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Local Representatives Backing House Joint Resolution for Illinois State Police to Process Forensic Evidence Faster

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Democratic State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego and Republican State Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield are both backing a House Joint Resolution that is calling on Illinois State Police to review their procedures in order to quicken the pace of DNA testing in violent crimes including shootings, murders and sexual assaults.

ISP reported the average amount of time to process DNA evidence for all criminal cases, including sexual assaults, is 285 days.

House Joint Resolution 140, if passed, would require the Auditor General to conduct an audit of ISP.

The audit of ISP would include, according to the text of the resolution, "an examination of the division’s equipment, procedures and staffing levels."

Additionally, the resolution grants law enforcement the support tools needed to access data from the nationwide Combined DNA Index System.

Batinick is a chief co-sponsor of the resolution, which was filed with the clerk in early September by Rep. State Rep. David McSweeney of Park Ridge.

Kifowit says she’s "hopeful that this audit will provide insights on how to resolve this issue."

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December 8, 2018 at 06:31PM

Stuart meets with SIUE chapter of Statue Universities Annuitants Association

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State Rep. Katie Stuart addresses the SIUE Chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association on Wednesday.COLLINSVILLE – Earlier this week, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, spent time speaking with the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association to discuss recent legislation concerning the university and answer questions about the upcoming legislative session beginning in January.

“I was thankful for the opportunity to return to the SIUE campus and meet with both current and retired faculty and staff to learn about the newest renovations and additions to different buildings,” said Stuart. “I was able to share information about my work with the Higher Education Working Group, which is a bicameral, bipartisan group of legislators who come together to improve higher education in the State of Illinois.”

Stuart sponsored multiple pieces of legislation to fight for fair funding for the SIUE campus, including calling for an independent study of how the SIU system appropriates funding for the two campuses.

“For the first time in the history of the SIU system, SIUE surpassed the enrollment of SIUC, and we need to make sure the funding reflects that, not only for the school and the students, but for the retirees of SIU Edwardsville and the years of hard work they dedicated to the university,” Stuart continued. “Fighting for SIU Edwardsville will continue to be one of my top priorities during the upcoming legislative session.”












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December 7, 2018 at 01:22PM

Rep. Connor responds to report of coal ash pollution in Romeoville, Will County

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John Connor
John Connor

State Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, announced he is engaging owners of power plants named in a report on coal ash pollution around Illinois, including Will County.

“I originally learned about the potential dangers of the coal ash ponds present in my district after meeting with Prairie Rivers Network advocacy group last year,” Connor said in a statement. “I appreciated the meeting because they informed me of the issue of coal ash disposal in the power generating industry, and how renewable energy could help address them.”

Connor said he advocated for renewable energy and improved environmental guidelines.

“After recently meeting with NRG, who has been proactive on this topic, and the village of Romeoville to discuss the coal ash ponds and water contamination, it is clear that significant change in the handling of coal ash is coming,” Connor said. “I’m hopeful that the new administration will implement policies to protect out environment, while looking long term by choosing to invest in renewable energy sources.”

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December 6, 2018 at 05:02PM

Newsradio WJPF interview with Natalie Phelps Finnie

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Newsradio WJPF interview with Natalie Phelps Finnie


December 6, 2018
Robert Thies

Illinois State Representative Natalie Phelps Finnie (D) joins The Morning Newswatch.

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December 6, 2018 at 08:25AM

Q-C area state Rep. Michael Halpin named to Pritzker’s transition team on jobs, economic opportunity

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Democratic Rep. Michael Halpin of Rock Island has been chosen by Illinois Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker to join a transition team focused on job creation and expanding economic opportunities, according to a Monday news release.

“As state representative, I’ve worked to encourage economic development in a way that supports the unique goals of business owners, labor unions, local governments and working families in the Quad-Cities region,” Halpin said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing these conversations with stakeholders from across the state, so that together we can lift up the middle class while enacting policies that help businesses grow.”

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Pritzker, who handily beat Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last month, has announced dozens of appointees to head various transition teams over the past few weeks. One of his chief campaign promises has been to address many of the “kitchen table issues” that Illinois residents are concerned with, often pointing to his central issue to change the way income taxes are collected in the state. Pritzker takes office Jan. 14.

Halpin is one of 36 people on the transition team. Also appointed were Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council President Omar Duque, Director of Research Park at the University of Illinois Laura Frerichs, Illinois Medical District CEO and Executive Director Dr. Suzet McKinney and Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter.

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December 3, 2018 at 07:43PM

Democratic legislators from St. Clair, Madison counties will be mostly women by January

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For 13 years, Dan Beiser was the state representative for the 111th Legislative District, around the Alton riverbend. When he resigned in December of 2017, Monica Bristow took his place and raised the number of female legislators from St. Clair and Madison County to three.

