Balanced budget honors commitments, invests in state’s future

05292019CM1690 rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), one of the Senate’s lead budget negotiators, issued the following statement after voting to approve a balanced budget:

“This year’s budget cements our commitment to stability and our willingness and ability to put years of chaos behind us.

“This is a responsible plan that honors our obligations while prioritizing programs that invest in the future of our state, like early childhood education and grants for college-bound students.

“We are also providing much-needed funding for those who serve our most vulnerable citizens. Home health care workers will get a long-awaited raise. The Department of Children and Family Services will receive appropriations to hire new staff, reducing worker caseload and ensuring more attentive oversight for children and families under the agency’s care.

“Overall, the budget sends a clear message: Illinois is not merely surviving; we are thriving.”

05292019CM1071 rSPRINGFIELD – After two years of work, hundreds of meetings with stakeholders and over a dozen public hearings, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) passed legislation today that would make it legal for adults 21 and older to purchase and use cannabis.

The legislation includes some of the most comprehensive restorative justice measures of any state that has legalized cannabis, seeking to combat the disproportionate harm prohibition caused to minority communities.

“Prohibition is not working. It’s time to come up with a better policy,” Steans said. “This plan keeps our children safe by prioritizing public safety, includes extensive restorative justice measures and brings in much-needed revenue for our state.”

Under Steans’ proposal, adults 21 and older would be able to possess any combination of the following beginning Jan. 1, 2020:

  • 30 grams of cannabis flower
  • 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product

The measure allows for the automatic expungement of convictions dealing with amounts of cannabis under 30 grams. For convictions dealing with amounts of 30-500 grams, state’s attorneys or individuals can petition a court to vacate the conviction.

It invests significantly in communities harmed by discriminatory drug law, creating the Recover, Reinvest and Renew Program (R3) program to provide grants and assistance to those areas.

After agency administrative needs and costs related to expungement are covered, the remaining revenue from taxes and licensing fees will be distributed as follows:

  • 2% for public education and safety campaigns
  • 8% for law enforcement funds for prevention and training to be distributed through the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) formula
  • 25% for Recover, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program
  • 20% for programs that address preventative substance abuse programs and mental health services
  • 10% for the bill backlog
  • 35% or the remaining amount for the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF)

House Bill 1438 passed the Senate today and will head to the House for a concurrence vote.

05212019CM0481 rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) is continuing her effort to introduce an inclusive curriculum to Illinois schools that celebrates the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Steans passed legislation out of the Senate today that will require public schools to teach students learning history about the contributions LGBTQ individuals made to Illinois and the United States.

“One of the best ways to overcome intolerance is through education and exposure to different people and viewpoints,” Steans said. “An inclusive curriculum will not only teach an accurate version of history but also promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community.”

Currently, Illinois schools are required to teach students about the role and contributions of African Americans and other ethnic groups, as well as about women’s history, the history of the labor movement and disability history.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, nearly 70 percent of LGBTQ students in Illinois have been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation.

“It is my hope that teaching students about the valuable contributions LGBTQ individuals have made throughout history will create a safer environment with fewer incidents of harassment,” Steans said. “LGBTQ children and teenagers will also be able to gain new role models who share life experiences with them.”

House Bill 246 passed the House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature.

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) voted on several pieces of legislation today that would update Illinois’ outdated tax structure and allow the state to implement a fair tax.

Steans voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would delete language prohibiting a fair tax and allow Illinois to tax lower incomes at lower rates and higher incomes at higher rates.

“Rates of income inequality are the highest they have been since 1928, the year preceding the Great Depression,” Steans said. “While the gap between the wealthiest Illinoisans and working and middle-class families continues to grow, the tax rate for everyone stays the same. Updating our tax structure will give us the flexibility to enact a system that is fair for everyone.”

If the amendment passes the Illinois House with a three-fifths majority vote, it will be placed on the November 2020 ballot. If 60 percent of those voting on the question vote “yes,” the Constitution will be amended.

Steans also voted to approve legislation sponsored by Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) that sets rates for a fair tax, providing the constitutional amendment is approved.

Under Hutchinson’s plan, contained in Senate Bill 687, 97 percent of taxpayers would see either no change or a decrease in their tax rate. Only the top 3 percent of earners would pay more.

Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1 and Senate Bill 687 passed the Senate today and now head to the House for consideration.

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