Harmon

  • Harmon seeks to expose dark money donors shielded by “nonprofit” status

    harmon 031517SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.

    That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.

    Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.

    “Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.

    Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.

    “These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.

    Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.

    “I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.

    Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.

    Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

    Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when they bill becomes law.

  • If Rauner can’t manage payroll records, it’s no wonder state budget is a mess

    Harmon02082017SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding revelations about mismanagement of contract paperwork by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office and hiding the source of deputy governor Leslie Munger’s $138,000 yearly salary:

    “Now that it’s come to light that Gov. Rauner can’t manage his payroll records correctly, I find it even more clear why he’s been unable to manage a state budget for two years.

    “Gov. Rauner has the right to hire whatever staff he believes he needs to properly run his administration, even in this period of historic fiscal distress for state government. But surely he can understand the terrible impression it creates when he hides a six-figure salary in state accounts designated for paying medical providers who have been waiting months for payments from the state of Illinois.

    “The governor pledged to be transparent and to manage the state’s affairs better than his predecessors. He’s failing.”

  • Harmon negotiates plan to slash costly government red tape

    harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – Illinois taxpayers, public universities and state agencies would benefit from a bipartisan plan to streamline the state’s purchasing rules that was negotiated by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    The legislation, Senate Bill 8, was approved in the Senate on Tuesday.

    Harmon said it became clear to lawmakers that the state’s procurement rules are ready for an overhaul. The legislature enacted a series of strict procurement reforms in the aftermath of the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich administrations because of questions over how they handled contracting, bid-letting and transparency for state business.

    But the rules may have gone too far, sacrificing some efficiency and savings in an effort to deter corruption, Harmon said.

    “We heard from universities, in particular, that the state’s purchasing rules have caused real headaches for them,” Harmon said. “Rather than save money for the state, the rules frequently have caused them to waste more money and time than an average business would.”

    Harmon sponsored the legislation with Republican Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry.

    The measure is a key part of the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” compromise deal that Gov. Bruce Rauner is relying upon to achieve a balanced budget for the state. Rauner has pressed for procurement reform as one cost-savings measure.

    Among other things, Senate Bill 8 does the following:

    • removes inappropriate restrictions on the procurement of specialized purchases, including database licenses and food for resale on campuses;
    • creates a pilot program modeled after one in California for the efficient purchase of heavy fleet vehicles, special equipment and off-road construction equipment;
    • requires state agencies to respond promptly in writing to inquiries and comments of the Procurement Policy Board;
    • streamlines the procurement code and protects lowest bids from disqualification for minor or technical issues;
    • permits informational communication between vendors and the state, while still requiring that the inspector general be notified of any collusion or anticompetitive procurement practices; and
    • creates a special committee on procurement efficiency in purchasing that will study ways to further streamline the process; study procurement laws about contracting with minority-owned, women-owned, disabled-owned, and veteran-owned businesses; and study ways to purchase additional goods and services from Illinois companies.
  • Harmon measure targets Illinois’ murky police property seizure laws

    harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – The controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois would come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 1578 would require more accountability of law enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.

  • Few specifics, missed opportunities in governor's budget speech (VIDEO)

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  • Harmon: Governing is messy, but Senate must move quickly

    harmon 020817SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding today’s movement toward a grand bargain budget deal:

    “Governing is messy. So is negotiation. Yet, today we passed three good-government measures, negotiated by both parties, in our drive toward a budget grand compromise. Saying yes to government consolidation, procurement reform and financing relief for municipalities all in one day is no mean feat.

    “Clearly, the Senate has more work to do on this bipartisan grand compromise of ours, but I cannot stress enough that time is of the essence. We need to pass the remaining components of the deal as soon as possible, because the fallout from the state’s fiscal crisis will continue to worsen.

    “Every day, Gov. Bruce Rauner spends $11 million more than the state has available to spend. I hope he will stop his allies from opposing our compromise, engage in honest negotiations and begin to use his office to lead – not to interfere with the Senate’s efforts.”

  • Senate Democrats react to governor's State of the State address (VIDEO)

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  • Harmon: Governor should revive labor negotiations immediately

    afscme3SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and a bipartisan group of Springfield lawmakers today called for renewed contract negotiations between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the union that represents 38,000 Illinois state workers.

