Proposal to prevent federal charge card spending abuse
Thursday, July 28, 2016
SPRINGFIELD — After a federal watchdog found nearly $100,000 of improper adult entertainment charges on taxpayer-funded credit cards, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (IL-08), Ranking Member of the Oversight Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets, introduced good government legislation to help rein in waste, fraud and abuse in taxpayer-funded government credit card spending.
Duckworth’s new proposal, which is cosponsored in the Senate by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen.Claire McCaskill (D-MO), would strengthen the federal government’s ability to continually monitor charge card spending and enhance information sharing to better identify and stop sophisticated improper payment schemes.
“The vast majority of federal workers are honest, hardworking public servants trying to safeguard taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” said Congresswoman Duckworth. “But recent misconduct by unscrupulous employees underscores the need for us to improve oversight to better rein in waste, fraud and abuse on taxpayer-funded credit cards. My comprehensive good government proposal offers a solution to help protect taxpayers and prevent future abuse.”
Duckworth’s Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act is cosponsored in the House by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (MD-07) and Congressman John Carney (DE-AL). The legislation has already passed the Senate.
Audits by federal Inspectors General — watchdogs meant to investigate practices and misconduct at federal agencies — reveal isolated incidents of abuse or weak controls and oversight in federal charge card spending persist.
A 2015 report published by the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) details how certain DoD employees committed waste, fraud and abuse by using government-issued charge cards to pay for personal expenses at casinos and adult entertainment establishments.
The DoD’s OIG also found this spending, which included 900 transactions totaling $96,576 spent at adult entertainment entities over a one year period, was not detected because the agency program coordinators did not receive assistance from the DoD compliance program is tasked with overseeing this spending.
Since arriving in Congress, Duckworth has consistently advocated for better government practices, increased accountability and reduced waste while working to support the citizens of the Eighth District.
In February alone, she helped recover approximately $40,000 of federal funds owed to Eighth District residents and, in March, she returned $200,000 of her office budget to the U.S. Treasury.
Measure to increase transparency signed into law
Thursday, July 28, 2016
SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Tom Cullerton’s measure to increase government transparency and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars was signed into law July 22.
House Bill 4379 will to regulate all travel, meal and lodging expenses for officers and employees.
“Transparency is essential,” said Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park. “Illinois taxpayers should have access to the way state dollars are spent to guarantee funds are being spent responsibly and efficiently.”
The new law will create the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act, which will require non-home-rule units of government, school districts and community college districts to regulate travel, meal and lodging expenses.
“People should have access to how taxpayer dollars are spent to ensure money is being spent responsibly and effectively,” Cullerton said.
News of lavish expenses at the College of DuPage brought up cases illustrating the abuse of public funds by employees.
“We all know that public transparency promotes better decisions,” Cullerton said. “Public funds need to be spent wisely to maximize efficiency.”
Certain documentation will be required to be submitted in writing to school boards or corporate entities before the expenses can be approved by a roll call vote at an open meeting. The will be public record that would be subject to FOIA.
“The Better Government Association celebrates Governor Rauner signing HB4379 into law, this new law will provide oversight and regulation of local government expenses,” Judy Stevens, policy coordinator at the Better Government Association, said.
“The law also empowers local government agencies to set regulations so that our money can be spent most efficiently. This new law is a step forward for our state and will bring accountability to the taxpayers of Illinois on how their money is being spent while saving the state money,” Stevens added.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Steps being taken to strip Hastert of public pensions
Thursday, May 5, 2016
PLAINFIELD — Illinois State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) says former U.S. House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert is a disgrace to teachers and lawmakers and should be stripped of all taxpayer-funded pensions from past jobs.
“I don’t want taxpayers’ dollars providing a retirement to this predator,” Bertino-Tarrant said. She sent a letter to the General Assembly Retirement System asking it immediately take steps to suspend and revoke Hastert’s public pension benefits.
Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison April 27 for bank fraud stemming from efforts to cover up sex abuse dating back to his time as a teacher in Yorkville. He must also participate in a sex offender treatment program and a pay a fine of $250,000. Hastert later went on to serve in the Illinois General Assembly before being elected to Congress and rising to become the powerful U.S. House Speaker. He had qualified for pension benefits for his tenure as a teacher, state lawmaker and congressman.
Illinois’ Teachers Retirement System canceled Hastert’s pension April 27 of $16,622.76. However, the General Assembly system has not. Media reports have put his state lawmaker pension at roughly $28,000 annually.
Bertino-Tarrant said taxpayers have no duty to provide retirement benefits to someone who betrayed them and victimized children.
“Knowing what we know now, he would have been fired and jailed decades ago and would have lost his teacher’s pension and never had the chance to be a lawmaker, let alone get a pension. We have a chance to set the record straight. We should do so immediately as part of the effort to restore the public’s trust,” Bertino-Tarrant said.
Kifowit honored for her help with veterans
Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015
AURORA — Due to her record of strong support of mental health initiatives for veterans, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, was recently recognized by the Illinois Art Therapy Association with a Creative Legislator Award at its annual board dinner Dec. 13 in Aurora.
“I am honored to receive this prestigious award from such a wonderful organization,” Kifowit said. “The dedication and passion shown by the members of the Illinois Art Therapy Association and the care they show towards their patients is something our state can be proud of.”