Bristow, along with state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, and state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, will be joined by one more metro-east woman in the legislature when Rachelle Aud Crowe is sworn into the state senate.

From 2009 through the end of 2016, all of the legislators from the metro-east were men.

“I think women are more nurturing, we’re more prone to negotiating and I think we’ll see a different culture in the state House,” Bristow said.

In 2016, the gender makeup of metro-east state legislators began to balance out. Eddie Lee Jackson was succeeded by Greenwood. Stuart defeated Dwight Kay. Beiser was replaced by Bristow when he stepped down in 2017.

Seven of the 10 metro-east legislative seats in St. Clair and Madison counties are filled by Democrats. And when Crowe succeeds Haine in January, a majority of the metro-east Democratic legislators in Springfield will be women.

“I wouldn’t say it was intentional as in that only females were considered (in 2016) because I know that is not the case, but I think it’s a great result,” Stuart said.

“I think … we need to realize that women need a voice and minorities of all ilk, based on religion, race and everything else need to be appropriately represented everywhere — CEOs, government positions and teaching and everywhere else,” Stuart added.

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State Reps. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, and Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, applaud during a legislator recognition during the 2018 veto session.

Joseph Bustos jbustos@bnd.com

The metro-east has elected women to the legislature in the past.

State Rep. Wyvetter Younge, a Democrat from East St. Louis preceded Jackson in the 114th District. She served from 1975 through 2008. Evelyn M. Bowles served in the state senate from 1994 to 2003 before being succeeded by Haine.

“It’s not new or unprecedented, just for some reason we had had mostly male legislators and now we have a majority female from the metro-east on the Democratic side,” said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea.

Hoffman said that’s more refection of their quality as candidates than their gender. But their personal perspective on issues like equal pay for equal work will influence the debate.

“I’m happy with the talent, whether they’re men or women, that all of these new legislators are going to bring to the table,” Hoffman said.

Women are set to make up 36 percent of the general assembly when the next class of legislators is sworn in. That is up from 35 percent in 2018.

“I’m very excited about women being included and having a seat at the table when it comes to issues that affect us, because we more times than not are the solvers. So we know how to solve problems,” Greenwood said. “This helps us have a greater platform on issues that affect all of us, not only in the metro-east, but all over the state of Illinois. Not just women’s issues, but issues in general.”

In the 100th General Assembly, which adjourned its 2018 session on Thursday, there are 15 women in the state senate and 47 women in the House.

When the next general assembly is sworn-in, there will be 20 women in the senate and 44 women in the House.

“I think we’re just starting. I’m very excited to be a part of this. When I’m at the new member training and I look around, there are a lot of females in the room,” Crowe said. “There’s an instant camaraderie and most of us are moms and we all know what we’ve been through, through this campaign season. I do think this is just the beginning.”

Illinois has been closer to gender balance than other states. In 2018 women made up 25.8 percent of state legislators in the United States, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2018, the Illinois legislature had the sixth highest percentage of women. Arizona and Vermont had the highest with each having 40 percent women, National Conference of State Legislatures data shows.

Even though Illinois had a higher percentage of women in its legislature, the capitol building was hit with its own Me Too sexual harassment scandals. Complaints led to state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, resigning from his leadership position in the state House, and the ouster of Tim Mapes, the chief of staff of Speaker Mike Madigan. Lang was ultimately cleared of harassment allegations.

Whether having more women in the office helps prevent harassment is speculation, Crowe said.

“What prevents it is awareness, and maybe when you look around at who is leading that issue of awareness, those are females for the most part,” Crowe said.

The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University does ongoing research on women’s participation in American politics. The influence of women and minorities make a provable difference in state legislatures, said its director, Debbie Walsh.

“We know that it matters to have more women in office, to have more diversity in office,” she said. “People bring all of their life experiences to the table when they’re serving, and it shapes their priorities and it shapes how they’re going to lead.”

Walsh said women would have different outlooks on child care and health care.

“They might see the differential impact a policy might have on women or single moms or kids that their male colleagues might not see,” Walsh said. “It’s not that their male colleagues won’t be supportive, it’s just that they won’t see it. It might not occur to them.”

Ultimately the goal would be gender parity among elected officials, Walsh said.

“It’s still not 50 percent, which is where it should be,” Walsh said. “Women make up 51 percent of the population. It would be nice if women were 50 to 51 percent of the elected officials (and) if people of color were well-represented. Gay, straight, race, ethnicity, religion — all of that diversity enriches our democracy.”

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State Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Godfrey, speaks on the House floor during the 2018 legislative veto session.

