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Biss advances Student Loan Bill of Rights

biss 031517SPRINGFIELD – Senator Daniel Biss’ groundbreaking measure to protect Illinois college students from crushing education debt advanced out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1351 establishes the Student Loan Bill of Rights in Illinois to provide as much protection as possible for student borrowers, a population that frequently is targeted by bad actors in the student loan industry.

“At a time when a quarter of student loan borrowers are behind in their payments, we need to make sure borrowers understand their rights and have access to resources that will prevent them from defaulting on their loans,” Biss said. “I am pleased to work with Attorney General Lisa Madigan on behalf of student borrowers, and I encourage each of my colleagues to support this measure.”

The Student Loan Bill of Rights would help to ensure students and their families receive clear information about the money they borrow for higher education and how their student loans are serviced. Among the protections offered in the legislation:

  • Requires student loan services to provide specialized employees to assist borrowers with questions about loan payments, explain repayment options and evaluate a borrower’s financial situation to determine which payment plan is appropriate.
  • Requires loan servicers to give borrowers accurate information on billing statements and properly process borrowers’ payments, and bars servicers from charging unreasonable fees.
  • Requires loan servicers to tell borrowers when and how their federal loans may be discharged due to a borrower’s disability or a problem with the school the borrower attended.
  • Requires loan servicers to provide information so cosigners know the conditions of being released from their obligations.
  • Requires servicers to follow procedures when a loan is transferred to a new servicer to ensure continuity and ensure borrowers’ payments are properly handled.
  • Ensures borrowers have the right to request information and file account disputes with their servicer and appeal any servicer determination.
  • Creates a student loan ombudsman in the office of the attorney general to assist borrowers with student loans.
  • Establishes a student loan servicing license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to qualify, oversee and discipline services for violating the Student Loan Bill of Rights.

On International Women’s Day, Biss advances measure to close wage gap

Senator Daniel BissSPRINGFIELD – A measure designed to narrow the gender wage gap in Illinois advanced out of the Senate’s Labor Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 981, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), would prohibit Illinois employers from asking job applicants about their salary history, a practice that perpetuates gender discrimination and wage inequality.
 
“If you’re an employer who prides yourself on not discriminating against your workers but you base starting pay on what they earned at their last job, they may be perpetuating the wage gap,” Biss said.

Women in Illinois make up nearly half of the workforce but earn just 79 cents for every $1 that men earn. For women of color, the wage gap is wider – Black and African-American women earn 63 cents on the dollar to white men; Hispanic and Latina women earn just 48 cents.

Illinois women who work full-time lose nearly $20 billion every year because of unequal pay, meaning less money for their savings, for spending on basic goods and services and for investing back into the local economy.

“We have a troubling wage gap in Illinois and across the country that is unfair and unacceptable. This legislation attempts to confront the problem at its source – during negotiations between a job applicant and a potential employer,” Biss said. “Every time an employer bases a woman’s starting salary on what she made at her previous job, they’re ensuring that she never catches up and that we never close the gap.”

Wednesday was International Women’s Day.

Biss also is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1721, the Family Leave Insurance Act, which would offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for employees to recover from serious health conditions, care for a child or other family member, or spend time with a newborn or adopted child within any 24-month period. Employees would receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, which would be funded through a 0.3 percent payroll deduction.

The legislation is assigned to the Senate Labor Committee.

Biss: Illinois needs small donor matching to amplify local voices in government

biss 040616SPRINGFIELD – The only way to blunt the influence that wealthy donors maintain over government is to return power to the people by amplifying the voice of small donors through public financing of elections, Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.

Biss, an Evanston Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1424, which creates the Small Donor Democracy Matching System for Fair Elections Act.

The legislation would establish a small donor matching system for statewide races in Illinois, including governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senators and state representatives.

Small donor matching empowers average people to compete financially and ideologically with special interests and wealthy donors. It also opens up the playing field to more diverse candidates for office and offers more options at the ballot box.

“This is about who decides,” Biss said. “Life is getting harder for more and more Americans every day because people who are already doing well have all the power in government – powerful people who are shamefully out of touch with the people they represent.

“We’re only going to fix this problem if we weaken the connection between money and political power and make it easier for small donors’ voices to be heard.”

Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence the money in Illinois elections by doing the following:

  • Contributions between $25 and $150 from local donors would be matched 6:1 by public funds.
  • Limits would be set on the amount of public funds available to each candidate.
  • Candidates would not be able to accept contributions of more than $500 from a single donor.

The cost of the program is estimated at $1 per Illinois resident annually, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the proposal.

“It’s time for Illinois to step up to the plate and implement this long-overdue reform, which would ensure that the voices of local donors are amplified in Illinois elections,” David Melton, ICPR senior advisor said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to run for office and participate in the political process, not just the 1 percent of wealthy donors and candidates.”

Jay Young, political director for Common Cause Illinois, noted that Illinois witnessed unprecedented campaign spending in 2016, including nine statehouse races that exceeded $2 million in contributions and a comptroller’s race that soared past the $12 million mark.

“The voices of ordinary citizens in this state are being drowned out right now by the unlimited spending of wealthy political donors,” Young said. “We believe that proposals like the one Senator Biss has put forward will allow the people to take back their democracy from these powerful special interest groups.”

Biss urges Illinois sanctuary cities to stay the course

biss 012617EVANSTON – Evanston, Chicago and other Illinois cities are doing the right thing in vowing to stand strong against President Donald Trump’s efforts to shame and coerce them for offering sanctuary to immigrants, state Senator Daniel Biss said Thursday.

“President Trump’s actions this week are further evidence that he lacks a moral compass,” said Biss, an Evanston Democrat, in denouncing the president’s executive order pledging to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities around the nation.

“I am incredibly proud of Evanston’s record of reassuring immigrants that they are welcome in our community,” he added. “It’s shameful that a local decision now is under attack by a U.S. president who is committed to dividing people rather than bringing them together.”

Trump signed the executive order Wednesday. Evanston has been a sanctuary city since 2008 but strengthened its local ordinance in November following the presidential election. Chicago has been a sanctuary city since 1985. Cook County also has a sanctuary ordinance.

It’s unclear how much federal funding could be at stake for more than 300 U.S. sanctuary cities, states and counties as a result of the executive order.

“President Trump has presented these municipalities with a choice between money and morality,” he said. “We’re going to stand up to his threats and any attempt to strip them of federal funds. But if they do lose federal dollars, at least they can sleep at night knowing they did the right thing.”

Senator Daniel Biss

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9th Senate District

Years served: 2011 - 2012 (House); 2013 - 2018 (Senate)

Committee assignments: Education; Environment and Conservation; Executive Appointments; Human Services; Labor (Chairperson); Revenue.

Biography: Full-time legislator; former University of Chicago math professor; doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Served one term in the House before his election to the Senate. Resides in Evanston with his wife, Karin, and their children, Elliot and Theodore. Co-chair of a bipartisan pensions working group in the House and chair of the Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee.