Welcome to my website. I hope to make this site a very interactive tool that allows you, as a constituent, to communicate with me, stay updated on legislation and happenings in Springfield and find resources in our district. Using this site, you can join my email list, read my e-mail updates online, see the latest legislative news, view upcoming neighborhood events and contact me.
I welcome any questions, concerns or suggestions you may have. Please feel free to call my district office at (773) 769-1717 or email your question here. My district office is located at 5533 N. Broadway near Broadway and Bryn Mawr. We are typically open from 9am to 5pm, but please call to make an appointment.
Heather SteansState Senator, 7th District
January 17, 2017
The Senate is working on a bipartisan package of bills to end the budget stalemate. Illinois is in its 19th month without a State budget – longer than any state in history has been without a budget. This impasse is devastating children, seniors, single parents, universities, school districts and health and human service providers across the state.
Below is an overview of the 12 bills that comprise our package. While anyone may quibble with individual pieces of this plan, it is a comprehensive effort to provide a balanced budget – with additional revenues and spending cuts – and improve our economic climate. In the words of Senate President Cullerton, “I think we’ve made it clear that the Senate is not afraid to take tough votes to solve problems and move this state forward.”
1. Two year property tax freeze (SB 13). Establishes a two year property tax freeze for home rule and non-home rule districts with exemptions for bond payments and pension contributions. It also provides mandate relief for school districts, including greater flexibility in scheduling physical education, using commercial driving schools for driver education, and contracting with third parties for non-instructional services.
2. Local government consolidation (SB 3). Extends local government consolidation procedures that exist in DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties to the entire state, allowing counties to dissolve local governments by referendum. It allows townships to merge with adjacent townships or if the township is coterminous with a municipality, to be dissolved. It further allows a township to absorb a township road district.
3. Pension reform (SB 11). Addresses the constitutionality of changing pensions by using a contractual approach. Employees are offered 3 items in exchange for eliminating the compounded 3% annual increase in their pensions: 1) a payment equal to 10% of the previous pension contributions; 2) a 10% reduction in future pension contributions; and, 3) a promise that all future salary increases will be pensionable. The bill also closes the General Assembly pension to future members, establishes an optional defined contribution plan, and makes changes recommended by the Governor in his last budget proposal.
4. Workers’ compensation reform (SB 12). Makes a number of changes to workers compensation, including: 1) cuts reimbursement for cost outliers on the medical fee schedule; 2) requires the Workers’ Compensation Commission to establish a prescription drug formulary; 3) creates a legal standard for traveling employees; 4) freezes the maximum wage benefit level for four years; 5) allows crediting for repeat injuries to the same part of the spine; and, 5) adopts other cost savings and efficiency measures.
5. Minimum wage increase (SB 2). Increases the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9 starting 7/1/17 and by 50 cents each year thereafter until it reaches $11.
6. Procurement reform (SB 8). Improves the efficiency of the procurement process to save money while maintaining transparency.
7. Borrowing to pay off the backlog of bills (SB 4). Allows the state to bond $7 billion to pay down bills (currently the state has over $11 billion in unpaid bills), paying off bonds over seven years.
8. FY17 supplemental appropriations (SB 6). Funds higher education, human services, group health insurance, and state operations for the remainder of this fiscal year.
9. Revenue bill (SB 9). Makes progressive changes to revenue as follows: 1) increases the personal income tax rate from 3.75% to 4.95% as of 1/1/17 and increases the corporate income tax rate from 5.25% to 7% as of 1/1/17; 2) implements a new tax of $0.01 per ounce on soda; 3) eliminates three corporate tax “loopholes”; 4) increases the Earned Income Tax Credit by 50%; 5) eliminates the corporate franchise tax; 6) increases the cap on education expense credit to $750 and creates a tax credit up to $250 for teachers who use personal funds to purchase classroom supplies; 7) reinstates the research and development tax credit and extends the sunset for the film tax credit; and, 8) reduces LLC filing fees.
10. Gaming bill (SB 7). Similar to a gaming bill passed by the General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Quinn, creates six new casino/riverboat licenses (one in Chicago w/full oversight by the Illinois Gaming Board), allows existing racetracks to obtain gaming positions, and increases the number of gaming positions at existing riverboats. The bill will generate almost $1 billion in up-front revenue and increase annual tax collections.
