15 check offs per tax return and those check offs that do not reach a threshold of $100,000 in contributions are removed from the list. Those charities that are removed may be included again through legislation.
Currently, charities include Alzheimer’s disease research, breast cancer research, child abuse prevention, diabetes research, assistance to the homeless, relief for military families and wildlife preservation.

Hastings visits Matteson facility facing drastic budget cuts (VIDEO)

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 12:20 PM

MentorOn March 31, State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) met with executives and clients of Illinois Mentor Community Services in Matteson. The organization provides residential and support services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as other specialized needs such as dual diagnosis (when a patient has mental illness along with a substance abuse problem), autism and those with medical, behavioral or physical challenges.

The budget proposed by Governor Rauner slashes funding for services to developmentally disabled individuals.

"Simply making a cut because it makes sense on paper is one thing," Hastings said, "but once you step into the shoes of these individuals and see how these services impact their lives it shows that it is not about the money."

Hastings met with executives Rochelle Johnson, Jennifer Humbert and Cherri Saindon to discuss their current budget planning and how the governor's budget could impact operations going forward.

Illinois Mentor's Host Home program allows individuals to live in a private family home provided by a mentor who is able to guide the individual to acquire skills and participate in the community life according to their own interests and abilities.

After speaking with the executives, Hastings visited a local host home in Matteson where two recipients, Ian and Larry, live with their host, Eddie. Host homes are filled on a completely volunteer basis, and recipients are matched with a host whose lifestyle matches their own.

Mulroe's 3D mammography insurance coverage measure passes Senate

Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 06:13 PM

mulroe-3d-passedSPRINGFIELD – Breast cancer incidences have been decreasing since the early 2000s thanks to new therapies, treatments and screening methods. One of the most effective early screening methods is now covered by some existing health insurance thanks to new legislation sponsored by Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago).

“Cancer screenings like 3D mammograms can be compared to reading a book,” Mulroe said. “Would you rather read one page and hope you understand the whole meaning of the text or rather read every single page for a full understanding? That’s very much how 3D mammograms work.”

Previous technologies only took a single dimension view of breast tissue when screening for cancerous cells. Tomosynthesis, also known as a 3D mammogram, takes a multidimensional view of the breast during the screening. As a result, a 3D mammogram has a higher success rate of detecting cancerous cells that are often difficult to detect, due to either size or dense breast tissue.

Senate Bill 54 amends the insurance code by adding tomosynthesis to the list of definitions of low-dose mammograms. As a result, the insurance mandate will cover 3D mammograms as well as the traditional 2D mammograms.

“I strongly believe that this legislation will help save lives of at-risk women who may not have known about this technology or may not have been previously covered,” Mulroe said. “It is our duty to protect the health and well-being of people in this state, and if we can save them time, money and emotional hardship then that is a bonus.”

After the legislation’s success in the Senate, it now moves to the House.

Black Caucus appalled by Good Friday cuts

Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 05:24 PM

blackcaucus-041415The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus is appalled by the governor’s $26 million in cuts to Human Services and Public Health grants, which provide vital resources to the state's most vulnerable. The caucus collectively voted against the fiscal year 2015 supplemental budget appropriations as it did not restore funding to the levels that were previously agreed upon.

“Governor Rauner is slashing services that only a week ago, he agreed to keep operational,” said Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, who also serves as Illinois Legislative Black Caucus chairman. “When you cut programs and services like violence prevention, taxpayers end up spending more money on corrections when preventive services were already put in place.”

This recent round of budget cuts eliminates funding for preventive and rehabilitative programs that help people get back on track.

“Balancing the budget on the backs of struggling families and people who desperately need support is irresponsible and will hurt the economy,” Leader Lightford said. “Governor Rauner’s latest move is dangerous. The cuts will leave our children to fend for themselves over the summer months when our neighborhoods need programs to keep our kids off the streets.”

Human Services stands to lose over $21 million – money that supports programs for children’s health, addiction services and many other vital programs.

“These services are vital to the families and children they support,” said Representative Rita Mayfield, House Black Caucus chairwoman. “Over the past two years, Governor Rauner campaigned on making Illinois more compassionate and competitive, but the only thing he has accomplished is putting us on track to send more people to correctional facilities and subsidy payrolls.”

The executive Director of the African American Family commission offered the following comments:

“Although the budget pressures facing the State of Illinois are significant, the cuts to the states social service programming will be hardest felt from those who have the least. In response to the concerns echoed by many in African American communities across the state, the Illinois African American Family Commission recommends a more compassionate approach to addressing budget concerns.  This approach would work with communities to scale back social service programs, but only in response to an investment in the economic vitality of the communities hardest hit.”

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