The Illinois Art Therapy Association (IATA) is one of the largest affiliate chapters of the American Art Therapy Association with more than 200 members. IATA is an organization of professionals dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in the making of art is healing and life enhancing. IATA was established in 1974 to provide art therapists, art therapy students, and other interested professionals with opportunities to gather and to exchange information and expertise concerning the therapeutic use of art.
Kifowit sponsored House Joint Resolution 91 this year creating a Veteran Suicide Task Force. The unpaid task force will investigate and form prevention recommendations concerning the issue of suicide among returning Illinois veterans from active service along with methods for prevention.
“The Illinois Art Therapy Association awarded the 2014 Creative Legislator Award to Rep. Stephanie Kifowit for her incredible work in the arts, in providing mental health services for our veterans and for her belief in the healing modality of art therapy,” said Melissa Hedlund, President of the IATA. “Rep. Kifowit has been a standout this past year in her support of IATA and we are incredibly grateful for her.”
8th annual MLK Health Challenge
Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015
CHICAGO — In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., State Representative La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, and Oak Park District 97’s Multicultural Education Department will sponsor the 8th Annual Health CHALLENGE Jan. 19, 2015 for students in grades K-8 from Chicago, Oak Park, Forest Park, Berwyn, North Riverside, La Grange, La Grange Park, Brookfield and Western Springs.
“Let’s start the new year off with a great sense of diversity, culture and wellness,” said Ford.
“Learning healthy habits and lessons with the peace and acceptance advocated by Dr. King is what makes this event special every year. I look forward to seeing our parents and youth come out to gain knowledge for both their body and soul,” Ford added.
The event will take place Monday, Jan. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Percy Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave. in Oak Park.
Students will participate in health activities and sports promoting healthy eating, physical activity, teamwork, sportsmanship, excellence and multicultural understanding.
Local organizations and agencies will conduct activities including: basketball, dance, jump rope, relays, hula hoops and other fun games.
Using games and fun challenges, experienced dieticians will teach students how to eat smart. As part of the Health Challenge, participants will enjoy a tasty and nutritious lunch.
For more information, contact Ford’s office at 773-378-5902, or visit: lashawnford.com.
Sen. Raoul: Burge shouldn’t receive a pension
Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015
SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) announced a measure he sponsored to make it harder for felons to receive public pensions became law Dec. 30.
Outraged by a pension board’s decision to allow convicted former Chicago police commander Jon Burge — who oversaw the torture of more than 100 suspects — to continue receiving a pension, Raoul worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to clarify that courts can intervene to stop such payouts.
“How can we prevent future abuses by law enforcement and public officials when those who use their positions to commit heinous crimes can avoid the consequences as long as others are willing to protect them?” Raoul said. “It is unconscionable that Jon Burge is receiving a pension, and this law gives taxpayers a way to fight back.”
Burge was convicted in 2010 of lying about the physical and psychological torture of more than 100 black men in police custody on Chicago’s South Side during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and was released in October 2014 to a halfway house in Florida, where he also owns a vacation home. A police pension board deadlocked, 4-4, in 2011 on whether Burge should be prohibited from drawing his $54,000 per year pension; the even split meant he kept receiving it.
When Madigan challenged the board’s decision, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled no court had jurisdiction to reconsider and overturn such votes by pension boards. Senate Bill 2809, which the governor signed into law Dec. 30, specifies the attorney general may bring a civil suit asking the court to rule on whether the pension board’s decision was correct and to stop pension payments to a convicted felon if the court believes the board erred.
“While Burge’s victims and their families continue to suffer the pain and humiliation of torture and in some cases false imprisonment, the man responsible for his officers’ conduct is retiring to sunny Florida on the taxpayers’ dime,” Raoul said. “I want to make sure this never happens again.”
How do you combat prescription drug abuse?
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
AURORA — Congressman Bill Foster was recently joined by community leaders for a discussion on prescription drug abuse and legislation he has introduced to combat the growing problem in our communities.
Speakers included State Sen.Linda Holmes, Breaking Free Executive Director Mike Moran, and Strategic Prevention President Kathleen Burke.
“Easy access to prescription drugs is leading too many people down the path of addiction and opening the door to abuse of other opioids like heroin. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from a friend or relative,” said Foster. “I introduced the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic and I will continue to fight for additional resources and programs because we simply cannot allow this epidemic to continue to devastate our community.”
Burke explained the most effective way to address a problem is to understand it, then to educate others about it.
“I am very grateful that Congressman Foster is a scientist, because he has a perspective on what goes on in the body when you have an addiction that is unique, and he understands the complexity of the way we need to approach it,” Burke said.
The increase in deaths from prescription pain meds and other opioids is a call to action, but what kind of action she questioned.
“The most effective way is to understand the complexity and identify what the problem really is, and not just treat the symptoms of the problem . . . Congressman Foster’s approach addresses many of the side effects of the dangers of meds, but I also encourage you and your families and your communities to become much more educated about substance abuse, addiction and the impact that it has on an individual and their life, and their ability to turn their life around,” she added.
Holmes said prescription drug abuse is something that has been at the forefront of discussions for a lot of people.
