Illinois Progressive Caucus supports reform bills on criminal justice, homelessness

SPRINGFIELD — Members of a liberal House caucus announced their first set of bill endorsements Thursday, including measures targeting potential immigrant detention centers and homelessness.

The Illinois Progressive Caucus, formed about a month ago, is supporting 10 measures so far this session, with another such announcement to come later this session, co-chair Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, said.

Those measures “demonstrate the values” the group’s 18 members hold as tenets of their caucus.

“We all, as a group, stand for basic rights and protections and basic decency and quality of life for all Illinoisans,” Guzzardi said, “to make sure that everyone has access to good education and good health care, and that our criminal justice system is truly fair, and that we treat everyone with decency and respect.”

The caucus supports a bill that would prohibit any unit of government from contracting with private entities to operate correctional facilities.

According to the measure, “Detention requires the exercise of coercive police powers over individuals that should not be delegated to the private sector.”

Urbana Rep. Carol Ammons said this measure would open the door for the installation of private immigration detention centers in Illinois, such as one proposed by the Livingston County village of Dwight.

The legislation, House Bill 2040, passed the chamber by a vote of 85-26 on Wednesday. It is being championed in the Senate by Chicago Democrat Robert Peters.

The group is also putting its support behind Rep. Delia Ramirez’s bill to expand the state’s homeless prevention program.

“We know that when we talk about who is experiencing homelessness, what people thought was the face of homelessness 20 years ago is very different from today,” Ramirez said. “As a matter of fact, the average age is about 11 years of age.”

For households on the brink of homelessness, the legislation would broaden the amount of rent or mortgage payments that could be made by grantees from three months to six months. Ramirez said that will save just more than $7,500 for each individual the state is able to “stabilize before they become homeless.”

House Bill 3331 was approved by that chamber at the end of March and is sponsored in the Senate by Chicago Democrat Omar Aquino.

Other bills the Progressive Caucus endorsed Thursday include one that would regulate the pharmacy benefit manager industry, one that would close a loophole some corporations use to hide profits overseas and one that would mandate baby changing stations be installed in all public restrooms regardless of gender.

The group opposed one piece of legislation it said is an affront to freedom of speech and the right to protest. Industry and labor interests support the bill, House Bill 1633, which increases penalties for damaging “critical infrastructure.”

The caucus also supports Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposal for a graduated income tax, and a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. The latter proposal does not have official language attached to it, but one of the group’s members, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, is spearheading the chamber’s efforts on the initiative.

Asked at a news event Thursday whether the effort to legalize recreational marijuana would be successful this session, by May 31, Ammons said “we are certainly marathon sprinters here in Springfield and we look forward to working it all the way to the last day if that’s what it takes for us to get that done.”

“This caucus certainly has concern about equity provisions in that bill, concerns about economic inclusion in that bill. We want to make sure that whatever is rolled out really has community benefit funds attached to that bill,” she said. “There are lots of provisions that need to be addressed.”

Supporters Of Rent Control Hit Roadblock In Springfield, But Vow To Keep Up Fight Against ‘Powerful’ Real Estate Lobby

“The real estate lobby is very powerful,” Guzzardi said. “It is going to take a long, hard slog to beat these guys.”

PUBLISHED ON APR 1, 2019 8:39AM CDTDOWNTOWN PRIMARY CATEGORY IN WHICH BLOG POST IS PUBLISHED

Heather Cherone@HeatherCherone

DOWNTOWN — Despite high hopes fueled by the election of a supportive governor and Democratic supermajorities in the Illinois House and Senate, supporters of the push to lift the ban on rent control in Illinois are regrouping after a significant setback.

HB 255, authored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), which would repeal Illinois’ 22-year-old Rent Control Preemption Act, failed to make it out of the Commercial Law Subcommittee of the Civil Judiciary committee — dimming its prospects considerably.

Guzzardi said the bill’s defeat was not unexpected.

“The real estate lobby is very powerful,” Guzzardi said. “It is going to take a long, hard slog to beat these guys.”

Two members of the subcommittee voted to advance the bill while four members voted no.

Guzzardi said he would work with other Democratic lawmakers to figure out if there is another way to advance the bill before the session ends.

Two other bills focused on rent control are also stalled in the General Assembly. HB 2192, sponsored by State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), would not only repeal that 1997 law, but also establish six elected rent control boards around the state, which would regulate rent prices for different regions in Illinois, provide for tax credits to incentivize landlords to improve their rental properties and allow tenants to seek certain damages from landlords. A similar bill has been filed by freshman State Rep. Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago). 