    Harmon noted his support of a measure that would have allowed interest arbitration in the event of an impasse between Rauner, whose anti-union sentiments are well documented, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

    “Twice I passed a bill that would provide for interest arbitration. Twice the governor vetoed that bill, and twice the General Assembly failed to override the veto,” Harmon said. “The governor’s rationale at the time was that he was willing to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate a deal. That sentiment appears to have vanished.”

    AFSCME – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – is the largest union representing state government employees. No contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union have occurred since Jan. 8, 2016, when the administration claimed the parties were at impasse.

    More than 30 state lawmakers of both parties and both houses of the Legislature gathered for a news conference Wednesday to show their support for continued good-faith negotiations between the administration and union representatives to avert a labor disruption and bring about an acceptable compromise.

    “I think it is critically important to the people of Illinois that we try to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone and enables us to continue to provide vital services,” Harmon said, adding that Gov. Rauner is not practicing what he preaches when he refuses to participate in negotiations.

    “The governor is demanding that the legislative leaders join him at a bargaining table every day to discuss his agenda and its impact on our state budget,” Harmon said. “I would hope that he would hold himself to that same standard in negotiating with the union and return to the bargaining table immediately.”

  • Lawmakers call on governor, AFSCME to continue labor negotiations (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Senate overrides governor's veto of automatic voter registration (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Top new education laws for Illinois in 2016

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  • Harmon disappointed in same-day voter registration ruling

    Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today in response to a Republican-controlled think tank’s step toward curbing voter access in Illinois:

    “How disappointing that on National Voter Registration Day – a day intended to remind people of their right to register and vote in this country – a blatantly political effort to quell participation in Illinois elections was able to get a toehold in a courtroom.

    “Rather than seeking to scale back opportunities to register to vote in certain parts of Illinois, we should be working to expand access to the polls in all communities throughout the state.”

    Harmon was the chief Senate sponsor of the 2014 same-day voter registration initiative, which was challenged in court in August by the legal arm of a conservative political think tank that is backed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. A judge on Tuesday ruled in its favor and issued a preliminary injunction barring same-day voter registration in Illinois. It’s unclear if an appeal will be filed.

  • Harmon calls on gun lobby, governor to do more to protect Illinois children

    Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon is calling on the gun-rights advocates and Gov. Bruce Rauner to do more to help state lawmakers and local communities curb gun violence and protect the children of Illinois.

    Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee on firearms, which heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would restore local governments’ right to control the types of weapons and ammunition allowed in their communities. Local control over such matters was taken away in 2013 when the state passed its concealed carry law.

    As with so many other proposals designed to target gun violence and the illegal gun trade, gun-rights advocates are opposed to the measure.

    “Kids are dying, and these products are causing it,” Harmon said. “It’s a crisis. Find a way to help us protect everyone, including law-abiding gun owners.”

    Harmon, who favors greater accountability standards for gun dealers to stem the tide of illegal firearms flowing into Illinois, said that in the absence of Congressional action to deter gun violence and restrict access to weapons nationally, it’s up to state officials and local communities to protect residents themselves.

    It’s not about taking rights away from law-abiding citizens who own and enjoy firearms, he added, acknowledging the state’s regional diversity when it comes to opinions about guns.

    “In my time in Springfield I’ve evolved from someone who grew up in a house without guns to understanding my colleagues across the state who represent communities where guns are common and used responsibly. I respect them and the cultural differences more than I did when I started this job,” Harmon said.

    “But kids are dying on our streets because there are too many guns, and we get no help from the gun lobby. I’m begging them to find a way to work with us rather than block our efforts and pay lip service to what we’re trying to do. We’ll protect law-abiding gun owners in the process, but we need them to help us put the bad guys out of business.”

    Rauner this week signed Republican-backed legislation that increases criminal penalties for gun trafficking in Illinois. Harmon said the measure does not go far enough to curb gun violence, nor does it offer the local oversight that communities want.

    He called on the governor – an ardent proponent of local control of government – to express support for local gun laws and statewide violence-prevention measures, and to do more to bring attention to the public health crisis that guns are causing in Illinois.

    Harmon also appealed to gun-rights advocates to stop standing in the way of sensible restrictions that will protect people and that polling consistently shows the majority of Americans want.

    In Illinois, since 2013 the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association have objected to a host of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and protect potential victims. Proposals they’ve opposed include state licensing of gun and ammunition dealers, barring people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining FOID cards, creating a firearms registry, banning imitation and replica firearms, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, creating a gun violence restraining order, strengthening the FOID card revocation process and barring the use of three-dimensional printers to create guns.