“We have tried to decide how we need to go about helping. I am grateful that Congressman Foster is someone who does take such an active role working with the community, who wants to work with us at the state level, who wants to work with the community, and the community groups, and the organizations in order to make life better for everybody in our district,” Holmes said.
Moran explained that at Breaking Free, he’s seen firsthand the challenges that emerge with the misuse of opioids and know how important prevention, intervention and treatment services are in order to stem the tide of this problem.
“It takes a coordinated response to address this problem and we see this legislation as being an important next step in helping individuals, families and communities respond to this problem,” he explained.
Recently, Foster introduced the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This legislation would help to deter prescription drug abuse and assist individuals in receiving treatment for addiction.
Kifowit invites community to address safety concerns
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
AURORA — Believing that working together is the best way to stop crime, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, is inviting the public to a Neighborhood Safety Information Session with Officer Townsend of the Aurora Police Department’s (APD) Community Oriented Policing Unit from 6 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16 at the Aurora Public Library’s Eola Branch, 555 S. Eola Rd.
While this event is being presented by APD, all residents of the 84th District are invited to attend.
“From my experience, our communities are safer when residents and local law enforcement work together,” Kifowit said. “This discussion will detail about how the Aurora Police Department is working to keep neighborhoods safe, and what each of us can do promote overall public safety in the area. We can all contribute to the safety of our community by being aware of what is out there and taking necessary precautions in the future.”
Officer Townsend of the APD will give a presentation to attendees on topics of public safety, including burglary, vandalism, community crime prevention, summer safety, child abduction attempts, and many more. Residents of the 84th District, which includes part of Aurora, Boulder Hill, Montgomery, Naperville, and Oswego, are all encouraged to attend and to share their specific concerns and views on how to address the crime issues they face.
Sen. Manar: Talk is cheap, time for reform
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) applauded the action that members of the state House of Representatives have taken to advance the merits of Senate Bill 16, even as a small contingent advanced House Resolution 1276, which opposes the plan for fair funding of education across the state.
“The resolution denouncing Senate Bill 16 is as empty as the halls of hundreds of schools that have been closed due to the unwillingness of the General Assembly to reform an old and broken system,” said Sen. Manar.
“Platitudes that pay lip service to problems in our educational system without advancing clear solutions are a disservice to the reform process and the students waiting for true leadership on their behalf,” he continued.
Achieving an equitable funding formula has been the basis of the public discussion on Senate Bill 16 since Manar introduced the issue. He has been joined by a diverse group of lawmakers, school officials and advocates, the Funding IL Future coalition, working to change the way the state distributes $6.7 billion in aid to education.
With the help of this broad coalition, Senate Bill 16 passed the Senate in May of this year. Last week, State Representatives Barbara Wheeler (R-Fox Lake), Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) and Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), filed the resolution to “denounce” Senate Bill 16.
One of the products of the statewide discussion about school funding is a sharper focus on the diverse needs and inequities of school districts in Illinois.
Let’s open dialogue about domestic violence
Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014
CHICAGO — The Purple Purse project is a new program to raise awareness about domestic violence and the role financial abuse plays in many domestic violence situations. The purse is intended to represent the center of a women’s financial domain, even as purple is recognized as the color of national domestic violence awareness. Sen. Daniel Bliss gives his thoughts on the project and domestic violence.
One in four American women will experience domestic violence in her life.
Maybe you find that stunning, or maybe you already knew. One way or the other, it’s something we don’t talk about frequently or honestly enough. So let me say it again: One in four American women will experience domestic violence in her life.
That means around 40 million American women alive today will one day experience domestic violence. It’s more than 1.5 million women living in Illinois, and almost two-thirds of a million women in Cook County.
It’s a lot of people, and (unfortunately counter to a lot of portrayals of abuse we see in the media) they exist in every neighborhood, age group, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic class.
These numbers approach epidemic proportions, and that’s something people recognize. Two-thirds of Americans believe that domestic violence is a serious problem. Unfortunately, only around one-third have ever talked about it.
To address the prevalence of domestic violence, we need good public policy that protects victims. We certainly need to support service providers that provide safety and legal protections to survivors and their children.
But we also need to increase awareness with a robust, honest, difficult public dialogue about the topic.
This brings me to the Purple Purse Challenge, a partnership between many non-profit service providers and the Allstate Foundation. The idea is for people to post photos of themselves with a purple purse online, with the goal of sparking discussion about domestic violence and raising funds for service providers.
The YWCA Evanston/North Shore is the only comprehensive residential domestic violence service provider in the northeastern Chicago metropolitan area. They do extraordinary work, and Sen. Bliss was honored that they asked him to participate in the Purple Purse Challenge to benefit that work. “Let’s do whatever we can to make our community safe for every woman — three out of four isn’t just acceptable.”
AFSCME sets course for November election
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
PEORIA — Some 500 local union leaders from across the state recently met in Peoria at the Council 31 PEOPLE Conference to make candidate recommendations for the November general election.
Conference participants reaffirmed the union’s commitment to doing everything possible to defeat Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.
To that end, the delegates voted to support Gov. Pat Quinn in the race for governor. By an overwhelming majority, the conference adopted a resolution which made clear the serious differences AFSCME has had with Gov. Quinn cannot stand as a barrier to stopping Rauner from becoming governor.
