05252018CM0160 rSPRINGFIELD – Senator Heather Steans issued the following statement on the passage of a bipartisan, balanced budget:

“This budget is the result of negotiations between all four caucuses and represents real compromise. It is truly balanced, spending within our means while implementing some cuts and pension reform to keep our state on a path toward fiscal stability.

“It does all of this while still prioritizing the wellbeing of Illinois’ neediest residents.  It provides additional funding for child care assistance and sexual assault services, while rejecting the governor’s proposed cuts to community mental health and addiction services. It also increases education funding for school districts, colleges and universities to continue to grow and strengthen our work force.

“Above all, the budget is an investment in our communities. From funding for cities and towns to social services to providing educational opportunities, I believe that Illinoisans young and old will fare better under this budget than they have in years.”

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Following a 72-45 vote in the House, Illinois approved a measure sponsored by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a historic day for women across the country,” Steans said. “I am thrilled that members of the House joined the Senate in standing up for women’s rights.”

The Equal Rights Amendment declares that equality of rights will not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex. Currently, women are not guaranteed equal rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Several advancements for women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch also could reduce enforcement of these acts.

“By ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment we can provide a strong legal protection for women’s rights and prevent rollbacks from Congress or presidential administrations,” Steans said. “This amendment is still relevant and necessary.”

Though the deadline to ratify the ERA was initially set as 1982, Congress has the ability to extend that deadline.

“After nearly 50 years of opposition, we are just one state away from ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution,” Steans said. “I encourage my colleagues in Virginia to continue the charge and become the final state to ratify the ERA.”

Legislation to ratify the ERA was introduced in both the Virginia Senate and House this year, but those measures failed to gain the necessary support to advance.

05182018CM0064 RState Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) advanced a measure through the Senate to protect consumers from a pending rollback to the Affordable Care Act.

House Bill 2624 would encourage individuals to enroll in comprehensive health insurance rather than remaining on a short-term plan. The measure would limit short-term coverage to 180 days within a year. The Obama Administration limited the time an individual could stay on a short-term plan in 2016. President Trump has proposed reversing this ruling and allowing individuals to stay on short-term, limited duration insurance plans for a year.

“President Trump wants to extend the length of time individuals can stay on a short-term health insurance plan, driving up the cost for everyone on the exchange,” Steans said. “These plans can also hurt consumers by not providing full medical coverage and leaving patients with high medical bills.”

Short-term, limited duration insurance plans are exempt from many of the Affordable Care Act’s mandates and often provide less coverage to consumers. House Bill 2624 would require short-term policies to disclose to consumers that the plan might not cover all medical bills.

“This legislation is about protecting consumers and the insurance exchange in Illinois,” Steans said. “It is clear that the Trump administration does not have consumers’ best interest at heart, so as a state we need to step up and protect patients from enrolling in plans that won’t cover their expenses.”

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Measure would improve efficiency of Human Rights Commission

SPRINGFIELD – To expedite discrimination case decisions and clear the backlog of claims, the Senate recently approved State Senator Heather Steans’ (D-Chicago) measure to restructure the Human Rights Commission.

“The Human Rights Commission is an important avenue for individuals who have been discriminated against or harassed to resolve their complaints,” Steans said. “Due to the current structure and process, a backlog of cases has developed over time. To expedite cases, I worked to restructure the commission to ensure that cases are addressed quickly and efficiently.”

Senate Bill 20 would change the Human Rights Commission from 13 part-time commissioners to seven full-time, dedicated commissioners. Additionally, it creates a temporary three-person panel to address the backlog of cases. To prevent a future buildup of cases, it streamlines the administrative process and removes duplicative steps.

In March 2017, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order to consolidate the Human Rights Commission with the Department of Human Rights. However, the executive order did not take effect following the House’s passage of a resolution disapproving the order.

“This legislation supports both employees and employers. It is the result of extensive negotiations to address issues with the governor’s executive order,” Steans said. “The governor’s order would have given one organization the power to both investigate and judge discrimination cases.”

Senate Bill 20 extends the time individuals can file a claim from 180 days to 300 days, consistent with federal laws. It also requires the Human Rights Commission to publish its decision, creating a precedent on rulings for future cases.

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