Joseph Bustos jbustos@bnd.com

Illinois has programs to encourage and train women to run for office. The Republican Party in Illinois offers the Lincoln Series, while the Democratic Party has the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Training Academy. Loretta Durbin, wife of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, is a past president and founding board member of the later.

Putting more women into elected offices, however, has been an incremental change.

Illinois went from being ranked 16th in the country in 2010 to seventh in 2011 in percentage of women in the legislature. That happened when Illinois had a net gain of five women.

“It is a slow process of getting more women to run and having more women participate in the process,” Walsh said.

Nationally, 2018 produced a record number of female candidates for state legislative seats, Walsh said. She added the Democrats among them benefited by the support of Emily’s List, which raises money for women candidates. Republican women need something comparable, Walsh said.

The state GOP has run women candidates in the metro-east, but they were unsuccessful. Katherine Ruocco, in 2014, and Tanya Hildenbrand, in 2018, both ran for state senate seats in the 57th District, but ultimately lost in general elections. Ruocco also challenged Hoffman in the state House of Representatives in 2016.

In 2018 Wendy Erhart, of Maryville, had the support of the Illinois Republican Party when she campaigned in the 112th State House District. Erhart ultimately lost to Kay in the primary.

Walsh says continuing the trend toward more gender parity depends on more Republican women getting elected.

“We will never get to political parity if we’re only electing more Democratic women,” Walsh said. “I think the (Republican) party has to do more to recruit and support women to run for office … The party has to make it a priority. They have to really value getting more Republican women in office and that means recruiting them, supporting them and grooming them. And it might mean stepping in some primaries and running women in winnable races and winnable districts.”

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December 1, 2018 at 08:29AM

Rep. Stuart to host 2nd annual Holiday Open House, collect canned goods

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COLLINSVILLE – To give all residents an opportunity to visit her local office and voice their concerns, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, will be hosting her second annual Holiday Open House

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November 28, 2018 at 10:32AM

Teachers seek seats on State Board of Education

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State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) talks about the importance of having teachers on the State Board of Education. “Typically when we are compiling boards related to a particular profession, we seek individuals from that profession because of their expertise,” Wallace said. (BlueRoomStream.com

Three teachers could soon earn spots on the nine-person Illinois State Board of Education.

The state Senate will consider the measure after the House of Representatives overrode the governor’s veto of the proposal.

Under the legislation proposed by state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), a teacher from Cook County, one from the collar counties around Cook, and one from central or southern Illinois would all be assured positions on the governing body.

“Don’t you think it would be very prudent of us to make sure that somebody who knows about education, that is certified in education, that has the pedagogy in education is able to sit at the table to make sure they are representing the whole state of Illinois in terms of teaching communities?” Chapa LaVia asked when questioned on why she was looking to limit governors’ hands on appointments to the ISBE.

“I don’t see the point of doing this and tying the executive branch’s hands,” state Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) said.

The proposal has the backing of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Chicago Teachers Union and other educational labor groups seeking to change the composition of the State Board of Education.

“There’s not been any need identified for this,” Breen said. “There is no need to tie the hands of Governor Pritzker and the hands of every other governor to come from this point forward.”

State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) said she knew of no other professions where a governing body of people not in the industry could make major decisions affecting the industry.

State Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) questions the need for changing the make-up of the Illinois State Board of Education. “There is no reason to tie the hands of Gov. (J.B.) Pritzker and the hands of every other governor to come from this point forward,” he said. (BlueRoomStream.com)

“Typically when we are compiling boards related to a particular profession, we seek individuals from that profession because of their expertise.” Wallace said. “… We have to be clear in the fact that business people are not always educators. Other professions are not always educators.”

She asked her peers on the House floor Nov. 14 if they would want to take advice and instruction from individuals who have never worked in that profession.

The House overrode the governor’s veto in an 85-27 vote. All 27 votes against the override came from Republican members of the House.

There were, however, 21 Republicans who supported the override. They were: Steven Andersson of Geneva, Terri Bryant of Murphysboro, Tim Butler of Springfield, C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville, Mike Fortner of West Chicago, Norine Hammond of Macomb, Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, Jeff Keicher of Sycamore, Michael McAuliffe of Chicago, Tony McCombie of Savanna, Charles Meier of Okawville, Bill Mitchell of Forsyth, David Olsen of Downers Grove, Lindsay Parkhurst of Kankakee, Steven Reick of Woodstock, Dave Severin of Benton, Ryan Spain of Peoria, Grant Wehrli of Naperville, David Welter of Morris, Barbara Wheeler of Crystal Lake and Christine Winger of Wood Dale.