“Not only is Bruce Rauner completely out of touch with the realities working families face, he is openly hostile to the priorities of the middle class and all those struggling to get there,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch told the assembled delegates.
“As a CEO, Rauner’s companies mistreated workers, neglected patients, outsourced jobs and broke the law. He showed he would do anything to make money,” Lynch continued. “Now Rauner the politician will say anything to get elected, and he’d bring the same ruthless approach to government.
“Rauner wants to cut the pay of public employees, close down our pension plans, force us out on strike in order to ‘redo’ union contracts, and take away our right to collective bargaining.”
“And Rauner’s not just bad for public employees, he’s a threat to all working people in the state of Illinois. He opposes raising the minimum wage, wants to set up Right-to-Work (for less!) zones throughout the state, would cut taxes for the wealthy and shift the burden onto the middle class, and plans to slash funding to local school districts and privatize our public schools,” Lynch said.
“Although we have had serious differences with Gov. Quinn in recent years,” Lynch concluded, “he stands in stark contrast to Bruce Rauner in recognizing the right of workers to collective bargaining, supporting the revenue needed to provide public services, and pushing to raise the wages of the lowest-paid workers.”
The PEOPLE Conference also recommended Dick Durbin for re-election to the U.S. Senate, as well as making endorsements in a number of Congressional districts. Delegates gave a thumbs up to the candidacies of Mike Frerichs for Treasurer, Judy Baar Topinka for Comptroller and Jesse White for Secretary of State.
The statewide conference capped a months-long grassroots process where rank-and-file delegates in 11 regions statewide reviewed candidates’ voting records, responses to the union’s candidate questionnaire, and in many instances directly interviewed the candidates before recommending endorsements at the state and local legislative levels.
Delegates to the weekend’s conference represented local unions and retiree groups from across the state of Illinois.
Legislation could help police with camera cost
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) and State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) announced they would work for passage of legislation to bolster a program that provides grants to local police departments to install video recording equipment in police vehicles and expand it to include body cameras for officers. Representatives from Illinois law enforcement and civil rights organizations joined Gordon and Haine in support of their measure.
“This is an issue I have been working on for several months with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, and I hope that the tragic recent events in Ferguson, which have brought the value of officer and vehicle-mounted cameras to national attention, may serve as a catalyst to enact legislation that protects our brave police officers as much as it does the general public,” said Gordon-Booth.
“Every day, the courageous men and women of Illinois law enforcement put their lives on the line to protect us,” said Haine, who previously served for 14 years as the Madison County State’s Attorney. “Cameras like these help prosecute crimes, protect civil liberties and — ultimately — help save officers’ lives.”
The measure, House Bill 3911, would allow police departments to apply for grants to purchase either body-mounted or dashboard cameras for use in vehicles. The grants will be funded by the imposition of an additional $6 surcharge on those who are convicted or plead guilty to criminal or traffic offenses — $3 of which will be used for camera grants and $3 to be used to support the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB), the agency that trains all 40,000 local police officers in the state and receives no general revenue funding.
Departments receiving grants are required to report back to the ILETSB on their experience with the cameras, including detailed information on the outcome of cases where video recordings were used. ILETSB intends to collaborate with the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois on using the camera data to refine the board’s training curriculum and study the experience of officers in the field with the devices.
“This legislation offers a win-win opportunity for the people of Illinois and the law enforcement community,” said Rick Watson, ILETSB chairman and St. Clair County Sheriff. “We can provide critically needed revenue to support training and continuing education courses for police and sheriff’s officers while employing cutting-edge technology that will increase Illinoisans’ confidence in the integrity and professionalism of public safety personnel.”
In 2012-13, the Police Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that works to improve American policing, conducted a randomized, controlled trial with the Rialto, Calif., police department, which equipped its officers with cameras. During that time, the officers’ use of force fell 60 percent and citizen complaints against police dropped by 88 police. The Wall Street Journal, citing other research, noted that the amount of time to investigate police shootings, in some cases, has been reduced from up to three months to as few as two days.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus also has indicated its support for the bill and will back its passage this fall.
Construction funding secured for Evergreen Park
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
EVERGREEN PARK — State Sen. Bill Cunningham and Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton announced the Village of Evergreen Park will soon receive $700,000 from state programs aimed at park construction, road work and storm drain upgrades.
The village’s new 50-Acre Park at 91st and California Avenue will receive a $500,000 state grant to establish a farm and garden program for children with disabilities, while the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will provide Evergreen Park with $200,000 to improve city infrastructure, patch potholes and install new storm drains.
Cunningham and Sexton were joined at 50-Acre Park during the Labor Day weekend by Gov. Pat Quinn to announce the awarding of the grants.
“Quality, well-maintained parks add value to the entire community,” Cunningham said. “And that’s particularly true when the parks provide us with much needed programs for a vulnerable segment of our population, like students with special needs.” Cunningham said.
“Mayor Sexton and the residents of Evergreen Park have a truly inspiring vision for 50-Acre Park, and I’m happy to have secured state funding to help make it a reality,” Sexton explained.
Cunningham said the additional road improvement funding coming to Evergreen Park is much needed given the weather-related damage to area infrastructure that has occurred after a harsh winter and rainy summer.