    Meanwhile, just over halfway through 2016, gun violence in Chicago is on pace to eclipse last year’s statistics. More than 2,700 people have been shot in the city so far this year; in all of 2015 just under 3,000 people were shot.

    Among the more than 50 victims of gunfire during the past weekend was an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the wrist as she attended a vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed early Sunday in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is in Harmon’s legislative district.

    “Meet us in the middle, for God’s sake,” Harmon said in a plea to gun-rights advocates. “How many children are going to have to die while the gun lobby stands by and watches?”

  • Harmon school breakfast expansion signed into law

    Harmon082216Breakfast will be available to more Illinois schoolchildren under a measure sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Friday.

    Senate Bill 2393 will require public elementary, middle and high schools with a student low-income rate of at least 70 percent to offer breakfast to students after the instructional day has begun.

    Each school will be able to determine the Breakfast After the Bell model that suits its students, such as breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast and second-chance breakfast. Schools that participate in the program are able to capture federal money to pay for the cost of offering these meals.

  • Senator Harmon interview on WMAY

    Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) stops by the WMAY tent at the Illinois State Fair to discuss the governor's veto of SB250, automatic voter registration.


  • Senate Dems: Voting access should be a top priority for Illinois

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  • Illinois yoga instructors to continue teaching without regulation

    harmon yogaYoga instructors in Illinois will be able to practice freely without state regulation under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Friday.

    Senate Bill 2743 garnered bipartisan support in the legislature as a pro-business measure that curbs government regulation where it’s unneeded.

    “As we work to make Illinois a more business-friendly state, there’s simply no reason to impose unnecessary regulation on something like yoga instruction, which for most people is a personal pursuit or at most a small, independent business venture,” Harmon said.

    The measure exempts yoga teacher training from state oversight as a trade, occupation, vocation or professional school. The legislation was prompted by news earlier this year that several yoga teacher training programs in Illinois were notified by the Illinois Board of Higher Education that they would be subject to state regulation as vocational schools and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.

    Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago) sponsored the measure in the Illinois House.

  • Harmon pro-business legislation becomes law

    harmon 050516Businesses will find it easier to operate in Illinois under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Thursday.

    House Bill 4361 is a broad, comprehensive modernization of Illinois’ Limited Liability Company Act, which last was rewritten in 1994. The law had been updated in a piecemeal fashion since then, but it was due for a sweeping update.

    The measure, which had bipartisan support in the legislature, is another effort to make Illinois a more business friendly state.

    “This update to Illinois’ LLC Act not only modernizes some of our laws, it also eliminates unclear or contradictory rules that can be frustrating for companies to navigate,” Harmon said. “It makes our laws more consistent with those of other states and enables Illinois to be a more attractive and inviting place for businesses to set up shop.”

    The legislation was the result of a six-year project by the Institute of Illinois Business Law to update the state’s LLC Act. The project was prompted by the 2006 publication of the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

    Joliet attorney Michael Hansen is past chairman of the Institute of Illinois Business Law, a group of about 40 corporate lawyers in Illinois who oversee the state’s business and corporate laws.

    “Limited liability companies are now the favored business entity,” he said. “The changes to the Act will mean the formation in Illinois of more LLCs, while still providing necessary protections to the members of the LLC.”

    Representatives Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) sponsored the measure in the Illinois House.

  • Harmon statement from regarding death of Abner Mikva

     Harmon statement from regarding death of Abner MikvaSenator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today regarding the death of Abner Mikva, a former congressman, federal judge, presidential adviser, lawyer, mentor and public servant from Chicago:

    “For a man with perhaps the most impressive resume in politics, Abner Mikva was the kindest, most gracious and generous politician I’ve ever met.

    “When I took his seminar on legislative process at the University of Chicago Law School, even at the end of his storied career, Ab’s enthusiasm for government and politics was contagious. He loved the process and he loved engaging young people in it.

    “When I confessed my quiet interest in running for office, he said, “Do it. Don’t wait!” He was a great mentor and a wise counsel.

    “Even in the last few months, he was pushing us hard to move forward on juvenile justice reform — all with a heart set on good policy and a keen appreciation for the evolving politics. He was a gentle giant and he will be missed by all he touched.”

    Mikva died Monday in Chicago. He was 90.

  • Shared priorities, common ground yield budget action (AUDIO)

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