Flowers and Ortiz agreed to push Guzzardi’s bill this session, Guzzardi said.

Democrats unveil bills to rein in prescription drug prices.

By Peter Hancock

Capitol News Illinois

Published 6:49 pm CST, Thursday, February 28, 2019

SPRINGFIELD — Democrats in the Illinois House unveiled a package of bills Wednesday they say would help control the spiraling cost of prescription drugs.

Republicans, however, are arguing that the entire issue of prescription drug costs is beyond the scope of state government, and that some of the Democrats’ proposals could actually end up costing taxpayers and making life-saving medications less available to people in the state.

The package of bills is largely based on recommendations from Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., which has been working with lawmakers to develop the bills.

Those bills call for regulating some drug prices in much the same way the state regulates utility rates; taxing drug price increases that exceed the rate of inflation; requiring drug companies to disclose more information about their prices; and creating a mechanism for the state to become a licensed wholesaler of cheaper imported drugs from Canada.

“People in Illinois are being crushed by the high cost of essential medicines,” Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of one of the bills, said during a news conference announcing the bills.

Guzzardi chairs the House Prescription Drug Affordability and Accessibility Committee, which had an informational hearing earlier in the day on the subject of prescription drug pricing and how it works.

The only person to testify at that hearing was Families USA’s Justin Mendoza, who heads that organization’s “state partnerships” program.

Mendoza laid most of the blame for spiraling prices on pharmaceutical manufacturers, who are granted long-term patents on new drugs that can prevent lower-cost generic drugs from entering the market for years; and “pharmacy benefit managers,” or PBM’s, who act as a kind of middleman between manufacturers and insurers to negotiate prices and devise “formularies” that determine which drugs the insurers will pay for, and under what circumstances.

He also said the federal government, and federal taxpayers, have a role to play because they fund much of the research that goes in to developing new drugs, even though, he argued, they don’t necessarily see a return on that investment once the drugs hit the market under a patent owned by a pharmaceutical company.

Illinois Set to Hike Minimum Wage to $15, Highest in Midwest

Associated Press | February 14, 2019 7:37 pm

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois legislators moved quickly Thursday to deliver one of new Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top campaign promises, a gradual hike in the statewide minimum wage from $8.25 to $15 an hour — more than double the pay floor that most of its Midwestern neighbors require.

The state House voted 69-41 to send the Senate-approved plan to Pritzker, who watched the roll call from the House floor. He’d urged lawmakers to send him the legislation before next Wednesday, when he announces his first budget plan.

Republicans lashed out at Democrats for refusing to compromise and pushing too fast, particularly because the first wage increase wouldn’t occur until January.

“People should not go to work 40 hours a week and still not be able to put food on their table,” said Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Hillside Democrat. “This bill helps our entire state. The cost of living across the state for working families in Illinois is rising.”

California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia have adopted laws to increase the base wage to $15 before Illinois reaches the mark in 2025.

But Illinois stands alone in the nation’s midsection, surrounded by states with lower wages. Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa offer the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Missouri currently offers $8.60, a wage scheduled to increase to $12 by 2023.

The legislation, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, would increase Illinois’ minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.25 on Jan. 1; to $10 on July 1, 2020; and $1 each Jan. 1 until 2025.

During more than two hours of debate Thursday, Republicans, who have long criticized high costs on business in the form of workers’ compensation insurance and property taxes, complained the steep and costly wage ramp is another impediment to commerce. They argue it will cost jobs in a state where statistics show more than 60 percent of residents live within 40 miles of a state border.

“People vote with the dollars, and they vote with the feet,” said Rep. Randy Frese, a Republican from Paloma is west-central Illinois. “Our region may see economic growth, but the growth will be on the other side of the border, which doesn’t benefit Illinois.”

Guzzardi has repeatedly cited research showing no damaging economic effects where the minimum wage has increased. He said the only way to predict what will happen with an 82 percent wage hike in six years is to look at historical data.

“Raising the minimum wage has no net effect on employment, it doesn’t drive jobs out of the state,” Guzzardi said. “All it does is put money in people’s pockets who need it.”

Pritzker, who joined Guzzardi on the House floor, must make room in the budget for the increase. The government will have to finance increased wages for thousands of university students who make minimum wage in on-campus jobs or workers for health care institutions funded by Medicaid.