“The recent, widespread suburban flooding highlights the need to improve and maintain our storm water systems. This investment will have the added benefit of creating area construction jobs, which is important to note during the Labor Day holiday,” Cunningham said.
Ill. state rep. recognized for support of military
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
CHICAGO — The Illinois Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an office of the Department of Defense, recognized Rep. LaShawn K. Ford with the ESGR Patriocit Employer Award in recognition of his extraordinary support of a member of his staff. Rep. Ford was presented with the award by Michael Holub, of Illinois ESGR, with thanks for the continued support of the men and women in uniform, who play a critical role in our security at home and around the world. The nominator for this award was Jonathan Tate, who is a Sergeant in the Illinois Army National Guard assigned to the 108th Sustainment Brigade. Sgt. Tate is currently deployed and was unable to attend the presentation.
The Patriotic Employer Award is presented after ESGR receives a nomination from a Guardsmen or Reservist in Illinois. Tate works for Rep. Ford and submitted the nomination because of how supportive the Representative is of his military commitments during weekend drills and annual training. In his nomination narrative to ESGR Tate wrote, “Mr. Ford has always supported my military schedule without any question. Even when my unit asks for last second volunteers for training events, all I have to do is tell him the same day.” Jonathan also wrote, “Regardless of how long my training is, I never have to worry about my job when I come back. Mr. Ford always makes the transitions back for me smooth and even gives me days off to rest before coming to work after long missions.”
Tate’s praise of Rep. Ford did not end there and he added, “Mr. Ford has helped to support numerous functions in my unit and he tries to attend all of my military events, even if it is after work hours. When I was in the hospital for a brain tumor, he consistently visited me and ensured I was taken care of; he is the standard of how a supervisor should treat military service members.” Tate praised Rep. Ford for utilizing his knowledge of the military and allowing Tate to create a Veteran’s program for the 8th District. Tate also emphasized that Rep. Ford attended his deployment ceremony and has been emailing him twice a week during this current deployment.
Simon launches Virtual Legal Clinic in Moline
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
MOLINE — Lt. Governor Sheila Simon recently visited a Moline family services agency to launch her latest Virtual Legal Clinic, a program that helps domestic violence survivors access free legal counsel.
“Domestic abuse knows no economic, social, or geographic boundaries. Yet, in many areas of Illinois, domestic violence survivors have limited access to family law experts who can help them,” Simon said.
“That’s where the Virtual Legal Clinic comes in, providing free, confidential consultations to survivors in areas where specialized counsel is in short supply,” she added.
Simon joined advocates at Family Resources to demonstrate how domestic violence survivors can receive free legal consultation from lawyers online using a webcam. The program fills a gap in legal services in underserved areas, Simon said.
Simon spoke via Skype with volunteer attorneys Mark Nabong of Chicago and Lucinda Bugden of Rockford about why they volunteer their time and expertise to help domestic violence survivors through the clinic. They have helped clients navigate topics including child custody and visitation, marriage and divorce, elder abuse, immigration, and property issues.
“The VLC is important because survivors are at a significant disadvantage if they can’t hire a lawyer,” Bugden said. “They need to understand their rights and the law. That way, when they go before a judge, they are more likely to prevail.”
The Virtual Legal Clinic is piloted by Simon’s office and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. As of September 2014, it serves 34 counties, with growth projected into 70 counties by 2015, thanks to a $100,000 grant from Verizon Wireless. Clinics in Danville and Charleston came online this summer.
Manar cuts through red tape to increase vet funding
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
SPRINGFIELD — Additional financial support for area community colleges enrolling veterans is on its way because of the support of State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill). With the recent restoration of funds used to reimburse local community colleges for the cost of a veteran’s tuition, schools will now have greater success and fewer obstacles when enrolling former service members.
In recent years, the state budget has failed to reimburse some community colleges for the cost of offering Veterans’ Grants.
In the past, some community colleges were given priority over others for this valuable program. Senator Manar believes it’s important that community colleges in Central Illinois receive the same treatment as every other community college in the state.
Manar successfully restored a $42,000 grant to each of the community colleges serving the 48th Senate District in Central Illinois.
The restoration of these funds will lead to greater educational opportunities for veterans and to more aggressive outreach by local community colleges, including Richland Community College, Lincoln Land Community College and Lewis and Clark Community College.
Through the Illinois Veterans’ Grant, veterans can have their tuition waved when they enroll in their local community college. The benefit was designed to promote further education for veterans as they return to civilian life, but community colleges faced with tight budgets often find it hard to promote such programs if they don’t get state tuition reimbursements.
“The state should live up to paying for this promise without burdening the budgets of our community colleges, which in turn makes it easier for veterans seeking to gain higher education,” said Manar.
Dr. Gayle Saunders, president of Richland Community College in Decatur said Richland Community College embraces members of the armed services who wish to pursue higher education.
“In the past, community colleges across the state have not received the grant funds required to reimburse for the classes provided to our veterans. The Richland Board of Trustees and I are grateful to Sen. Manar for his efforts in this area. Richland will continue to seek out our veterans and assist them in achieving their educational dreams,” said Dr. Saunders, added.
