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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.”

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Senator Steans

July 5, 2016

Dear Friends,

 

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.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

Springfield Office

122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) issued the following statement on today’s passage of a compromise budget that funds human services and state government operations through Floor 6 30 16 webJanuary and K-12 schools for the full fiscal year:

Today’s vote allows schools to open on time, relieves uncertainty about their ability to stay open this year and staves 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.

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.

I look forward to a continued conversation about responsible budgeting and the revenue and reforms needed to sustain it. While pressure can incite action, it can also take a tremendous human 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.

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Senator Steans

June 7, 2016

Dear Friends,

 

The May 31st end of regular session came and went for a second year without a balanced budget. This is simply wrong and devastating for the state. College students will not receive scholarships, and high school seniors will be counseled to attend colleges outside Illinois. Survivors of sexual assault will not have access to services. Seniors will not receive home-delivered meals. Small businesses and social services agencies will continue to not get paid, and more of them will close their doors. The list goes on.

 

We need a comprehensive budget that includes spending reductions and new revenue to provide financial certainty and stability to the state and our residents. The Governor continues to demand elements of his turnaround agenda be passed before increasing revenue, which he acknowledges is needed for a permanent solution. There are working groups addressing some of these items, and I believe they are making good progress. I support compromising on some items, like workers' compensation, to achieve a bipartisan agreement and move the state forward. You can see me discuss the budget impasse with a panel of legislators on Chicago Tonight.

 

Rather than having the opportunity to vote on a comprehensive solution, however, the House passed a partial budget that did not provide needed revenue, and the Governor vowed to veto it. This budget received only 17 votes in the Senate; I was among those who voted no. The Senate, in turn, passed a K-12 education-only budget that would ensure no school district would receive less funding than the current year and would invest an additional $700 million in high-poverty, low-wealth school districts throughout the state (I voted yes). The House did not pass this budget.

 

There is now a group of appropriations chairs from each of the four legislative caucuses meeting with the Governor's budget team to negotiate a stopgap budget. The aim of this effort is to provide a full year budget for K-12 education and a six-month budget for remaining functions to ensure government and its vendors/social service providers can continue to function. As an appropriations chair, I am part of this team and continue to push for a comprehensive plan to end the destruction the budget impasse is causing around the state. A complete solution is unquestionably the right thing to do, and we should not wait until after the November election. We need to end this absurdity now.

 

Please call me at (773) 769-1717 or contact me via email with any questions or suggestions.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

Springfield Office

122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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District Office
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