February 14, 2017
Illinois has been without a budget for almost two years now. Social service agencies are closing their doors, students are looking outside of Illinois to pursue higher education and our backlog of bills has reached over $11 billion.
Under the Illinois Constitution, the governor is required to submit a balanced budget to the General Assembly, something that he has failed to do two years in a row.
In his first year in office, the governor presented a budget that used accounting tricks and relied on false savings to appear balanced when it wasn’t truly. Last year, his budget proposal included a $3.5 billion deficit that he planned to finance by either forcing the General Assembly to enact elements of his turnaround agenda in exchange for increasing revenue or by broadly cutting services like K-12 funding, local government and other statutory transfers and lowering rates paid to providers.
We have already set a new record for the longest a state in the U.S. to go without a budget. While Illinois residents and businesses are suffering, how much further will Gov. Rauner go?
I hope that the governor will fulfill his constitutional obligation to present a balanced budget tomorrow in his budget address.
I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a way to end this impasse and provide the state with financial stability. I will continue to push forward to create a balanced budget.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 or online with any questions or concerns.
Sincerely,Senator Heather Steans7th District – Illinois
5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)
623 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
February 3, 2017
Like many of you, I have been deeply disturbed by the president’s decision to halt refugees from entering our country and to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Given the fluidity of the situation, I’ve included the latest update on the ban and information on organizations that are helping refugees and immigrants below.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Friday banning refugees from entering the United States for 120 days and barring Syrian refugees indefinitely. Immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries are barred from entering the United States for 90 days.
Although the White House has touted this executive order as a way to protect the nation from terrorists, experts have stated that this immigration ban is unlikely to reduce the threat of terrorism in the United States.
The president’s actions are being challenged in court. A federal judge blocked part of the executive order that would have allowed the government to deport refugees and immigrants who had arrived in the United States. Four states have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration to stop enforcement of the ban, and 16 attorneys general have issued a statement vowing to fight the president’s ban.
The White House has changed its stance on green card holders. Initially officials said that green card holders from the seven banned countries would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if they could re-enter the country. The White House reversed that decision, stating that the travel ban does not affect green card holders but that border agents could detain and question travelers from certain countries.
I am committed to doing what I can to help the immigrants and refugees affected by the president’s ban. I will support our federal leaders and do what I can to ensure that Illinois remains an immigrant-friendly state. I encourage those of you who are able to lend a helping hand. Together, we can overcome this moral test.
Volunteer as a lawyer or translator at O’Hare
Lawyers and interpreters are needed at O’Hare International Airport to help those affected by the travel ban. Sign up for volunteer shifts at this link. The group is stationed in Terminal 5 across from a McDonald’s. This article contains more information on some of the lawyers and interpreters volunteering at O’Hare, including several from District 7.
Organizations assisting refugees and immigrants
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) ICIRR is “dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.” It partners with organizations to educate immigrant and refugee communities about their rights and to promote civic participation and citizenship.
World Relief World Relief partners “with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transforming lives and building sustainable communities.” Its initiatives range from refugee and immigration services to health and child development and disaster response.
National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) NIJC is “dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.” It provides pro bono legal services to more than 10,000 people each year and obtains asylum for 90 percent of their cases.
Refugee One Refugee One’s mission statement is: “We create opportunity for refugees fleeing war, terror, and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance.” It is a refugee resettlement agency that provides a variety of services in the Chicago area.
The Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)“CAIR is the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.” It defends civil rights and promotes tolerance. It provides pro bono legal service to Muslims who have been discriminated against because of their religion, race or ethnicity.
Catholic Charities Catholic Charities assists refugees who have resettled in Chicago by offering a variety of services, including help securing housing, lessons on public transportation and enrollment in English classes.
Centro Romero A community-based organization that serves immigrants and refugees on the northeast side of Chicago. It offers youth programs, adult education, family services and legal services.
Ethiopian Community Association of ChicagoThe Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago is committed to serving the cultural, psychological and socio-economic needs of refugees and immigrants. It assists in the promotion of personal growth, financial stability, positive family and community relations and community empowerment.
Iraqi Mutual Aid SocietyThe Iraqi Mutual Aid Society fosters the well-being and self-sufficiency of Iraqi refugees and immigrants in the United States. It eases their transition to life in America, forges connections between Iraqi and American societ, and facilitates the preservation and exchange of Iraqi culture.
In addition, here is a link to the many social service organizations in our community that are dedicated to providing support and services to immigrants and refugees.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky5533 N. Broadway 773-506-7100
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley3223 N. Sheffield Ave.773-267-5926
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin230 S. Dearborn St., Suite 3892312-353-0150
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth230 S. Dearborn St., Suite 3900312-886-3506
SPRINGFIELD – As her first act on the Senate Government Reform Committee, Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced legislation to close the revolving door between state government employees, officials and lobbying firms.
“It is high time that we strengthen ethics laws in Illinois and tighten regulations on the revolving door,” Steans said. “The General Assembly last passed revolving door reforms nearly 10 years ago. While those acts were undoubtedly progress, elected officials and state employees should not be able to immediately translate relationships built on state time into lobbying connections upon leaving public service.”
Senate Bill 615 requires employees and officials to wait one year after leaving a position with the state before accepting a position or compensation for lobbying state government. The legislation also bans state employees and officials from negotiating employment terms or compensation from lobbying entities while employed or serving as an appointee of the state.
“SB 615 restricts legislators and state employees from lobbying for at least one year after their departure from state government, bringing Illinois in line with a majority of other states who restrict this kind of activity,” said Sarah Brune, executive director of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “This legislation is an important step in closing the revolving door of state government in Illinois and encouraging openness and transparency in the political process."This legislation awaits its committee assignment.
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.
122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
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