11. Pension parity for Chicago Public Schools (SB 5). Requires the state to pay the employer normal cost for Chicago teachers beginning FY17 to achieve parity in how Illinois pays for local teacher pensions.
12. Term limits for Senate Leaders (Senate Resolution 3). As its first act of business after electing Senate President Cullerton and Minority Leader Radogno last Wednesday, the Senate passed a new rule to limit leaders to five 2 year terms (10 years of service). We intend to vote on a constitutional amendment later to apply to both chambers.
These bills all include language that only allows them to become law when all of the bills are enacted into law; no single item can alone become law. I intend to vote for the most progressive package we can put on Governor Rauner’s desk at the earliest time possible to end the shameful destruction of our health, human services and educational systems here in Illinois. I welcome any feedback and suggestions.
Sincerely,Senator Heather Steans7th District – Illinois
5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)
122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 10, 2017
SPRINGFIELD – Elementary children and daycare attendees will now be better protected from lead exposure under legislation sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago). Senate Bill 550, which requires testing water sources in schools and daycares for lead, passed the Senate today.
“Lead exposure in children is a serious issue that can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities,” Steans said. “We need to proactively tackle the issue of lead exposure in schools and arm parents with information. That’s exactly what this legislation does.”
Senate Bill 550 requires schools and daycares constructed before 2000 that are used by students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade to test drinking water and water used for food preparation for lead. If samples exceed 5 parts per billion of lead, the school district is required to notify parents and legal guardians.
“I hope that parents will be able to rest a little easier knowing that they will now be informed if the water in their children’s schools is contaminated by lead,” Steans said. “I encourage the governor to sign this bill as soon as it reaches his desk.”
Both the House and the Senate have approved SB 550, which will take effect immediately when signed by the governor.
Measure signed today will fine, not jail, those found in possession of 10g or less
SPRINGFIELD – Under a measure signed into law today, possessing 10 grams of marijuana or less will no longer be punishable in Illinois with jail time or the stigma of a criminal record. The new statute, which State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago 14th) sponsored, makes minor pot possession a civil offense, subject to a fine of between $100 and $200.
“Illinois had a drug policy on the books that wasn’t making the public any safer but was exacerbating unacceptable inequalities in the criminal justice system,” Steans said. “By decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis, we’re eliminating something that in practice had become a net that disproportionately ensnared minorities and the poor, then stigmatized them with a criminal record that made it difficult to get a job or an education.”
Although a similar percentage of whites and African-Americans use cannabis, data reveal that black Illinoisans are arrested for marijuana possession at a rate seven times that of white residents.
Previously, possession of up to 2.5 grams of cannabis was a Class C misdemeanor, while possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams was considered a Class B misdemeanor. Almost 50,000 Illinoisans are arrested for cannabis possession each year. More than 100 local governments in Illinois have already passed ordinances removing at least some criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Under the new law, municipalities would still be able to assess additional fines and conditions, such drug treatment requirements. Records of cannabis-related violations will be automatically expunged each year.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, also realigns standards used to determine whether a driver is under the influence of cannabis. Because THC, the compound in marijuana that produces its characteristic “high,” can remain in a person’s bloodstream long after he or she is no longer impaired, there was a need to redefine the threshold in order to ensure that drivers are being tested for their current level of impairment rather than their past usage. The new standard mirrors the current law regarding blood alcohol levels.
“This is commonsense, carefully crafted legislation that recognizes the deleterious effects arrests and prosecutions for small-scale cannabis possession have had on individuals, families and communities,” Steans said. “Our drug policy should reflect a genuine concern for public health and public safety, not enshrine in state law the fears and biases of the past.”
July 5, 2016
Last week the House and Senate passed and the Governor signed a partial budget compromise that will allow schools to open on time, relieve uncertainty about their ability to stay open this year and stave off disaster for our remaining social services providers and the vulnerable populations they serve.
It is - unequivocally - progress. But it is also a step that should have been taken more than a year ago and one that will not fully or immediately revive the many organizations that have already cut staff and/or closed their doors.