 

kbeese@chronicleillinois.com

 

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November 26, 2018 at 12:07PM

Salary history, teacher wage bills to come back next year

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SPRINGFIELD — During the first week of the Illinois General Assembly’s veto session, lawmakers voted to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes or amendatory vetoes on dozens of bills.

At least two high-profile bills didn’t get override votes the first week: a bill to set a new minimum salary for Illinois school teachers and legislation to prohibit employers from asking for a salary history from job applicants.

Lawmakers can no longer take action on those bills during the remainder of the veto session, which wraps up next week. Here’s what’s in store for them as Democratic Gov.-elect JB Pritzker prepares to take office next year.

Minimum teacher salary

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said he’s not giving up on the idea of increasing the minimum salary that every school district in the state will have to pay their teachers.

“There have been ongoing conversations that haven’t stopped since going back to May when we passed the bill,” Manar said. “Those are going to continue. I would expect to re-file, if not a bill that’s exactly the same, something that’s very similar to what was filed and already passed in the General Assembly.”

The bill that already passed, Senate Bill 2892, gradually raises the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 starting with the 2022-2023 school year. The current minimum salary for teachers is $9,000, a level set in law 38 years ago.

The bill set a minimum salary for teachers at $32,076 for the 2019-2020 school year. The delayed start of the bill was intended to give school districts time to adjust their budgets to accommodate the higher wage. Manar said that since a new law couldn’t be adopted until next year, he is open to discussing a further extension in the start date for raising the wage.

The bill also called for the minimum wage to be increased each year after reaching the $40,000 threshold to account for inflation.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. In the Senate, it got 37 “yes” votes, enough to override a veto. In the House, though, it only got 65 “yes” votes, significantly short of what is needed for an override.

And veto the bill outright is exactly what Rauner did. In his veto message, Rauner said the bill would amount to a “significant unfunded mandate” on school districts and take away local control over salaries. He said that alternatives like pay-for-performance and pay incentives for teachers with prior work experience could increase teacher compensation while preserving local control.

Manar said he’s heard concerns from superintendents about the potential cost.

“They are also at the same time concerned with the crisis of having a teacher shortage in the state,” Manar said.

Manar believes that setting a higher minimum teacher salary will entice more students into the profession.

Manar also said the costs of a higher minimum salary can be offset by the increased funding districts are receiving from the new school aid formula. The formula directs more state money to the neediest districts, the same ones that could face financial pressures from higher teacher salaries.

“I’m simply saying let’s not dismiss the idea that teachers have to be paid well,” Manar said. “Let’s not dismiss the idea that we have to find a reasonable way to pay for it. Let’s try to bring everyone together to get this accomplished.”

Salary history

Twice lawmakers approved a bill that prohibits employers from asking the salary history of an applicant. Twice Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to make changes to it.

Both times, there were not enough votes in the legislature to override Rauner’s changes, but neither did supporters want to accept his changes. Consequently, the bills died.

Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, said she’s probably going to try again, only this time with someone in the Governor’s Mansion who supports the idea.

“I think we’ll still have substantial support for it; it won’t need as many (votes) to override,” Moeller said.

The bill got 87 “yes” votes in the House, but squeaked by in the Senate with just 31 “yes” votes, just one more than the minimum needed to pass it.

Supporters said the idea was a way to combat gender pay inequality. Women often are paid less than their male counterparts, and allowing an employer to ask for a wage history is seen as a way to perpetuate that wage gap.

Rauner said he agreed that gender pay inequality is an issue that needs to be addressed but said a better way to do it was the way Massachusetts did it. He rewrote the Illinois bill to reflect that.

However, Moeller said she thinks the changes diluted the effectiveness of the bill as Illinois lawmakers wrote it and also weakened existing pay equity laws in the state.

“We don’t want to weaken what we’ve got; we want to strengthen what we’ve got,” she said.

She said supporters want to work with the business community to come to a compromise, but efforts have failed so far.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is opposed to the bill, but is willing to talk about it.

“Every time you have a new General Assembly coming in and new leadership in the governor’s office we’re always willing to take a fresh look at things and see if there is some flexibility,” said Chamber president and CEO Todd Maisch. “The reality is there are legitimate reasons to ask for someone’s wage history.”

Maisch said it is “more reasonable” to just ask for a wage history rather than use other methods to obtain the same information.

“There is a marketplace for salary,” he said. “Employers are always going to be interested to make sure that they’re putting a competitive offer on the table, but also not overpaying for a particular skill set.”

Moeller said she expects a new version of the bill next year will mirror what’s been tried before.

“We feel we have a very strong bill, a very good bill,” she said.

 

Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.

 

 

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November 25, 2018 at 06:34PM