Advocates testify on potential economic impact of legalizing marijuana  

Senator Steans and Rep. Cassidy at a press conference with Rick StevesIllinois could see up to $699 million in new revenue by legalizing cannabis use among adults through a measure that would spur economic development while protecting public safety. Lawmakers heard from advocates today during a combined Senate and House hearing.

Among those testifying was nationally-known travel writer and television host Rick Steves, an active proponent for ending America’s prohibition of marijuana.

“I’m not pro-drugs – I’m pro-civil liberties and anti-prohibition,” Steves said. “Marijuana is here to stay. We can either keep building more prisons or figure out a better solution. I think it’s obvious what the solution is, and it’s happening around the country as it did in my home state of Washington. We need to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults.”

“It is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that by lifting cannabis restrictions we can encourage economic development in Illinois,” State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said. “We are carefully considering all aspects and potential impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis, including job growth.”

In addition to increased tax revenue, legalized cannabis could provide a boost for job growth in Illinois. According to a report from New Frontier Data earlier this year, the legal marijuana market could create more than 250,000 jobs in the U.S. by 2020. Legalizing adult-use marijuana creates a variety of jobs including scientists, dispensary employees, growers, among others.

“Legalizing cannabis will spur the creation of new small businesses and much-needed jobs,” State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said. “We are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity on the table by continuing the outdated status quo of prohibition.”
Tax revenue from the proposed legislation would support the State Board of Education; treatment and education programs for responsible marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use; and the state’s General Revenue Fund.

“In Washington, we have a track record and we know it works,” Steves said. “States like mine that have legalized marijuana have learned that use doesn't go up, crime doesn't go up, DUIs do not go up. The only thing that goes up is tax revenue, as we take the thriving illicit market and transform it into a highly regulated and highly taxed system.”

Today’s hearing was part of a series of hearings on the various aspects of legalizing cannabis use among adults. Changes to the legislation may be proposed in the new year based on these findings.

A bipartisan group of female state senators announced the creation of the Women’s Caucus today at a press conference in Springfield.

“We’ve seen throughout history that when women mobilize and claim their seat at the table, they break barriers and find solutions to the most stubborn of problems,” said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago). “I expect this caucus will do the same for the women of Illinois.”

The caucus is being formed to promote and advance women’s issues within the legislature and to support female senators from both political parties.

“Women’s issues transcend party lines and extend far beyond the confines of a legislative chamber,” said Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles). “I pledge to work with Democrat and Republican women who serve in the Senate to advance legislation that support, empower and protect women of all ages and in all environments.”

Although sexual harassment in the workplace will continue to be an issue of focus for the caucus, the group hopes to become the leading voice on a range of issues facing women in Illinois. It also intends to offer support for women within the workplace, institutions of education and home.

“The Women’s Caucus brings together a diverse group of legislators from across the political spectrum,” State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) said. “We recognize the importance of being bipartisan so that Senate leadership will respect our efforts. We intend to be taken seriously.”

“Women in the Senate have worked well together for years,” said Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry). “This newly formed caucus just takes us a step further to ensure that we are creating a voice for the women of this state and that we are dealing with the issues that impact them.”

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State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement on the Senate’s action to address the culture of sexual harassment in Springfield:

05042017CM0082“I strongly believe that as a legislative body we need to ensure that there is a safe process for individuals to report sexual harassment claims and that harassers are held accountable for their actions. While I think this legislation is a start, I am concerned that it sets up a reporting system that is overseen or hired by legislators, which may perpetuate an unsafe work environment where people are afraid to come forward. In the coming weeks, I think we need to examine best practices and what other states have done to determine if a special ombudsman position should be created to handle sexual harassment complaints. I intend to actively participate in trailer legislation to address this issue.”

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02162017CM0120State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement in response to the governor’s decision to sign House Bill 40, which protects women’s reproductive rights:


“I am thrilled that the governor decided to honor his commitment and protect women’s reproductive rights in Illinois by signing House Bill 40. Under this legislation, women will have access to safe and legal abortion services regardless of their income, employer or changes at the federal level. This is a great step forward for women in Illinois that would not have been possible without the hard work of constituents and advocates.”

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