November 16, 2016
Today the Illinois State Senate passed legislation to override the governor’s veto on automatic voter registration. I co-sponsored Senate Bill 250 with Senator Manar, which automatically registers eligible voters when they interact with state agencies. The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.
Automatic voter registration is estimated to provide access to the ballot to about 2 million eligible voters in 2018 and update the addresses of 700,000 voters.
Given the recent election, it is clear now more than ever how important it is to make voting easier. Over the weekend leading up to the election alone, 62,000 Illinoisans registered to vote online, demonstrating a need for increased access to voter registration. Although Illinois is the most populous state in the Midwest, we have one of the lowest voting turnouts in the region. Our democracy becomes more representative as more people get involved.
Automatic voter registration will help more Illinoisans register to vote, especially minorities. Nearly half of voting-age eligible African-Americans are not registered to vote in Illinois, while nearly 60 percent of Asian-Americans are not registered and 33 percent of women are not registered to vote.
Most of you will see this change when you go to the DMV to update your driver’s license or state identification card. At that time, you will be given the chance to opt out of being registered to vote. Otherwise, if you are eligible, your voter information automatically will be added or updated.
By automatically registering eligible voters, the state will streamline the registration process and remove duplicative paperwork. Automatic voter registration also maintains accurate voting rolls and ensures that as people move, their voter registration is updated.
I will continue to fight for our democracy during this legislative session. As always, please feel free 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)
122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
November 15, 2016
In the aftermath of the elections there have been reports of children in distress, especially from frequently marginalized youth such as LGBTQ members and immigrants. For refugee and immigrant children, fear of being forcibly separated from family through deportation is clearly traumatic and threatening. LGBTQ youth may be frightened that recent broadening of civil rights and social acceptance may be at risk. Resources that may help during this transitional time are below, and you can click here to review more information from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital on youth health and well-being.
Additionally, students may have interpreted language used during the election cycle as permission to bully other students. Bullying is a serious problem facing our children and one that can stunt self-confidence and impede learning in school. I have included links below to some helpful guides on how to talk to children about the election and promote safety.
As always, please feel free to contact my office at 773-769-1717 or online with any questions or concerns.
Support for youth
Crisis Text Line – Free 24/7 support for people in crisis. Text 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor
The Trevor Project - Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for the LGBTQ community; 1-866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
CARES Crisis Line, SASS Services - Illinois crisis mental health services program for children and adolescents; 1-800-345-9049 (voice), 1-773-523-4504 (TTY)
Crisis/emergency mental health providers across Illinois
To Write Love On Her Arms - Help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide
Center on Halsted - A community center dedicated to securing the health and well-being of the LGBTQ people of Chicago
Support for family, parents and caregivers
Look Through Their Eyes
The City of Chicago Office of New Americans
The City of Chicago 311 City Services - 311
Lurie Children's Hospital - 1-800-543-7362
Child Mind Institute article - What to do if you're worried about suicide: A parent's guide to helping a child in distress
Parents.com article - 7 Tips for Talking About the Outcome of the Election with Kids
Huffington Post article - What Do We Tell the Children?
Support for professionals working with youth
Teaching Tolerance – Election 2016 resources for teachers
Human Rights Campaign Blog - After Election, LGBTQ Youth Are Panicked - Here's What We Can Do to Help Them
Youth Suicide Prevention Program
Illinois Safe Schools - Resources for creating gender-inclusive schools
Local human and civil rights organizations
Illinois Mental Health Task Force – Volunteer task force that promotes awareness of mental health needs for refugees and immigrants in Illinois
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Illinois DREAM Fund - Scholarships for undocumented students in Illinois
October 26, 2016
From apple bobbing to parades and free trick-or-treating, there is an abundance of Halloween festivities around the district this weekend. I’ve included a list of activities for you and your family to enjoy, as well as some safety tips to ensure that trick-or-treaters have a fun night out.
As you’re preparing for the holiday, have you noticed that you have a Halloween costume gathering dust in your home? If so, why not bring some cheer to a local child by donating it?
We are collecting new and gently used costumes to give to after-school programs, social service agencies and other groups that work with children who can't afford a costume.
You can drop off costumes at my office (5533 N. Broadway) this week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We will collect costumes until Friday, Oct. 28. Call 773-769-1717 for more information.
Local Halloween Festivities
Friday, Oct. 28:
Saturday, Oct. 29:
Monday, Oct. 31:
Safety tips and tricks for a great night
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.”
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