“These veterans put their lives on the line to protect our futures, we should do everything we can to help them with their futures,” said Manar.
Ed Agustin taking on race for District 41
Jennifer Rice/staff photographer
Rep. Bill Foster is endorsing candidate Ed Agustin, right. Foster’s campaign manager Craig Belden presented Agustin with a campaign donation.
By Jennifer Rice
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Email Jennifer Rice at email@example.com
NAPERVILLE — Ed Agustin is well aware he has his work cut out for him in his bid for District 41 seat in the Illinois House, which includes area of Naperville and Warrenville.
“This campaign is being run on a shoestring and shoe leather. I can get new shoes, but I need a longer shoestring,” he told a group of supporters June 24 during a fundraising event in Naperville. Agustin is facing Naperville Councilman Grant Wehrli.
Naperville Township Democratic Organization Chair Dianna McGuire said Agustin is confident with running against Wehrli.
“Ed is a Navy veteran. He has courage. He’s not afraid of a challenge. I like courage in a candidate,” she explained.
It’s been since the 1980s that District 41 has been represented by a Democrat. Glenn Schneider last held that honor. “I intend to be the next voice for the Democrats in this district in Springfield,” Agustin said.
He has no aspirations to be a legacy politician. He believes in having a private life, serving your community, then returning to your private life.
After retiring as an architect, Agustin became a precinct committeeman, a position that earned him the NTDO’s 2012 Precinct Committeeman of the Year.
In knocking on doors and talking with residents, Agustin has acknowledged a core group of concerns including the state budget and pension woes, minimum wage issues and health care and reproductive issues.
Rep. Bill Foster’s Campaign Manager Craig Belden was on hand to announce the Congressman’s support and endorsement for Agustin. Belden provided a campaign donation.
Jean Kaczmarek, candidate for DuPage County Clerk agreed with McGuire and her assessment that Agustin is the best Democratic candidate for District 41.
“I’ve known Ed to be intelligent, warm and friendly. He has the courage to run for this office,” Kaczmarek said.
Agustin is committed to opening the eyes of District 41 voters. “They need to realize that in addition to the problematic concerns they have, they haven’t had a Democratic voice for a long, long time.”
“A long journey starts with one small step and movements can only be carried forward successfully by the many,” he explained.
“I’m proud to be along for this journey,” he added.
Sen. Linda Holmes to run unopposed
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The day of 42nd District State Sen. Linda Holmes’ campaign launch party, she received word that Republican challenger Brian Russell of Oswego was withdrawing from the race.
By Pat Barcas
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at firstname.lastname@example.org
AURORA — As of June 30, 42nd District State Sen. Linda Holmes officially will run unopposed in the fall election this year.
The labor friendly Senator’s campaign launch party June 26 at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora turned into an impromptu victory party when unofficial word was received that Republican challenger Brian Russell of Oswego was withdrawing from the race.
“It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said at the party. “We can concentrate more on the issues this fall, and my staff and I can focus more on serving voters.”
Russell announced his withdrawal after a several weeks process where the State Board of Elections reviewed his 1,400 petition signatures. Aurora resident Cristina Rodriquez filed a challenge in June to review the signatures.
“Despite our efforts in the five days before the June 2nd filing deadline, it appears that our fight to get on the ballot will fall 15 signatures short of the 1,000 needed under best case scenario,” said attorney Russell in a statement.
There will be a non-binding advisory referendum on the November ballot that will raise the Illinois minimum wage to $10 per hour, something Holmes is confident will pass.
“It’s advisory, so it’s non-binding. These are baby steps, but they’re in the right direction,” she said.
Holmes has served in the State Senate for seven years. Her top issues in the 42nd District are job creation, health care access, the environment, veteran care, labor, and animal welfare.
She is currently serving as Chairperson of the Senate State Government and Veterans’ Affairs committee. She also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Senate Labor committee and is an active member of the Senate Local Government, Agriculture and Conservation, and Gaming committees.
In early June she was in the news for sponsoring legislation that was signed into law banning the use of micro-beads in Illinois, which are small, plastic spheres in personal care products, can cause serious environmental damage according to recent studies.
The legislation Holmes’ helped advance banning micro-beads would be implementing over the next few years. The law prohibits manufacturers making products with micro-beads beginning Dec. 31, 2017.
Rep. Foster pushes for more GI Bill benefits
Thursday, June 26, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — June 22, marked the 70th anniversary of the GI Bill, which has given returning veterans a hand up with educational benefits, home loans and other services. The GI Bill has been one of the most successful pieces of legislation in our country’s history, growing our economy and helping veterans assimilate into civilian life. However, one glitch in the law is causing veterans to be denied the benefits they deserve.
“The GI Bill has helped millions of veterans realize the America dream, and it has created a larger, stronger middle class. It has been a huge success for our national economy, returning $7 to the economy for every $1 spent,” said Foster.
“But because of a bureaucratic oversight, some veterans are being denied the benefits they have earned. Our soldiers have honored the promise they made to serve our country, we need to honor the promises we make to them.”
