Senator Steans speaks at a press conference on legalizing recreational marijuanaFeedback from community groups, advocacy organizations, public safety officers, medical professionals and the public will be pivotal in shaping efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois. At a press conference today, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced plans to hold the first subject matter hearing on the topic at 12 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in the Bilandic building.

“Rep. Cassidy and I are committed to gathering feedback about how legalizing recreational marijuana would affect the state from a large variety of interest groups,” Steans said. “We have received overwhelming support for this legislation but do not plan to move forward hastily. We want to ensure that there is ample time for organizations and individuals to present testimony and for us to adjust the legislation based on information presented in hearings.”

Barbara Brohl, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Revenue will testify on how legalizing recreational marijuana has affected Colorado during the first hearing on this subject. Karmen Hanson, the program director of the Health Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, will also testify on what other states have done around legalizing marijuana.

“Senator Steans and I strongly believe that it’s time that Illinois had a new drug policy,” Cassidy said. “Legalizing recreational marijuana will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state. We’re discussing all sorts of proposals to end the budget impasse, and we thought this should be part of the conversation as well.”

The Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy organization devoted to ending marijuana prohibition, has estimated that legalizing recreational marijuana would generate between $350 million and $700 million in new revenue for the state of Illinois. Under the Steans-Cassidy proposals, the revenue would go to support the State Board of Education; treatment and education programs about marijuana, alcohol and tobacco; and the state’s General Revenue Fund.

Currently, six groups and organizations have come out in support of the legislation due to the fiscal impact it would have on the state and their belief that Illinois needs a new drug policy.

“It is time for Illinois to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol,” said Chris Lindsey, a spokesperson for the Coalition for a Safer Illinois, a newly formed alliance of doctors, law enforcement, clergy and other organizations committed to updating marijuana legislation in Illinois. “Our current policy causes more harm to the individual and society than cannabis consumption, and a majority of Illinois voters are ready for a better approach. We believe these bills are exactly what Illinois needs.”

The two legislators will also seek feedback from residents at a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in their district.

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement in light of the inability of Rauner administration agency heads to identify possible spending cuts during committee hearings:

Senator Steans at a press conference on Rauner administration budget testimonyThe governor presented a budget that is now $5 billion out of balance. When members of the Senate asked his agency directors how they could contribute to filling this gap, none of them were able to identify a single dollar to help balance the budget.

The fact that the governor stifled the Senate’s grand bargain negotiations when his budget relied on the grand bargain to help balance his budget tells me that the governor is more interested in creating chaos than fiscal stability. By continuing to push his partisan priorities, the governor is hurting taxpayers, businesses and families. Every day that we don’t resolve this budget crisis, $11 million is added to the state’s debt and our backlog of bills grows.

Though the governor’s budget proposal is now $5 billion out of balance, I remain determined to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find compromise and fill the budget gap the governor created.

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement on today’s voting on the Senate grand bargain:

Today the Illinois Senate began voting on the bipartisan grand bargain, moving one step closer to providing Illinoisans fiscal stability.

The appropriations bill we passed today ensures social service providers can keep their doors open, funds public universities and community colleges to the level they saw in 2015 when we last had a complete budget, and provides MAP grant funding for Illinois residents pursuing a degree within the state.

As a legislative body, we worked together on the grand bargain and compromised on many of the big issues facing our state. I am glad that we were able to push past differing political ideology and come together for real solutions to help struggling businesses, residents and families.

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) issued the following statement on the governor’s budget address:

Senator Steans on the Senate floorWe do not have time for the governor to put his legislative priorities before resolving the budget impasse. We have already gone 20 months without a state budget and Illinoisans across the state who are in no way to blame for the budget crisis are paying the price.

We must ensure that social service agencies remain open, domestic violence shelters receive the support they need, provide adequate higher education funding so that college students can confidently choose to stay in Illinois and continue to work to mend what has been broken by the impasse.

In order to restore economic stability so that businesses and individuals can thrive in Illinois, we must end this budget impasse and move forward with a balanced budget. It is the governor’s constitutional obligation to present the General Assembly with a balanced budget. If he is not willing to do so, then the Senate will forge ahead with our bipartisan budget negotiations.

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