The deal was comprised of several parts:
Senate Bill 2047:
Increases PreK-12 education funding by $331 million, fully funding the current per-pupil Foundation Level for the entire 2016-17 school year and ending the practice of prorating General State Aid to districts in order to account for insufficient appropriations
Includes a $250 million "equity grant" that will be distributed to school districts on the basis of need
Funds other education programs, including mandated categoricals, agriculture education, bilingual education, student assessments and career and technical programs
Appropriates more than $720 million for state agencies' operational expenses; this money will come from General Revenue Funds, the Budget Stabilization ("rainy day") fund and the Commitment to Human Services Fund
Will allow the state to pay for many of the costs (such as food, medical care and utilities) incurred at state-run facilities such as prisons
Sends $655 million to the state's nine public universities, totaling 90 percent of FY 15 funding for those universities with the smallest reserves and most significant fiscal challenges (Chicago State, Eastern University and Western University) and 82 percent of FY 15 funding for the other six
Appropriates $114 million for community colleges, $20 million for emergency expenses in higher education, $50 million for adult education programs and money for various grant programs for veterans, aspiring teachers and others
Covers remaining FY 16 MAP grant claims ($151 million), making whole the universities that continued to honor these awards last school year
Allocates more than $670 million from the Commitment to Human Services fund for services not covered by a consent decree; this funding can be used to cover both FY 16 and FY 17 expenses
These services include the Community Care Program, community mental health, addiction treatment, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, HIV/AIDS services, youth programs, homelessness prevention and services, burials for the indigent, immigration and refugee services, Adult and Juvenile Redeploy Illinois crime diversion programs and more
Funding for these programs is equal to 65 percent of an 18-month appropriation (FY 16 plus the first six months of FY 17)
Medicaid reimbursements and payments for services rendered under a consent decree will continue to be paid at FY 16 levels
Includes the full IDOT capital program for roads and transit
Includes money to restart some mothballed infrastructure projects for schools, water systems and park districts
Appropriates federal funds and money from "other state funds" for FY 17 (and FY 16 if not already appropriated)
Senate Bill 318:
Allows the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education to levy up to $250 million in property taxes, which will be used to make payments into the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund, helping to stabilize the district's finances and ensure schools remain open
Senate Bill 2822:
Establishes one year of pension parity between CPS (which currently receives almost no money from the state toward its teacher pensions) and other Illinois school districts, which receive the full "employer contribution" toward teacher pensions from the State. Pursuant to a deal reached with the governor, this measure has passed both chambers but is being held in the General Assembly rather than sent to the governor's desk pending debate and passage of a separate pension reform bill at a later date. This will likely be addressed in January. If the pension parity bill is released to the governor and signed, the state would cover $205 million in normal teacher pension costs (i.e., not including payments incurred because of the system's unfunded liability) for CPS for FY 17 only.
Senate Bill 1810:
A Budget Implementation Bill (BIMP) that forgives interfund borrowing in order to fund part of the state operations portion of SB 2047 and undertakes other actions needed to put the partial budget into effect.
I don't intend to let the good news of a short-term budget compromise become an excuse for complacency. Instead, this legislation is a model for what can be accomplished when partisan barricades are abandoned and trust is built on a foundation of shared priorities. The rank-and-file working group process eventually bore fruit through a hard-won trust that launched a productive conversation with and among leadership. However, the budget group in which I participated also produced a complete budget; I am dismayed that we were not at the point where all leaders were willing to take that step.
I will continue to fight for a complete, responsible budget and the revenue and reforms needed to sustain it. While pressure can incite action, as it finally did last week, it also takes a tremendous toll on individuals and families who are in no way to blame for the state's fiscal crisis. That's the wrong way to govern, but we've seen it happen time and again in the past year and a half, and it will continue unless we not only budget appropriately for the future but repair the damage inflicted during the impasse. I will use the breathing room provided by this partial budget as an opportunity to work toward that necessary goal.
As always, please feel free to contact my office at (773) 769-1717 with any questions or concerns you may have about this budget or any issue in state government. A good opportunity to chat in person is a coffee I will host at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark) this Sunday, July 10 from 10-11 a.m. You can also visit my website for a list of upcoming events in the district; I'll be in touch with further announcements as they arise.
District Office 5533 N. Broadway Chicago, IL 60640 Office: 773-769-1717 Fax: 773-769-6901
Springfield Office 623 Capitol Building 301 S. Second St. Springfield, IL 62706 Office: 217-782-8492