Dozens of families whose children were approved to receive their parents’ GI education benefits had those benefits revoked because of a bureaucratic oversight. To fix the problem, Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) introduced the GI Education Benefits Fairness Act. Foster introduced the bipartisan bill with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides education benefits to veterans and service members who serve on active duty after September 10, 2001. Many of our active duty troops can transfer their GI education benefits to their children. Under current law, the Department of Defense includes wards and foster children in the definition of an eligible child, while the Veterans Administration does not. This has led to a bureaucratic nightmare for members of the armed services and their families.
More than 100 wards and foster children were initially approved by DOD for GI education benefits, and money was paid out to their schools. Then, mid-semester, the VA revoked their benefits and the students and their families were notified that they would have to pay back all the money immediately. These students now face unexpected amounts of crippling debt.
The GI Education Benefits Fairness Act would amend the definition of an “eligible child” for the purposes of transferability of benefits under the Post 9/11 Educational Assistance Program to include the DOD definition of a child — which includes wards and foster children. Doing so would allow foster children and wards who were approved for GI education benefits, then had them revoked, to receive the education funding they were promised.
Foster learned of the issue from Joliet native Sgt. 1st Class Angela Dees.
Kifowit named 2014 Edgar Fellow
Thursday, June 26, 2014
AURORA — In recognition of her dedication to public service, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, has been chosen as a 2014 Edgar Fellow, an exclusive group of leaders from public service, non-profit, media, and advocacy organizations from across the state of Illinois.
“Our community and Illinois as a whole face many challenges, which can only be solved through cooperation from all sectors and viewpoints,” Kifowit said. “The Edgar Fellowship will allow me to meet with leaders from across Illinois to share the views of the residents in my area and to discuss how we can keep moving our state forward.”
The Edgar Fellowship was founded by former Gov. Jim Edgar in 2012 to encourage dialogue across regional, political and ethnic lines. Fellows will attend a four-day training session at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign focused on discussing the problems facing Illinois.
“During my short time in office, I have worked to be a strong advocate for the communities I represent by listening to their views first,” Kifowit said. “I am looking forward to participating in this valuable seminar and bringing what I learn back to the district, to bring greater state support to the issues my neighbors face.”
Foster commends executive order banning discrimination
Thursday, June 19, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Bill Foster recently commended an Executive Order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Starting today, millions of Americans no longer have to fear being discriminated against for who they are, or for who they love. My father was a civil rights lawyer, and I was raised with a strong belief that all people deserve equal rights and protection under the law,” Foster said.
“That is why I commend this Executive Order, which will end discrimination among federal contractors. While this is truly an important day for members of the LGBT community across the country, the fight will carry on. Congress still needs to pass the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ensure all Americans receive basic workplace protections. I will continue to stand with the LGBT community in their struggle for equality, because everyone — no matter who they are, where they came from, or who they love – deserves equal rights under the law,” Foster explained.
Congressman Foster is a strong advocate for the LGBT community and is a member of the LGBT caucus in Congress. Foster is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1755, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would establish basic protections in the workplace to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are currently only 18 states and the District of Columbia that prohibit discrimination on bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, and an additional three states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of just sexual orientation.
While ENDA currently has 205 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it (S. 815) passed the United States Senate by a bipartisan vote of 64 to 32, House Republicans refuse to bring ENDA to the floor.
Earlier this year, Foster signed the Amicus Brief challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits recognition of marriage between same-sex partners, and he was an original co-sponsor to the Respect for Marriage Act, which would fully repeal DOMA and provide a uniform rule for recognizing married couples for federal law purposes.
He also fought to bring up the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included vital protections for the LGBT community.
Mike Frerichs to give back pay increase to charity
Thursday, June 12, 2014
CHAMPAIGN — State Sen. Mike Frerichs, who is the Democratic Nominee for Treasurer, released a statement concerning the recent state budget approved by the General Assembly.
“I voted for a state budget for the 2015 budget year that preserves vital funding for schools, health care, social services and the right priorities for Illinois. Unfortunately, that budget also ended furlough days for legislators that we have taken for a number of years now.
“That is absolutely the wrong message to send Illinoisans right now. I will not accept this pay increase and will donate those funds to help the ongoing recovery of tornado victims in my hometown of Gifford.
“Skipping this pay increase is a small, but important gesture that I understand we must do better for the people of Illinois and I hope my colleagues in Springfield will follow my lead.
“While my opponent is more interested in playing unnecessary partisan games that would put vital funding for education, human services and health care in jeopardy, I am focused on providing the leadership and vision to build a stronger Illinois as Treasurer.”
Frerichs has served as the State Senator for the 52nd District since 2007, representing Champaign and Vermilion Counties. Frerichs is currently Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and was previously the chair of the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee. Frerichs was in the first generation of his family to attend college. Previously, Frerichs was elected to the Champaign County Board (2000) and was Champaign County Auditor (2002-07).
CPR training may be coming to high schools
Thursday, June 12, 2014
AURORA — In an effort to improve the safety of students and staff, state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit sponsored legislation requiring health education in Illinois secondary schools to include both cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillator training (AED), and with the governor’s approval, this measure is now law.
“Accidents can happen at any time, so it is important for students to know how to react in these situations when a teacher or administrator is not present,” Kifowit said. “There have been far too many cases where people who could have survived either a heart attack or stroke, die due to a lack of assistance.”
