State Senator Heather Steans issued the following statement in response to Gov. JB Pritzker’s signing of the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year:

“These budget negotiations were challenging in ways we could not have imagined even a few months beforehand,” Steans said. “This is a preservation budget, one aimed at maintaining our funding levels in the most important areas at a time when these services have never been more crucial.”

While making $1 billion in cuts in comparison to the governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, Senate Bill 264 increases funding to the Dept. of Children and Family Services and programs that help seniors and the developmentally disabled live independently in their homes – especially crucial as the state responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding for schools and public safety are preserved at their current levels under the plan, while programs that are truly crucial in responding to COVID-19 will see increases, including senior meals programs, home care and respite services, DCFS, and other programs that help the developmentally disabled and their families.

Included in the budget this year:

  • $8.9 billion for P-12 education, an increase of $12.7 million when compared to what was enacted in FY 20, including an increase of $6.77 million to evidence-based funding to ensure all schools’ funds are level and an additional $11 million over the previous year for mandated categoricals such as transportation.
  • Level funding for early childhood education.
  • Level funding for higher education.
  • An increase over FY 20 of $43 million to public safety agencies, including increases to violence prevention and reduction programs, two new classes of State Police cadets, and 280 additional staff and equipment, commodities, and supplies to improve operations at the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Chicago.
  • A $438 million increase to human services, with funding that includes:
    • Increases to the Community Care Program and similar home care services like Home Delivered Meals, Adult Protective Services, Senior HelpLine and area agencies on aging.
    • $299.5 million increase to DHS to cover Rehab Services, the Mental Health Division, the Developmental Disabilities Division, substance abuse prevention, and Child Care Assistance, among others.
    • $178.5 million increase to DCFS to hire 123 additional direct service staff, with the goal of improving the state’s caseload ratios. Includes step pay for union employees.
  • $19.1 million increase to the Dept. of Public Health, as well as $600 million in new federal funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $447.4 million increase of state funding and a $780 million increase in federal funding to HFS, covering increased Medicaid liability.
  • Most state agencies will remain at or very near level funding compared to the previous year. Overall, a total of about $1 billion in cuts to the governor’s original proposed FY 21 budget are reflected in the final plan passed by the General Assembly.

The budget also makes the state’s full pension payment.

“Failing to meet this obligation, even in light of our current circumstances, was not an option,” Steans said. “As we adjust to severely reduced revenues from nearly all sources, it’s our duty to protect our state’s bond rating.”

Steans also said the budget’s $5 billion in borrowing was necessary in light of the devastation wrought by COVID-19-related business closures.

“I stand behind this decision as we look forward to a year where our state will be reeling from historically unprecedented hardship,” Steans said. “It is true that borrowing now costs money later, but we’ve seen, very recently, what happens when the state simply abandons its obligations. If we were to see the same indolence we did during the Rauner years now, in a pandemic, it would be a true humanitarian crisis.”

The governor signed the budget Tuesday, contained within Senate Bill 264 and House Bill 357.

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State Senator Heather Steans issued the following statement on news that Virginia today became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment:

“Virginia’s historic action today, a century after the ERA was introduced and women gained the vote, should tell us that the time is long overdue for this to become the law,” Steans said. “The idea that our government should not have the power to discriminate on the basis of sex should not be controversial. Because of the time that has passed, there remains work to be done, but the American people have spoken loud and clear: It’s time for 28th Amendment.”

CHICAGO — Less than a month before cannabis cultivation and sale become legal in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation finalizing certain parts of the new statute alongside the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Heather A. Steans, at a ceremony in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

“When we embarked on the long road to legalization of adult-use cannabis, we set out not just to end bad drug policy and lay the groundwork for opportunity in a new industry,” Steans said, “we also sought ways to make amends for how drug enforcement has ravaged communities. As we stand poised for legalization on Jan. 1, I want to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to make this legislation a reality, and I want to remind all of us that to ensure we see justice, we must listen to the community and respond to their concerns swiftly.”

Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1557, sponsored by Steans, which makes adjustments to her earlier legislation legalizing cannabis use by those 21 or older in Illinois. Among clarifications in the bill were provisions explicitly stating it is illegal to operate a snowmobile while under the influence of cannabis and that it no longer is illegal to possess “drug paraphernalia” associated with cannabis use.

“Legalization has become possible because members of the public are more informed and more willing to demand justice in drug policy,” Steans said. “I want to thank them for showing that Illinois is ready to leave behind punishment and embrace healing.”

Other provisions in the new legislation clarify:

  • that background search results exclude expunged cannabis convictions.
  • that outstanding fines cannot be a barrier to expunging past cannabis convictions.
  • that dispensaries or retail tobacco stores can have areas to use cannabis on-site, with restrictions similar to tobacco use.

The consumption and sale of cannabis by those over the age of 21 becomes legal in Illinois Jan. 1.

“Transparency is the first step we take to restoring the public’s trust.”

11142019HAO 0016SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans is pushing for new ethics reforms in the wake of scandals surrounding numerous Springfield lawmakers in recent months, passing legislation out of the Senate today.

“Today we took the first steps to reform the disturbing, unacceptable behavior that has rocked state government in recent months,” said Steans, (D-Chicago). “Raids, arrests and indictments are not what people expect of their elected officials. While they mean that the ethics laws we already passed are working and law enforcement is doing its job, it also means we need to change the culture in Springfield, close loopholes, and eliminate grey areas. We need to earn back your trust.”

Steans’ legislation takes aim at the practice of state lawmakers lobbying local units of government. The measure would require:

  • state lobbyists to disclose any units of local government they also lobby,
  • state lobbyists to disclose any elected or appointed offices they hold,
  • lobbying firms that contract out other lobbyists to disclose who is lobbying for each business or other client,
  • the Secretary of State’s Office to improve the lobbyist database, integrating these new provisions and making the entire system easier to search and navigate.

“Transparency is the first step we take to restoring the public’s trust,” Steans said. “That means we’ve still got much, much more to do. I urge the governor to sign this into law and I urge my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to continue working to make the state of Illinois a government worthy of its citizens’ trust.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 1639. Having passed the Senate without opposition, it awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

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