Kifowit sponsored House Bill 3724 requiring that students in health classes be required to learn CPR and how to operate an AED. This legislation follows numerous incidents in which students suffered fatal injuries that could have been prevented if their peers had been properly educated in these life-saving methods.
“Teaching students how to perform CPR will save a countless number of lives,” Kifowit said. “Having tools on hand that save lives is only effective if there are people trained and ready to use them, and this measure provides access to those lifesaving individuals.”
Water safety package heads to the governor
Thursday, June 12, 2014
CHICAGO — State Senator Julie Morrison’s (D-Deerfield) water safety plan — the product of months of hearings, a careful study of other state’s best practices and bipartisan compromise — has passed the Illinois General Assembly. It now goes to the governor for his consideration.
“A few commonsense safety precautions can help keep Illinois’ waterways safe for children and families,” Morrison said.
“We require people who drive cars to earn licenses. It’s only reasonable to require boat operators to have some basic training. We require people to use headlights when they drive at night. Flying flags when you’re towing an inner tuber or water skier serves the same purpose,” Morrison explained.
The first part of the package is Senate Bill 2731, which requires boats that are towing inner tubers, water skiers or others to fly orange flags.
Several other states, including Illinois neighbor Missouri, already have similar laws.
Orange safety flags are widely available for $10 or less.
Another part of the plan, Senate Bill 3433, requires boat operators to hold safety certificates. The plan exempts renters, commercial fisherman and anyone born before 1990. It only applies to boats with more-than-10-horsepower motors. It also includes a provision to make sure that renters receive some training but still have access to state waterways.
The final piece of the package is Senate Bill 3434, which allows law enforcement officials to seize boats used in the commission of serious crimes.
These crimes include operating a watercraft under the influence after your boat privileges have been suspended, operating a watercraft under the influence for the third time, and operating a watercraft under the influence and causing an accident that results in death.
A similar law is already in place for cars and other motor vehicles used in the commission of crimes.
Dennis Anderson hosts St. Charles town hall forum
Thursday, May 22, 2014
GURNEE — Dennis Anderson, Democratic Candidate for Illinois’14th U.S. Congressional District, will hold a public town hall forum from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. at the Baker Community Center, 101 S. 2nd St., Tuesday, June 3. All constituents in the TriCity area are invited to attend and encouraged to bring questions for the candidate.
The Anderson Campaign is observing the time-honored American tradition of the open political town hall forum as a highly effective way for candidates to directly talk to constituents regardless of party affiliation. The St. Charles Hall will be open to the public, promoted via print and social media, and scheduled in the evening to meet the needs of working constituents. The campaign will hold town hall meetings throughout the District for the entire the campaign season.
“Throughout the country — including here in our own district — we’ve seen a reluctance on the part of incumbents to participate in unscripted public forums with constituents, particularly in joint forums with their challengers,” states Anderson. “I believe that town halls, held during evening hours, are a valuable opportunity for representatives, candidates and constituents to meet and to hear from one another.”
Upcoming town hall tour stops include Sandwich, Antioch, Gurnee, Elburn, Warrenville and Plainfield. For more information and to check for future town hall dates, contact Jim Rauh at 224-513-1016.
A resident of Gurnee, Ill., Anderson is the Democratic candidate for the United States Congress for Il-14, a seat currently held by Republican Randy Hultgren. For more information, visit Dennis Anderson for Congress.
If you care – get out and vote this election!
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
14th District Congressional candidate Dennis Anderson wants access to quality public education for every child. Anderson currently is embarking on a town hall tour throughout his district.
By Pat Barcas
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at email@example.com
PLAINFIELD — If Democratic voters had turned out in 2010, the political landscape may be very different today.
“If everyone had shown up in 2010 who should have shown up, we wouldn’t have lost the way we did, and we would have comprehensive immigration reform today,” said Congressman Bill Foster at a Plainfield Township Democratic Organization Fundraiser May 15. “It’s a big difference. It matters when Democrats don’t show up to vote when they should.”
Foster said this election year, Democrats have a new way to get people to the ballot box — early voting by mail.
“This is a new, potentially game changing tool in Illinois. We have the no excuses, early vote by mail. We can start collecting ballot applications today,” said Foster.
The votes can then be sent in closer to election time and will reduce the amount of “drop off” voters who normally vote Democrat.
Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, who is running for State Comptroller, expressed joy at the well organized event.
“I’m so impressed by this many Democrats, this organized, this early. Well done!” she said, adding that her campaign is all about accountability on the state and local level.
“We’re paying our bills late as a state. I’m going to change that,” said Simon. “We also need accountability on the local level. I will hold local governments to their promise of turning in a financial report every year.”
Simon said the financial information collected will enable local governments to streamline their operations.
“I know how to run a small office with a small budget and still have a big impact. Let’s get the information, then turn it around and make it useful to folks running local governments. Let’s give them the tools they need to prevent corruption, and it will make a big difference,” she said.
Fourteenth district Congressional candidate Dennis Anderson said he’s the right man for the job this fall.
“Democrats believe that Americans who work full time jobs shouldn’t be living in poverty. They believe that Americans shouldn’t be living in cars. Every child deserves access to a quality public education. That’s why we’re running and that’s why we need to win,” said Anderson.