His office released figures this month on the costs to government of the hike. In 2021, when the wage is $10.25, the state would face $269 million in additional costs for workers in human services programs. There would be $59 million more in income and sales taxes receipts from the higher wages. But small-business tax credits in the minimum-wage plan would eat up $23 million of that.

Follow political writer John O’Connor on Twitter: @apoconnor

Capitol Recap: A look at recent legislative action in Springfield

Capitol News Illinois. Aug 5, 2019

New laws aim to protect law enforcement, roadside workers

SPRINGFIELD – Drivers in Illinois who injure roadside workers or fail to obey construction zone signals now face the possibility of enhanced fines, and even jail time.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a package of bills Tuesday, July 30, that he said are aimed at protecting law enforcement, first responders and road workers.

Among them was Senate Bill 1862, which provides enhanced penalties for violations of “Scott’s Law,” a state law requiring motorists to slow down and, if possible, change lanes when approaching a law enforcement vehicle or other emergency responder that has pulled over on the side of the road.

“Since 2002, Scott’s Law has said that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. This is not optional,” Pritzker said in a statement announcing the bill signings. “This is how we keep our heroes and first responders as safe as possible in their line of work.”

Scott’s Law was named after Lt. Scott Gillen of the Chicago Fire Department, who was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver while assisting at a crash scene.

The bill increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation of Scott’s Law, and to $750 for a second violation. It also adds a $250 fee for any violation, with that money going into a new fund to pay for driver education materials.

In addition, the new law allows drivers to be charged with a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, if the violation results in damage to another vehicle. For cases in which the violation results in the injury or death of another person, drivers can be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison.

The new law takes effect immediately.

So far in 2019, three Illinois State Police officers have been killed in traffic accidents on state highways, including two incidents that involved violations of Scott’s Law.

State Fair opens Thursday

The 162nd Illinois State Fair is set to open Thursday, Aug. 8, in Springfield, and fair officials said they expect this to be one of the best iterations in years.

The 366 acres the event spans have never looked better; buildings, some over 100 years old, have been remodeled; and 50 new vendors have been added, state officials said.

“What an experience this has been,” John Sullivan, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said Thursday, Aug. 1, during a media preview of the event. “I’d say over the last 30 days, to watch the fairgrounds transform into what you see here today, is just quite remarkable.”

This is Sullivan’s first year as director of the state agency overseeing the fair, the theme for which is “Building Our Future.”

Adult admission prices were slashed from $10 to $5 Sunday through Thursday, Gordon said. Tickets for seniors remain at $3 and are free for children ages 12 and younger.

Back this year is the Coliseum, which was closed for renovations in 2016 because of “structural issues,” Sullivan said. The construction crew removed the roof and wooden “skeleton” of the building and replaced it with steel.

After roughly a $12 million restoration, it will be a “highlight” of the fair, Sullivan said.

But a focus on Illinois’ agriculture community will be an important focus this year, too, he said.

“The fair was created as an ag fair and it kind of drifted in and out with the focus, but I am trying to bring that focus back, because I think agriculture is the number one business in this state — $19 billion it generates in revenue,” Sullivan said. “We want to highlight what agriculture means to the state.”

Report: Exploting college aid loophole

A pair of Illinois House committees have scheduled a joint hearing next week to explore recent news reports about wealthy parents exploiting a legal loophole in order to draw down more student financial aid for their children.

The story was first reported online Monday, July 29, by ProPublica Illinois, which said it identified nearly four dozen cases of parents in suburban Lake County, north of Chicago, who had assigned guardianship of their teenage children to a friend or relative, thus allowing their children to declare themselves financially independent of their families so they could qualify for federal, state and college financial aid.

Of particular concern to Illinois lawmakers is the state-funded Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, which are awarded on the basis of financial need.

“Particularly in the wake of former Governor (Bruce) Rauner’s budget crisis in which these students took the brunt of the pain, it is outrageous to learn that some wealthy families have decided to game the system at the expense of those who truly need help affording an education,” Chicago Democratic Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, who chairs the House Higher Education Budget Committee, said in a news release announcing the hearings.

In addition to the legislative inquiry, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he is directing his staff to investigate to determine how widespread the problem is in Illinois.

The legislative hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Bilandic state office building in Chicago.

Equal pay for men and women

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Wednesday, July 31, a bill aimed at equalizing pay between men and women.

House Bill 834 prohibits employers in Illinois from asking job applicants about their salary history. Advocates say the measure will help stem wage inequality among men and women.

“In 2019, women in Illinois still make roughly 20 percent less than their male counterparts, and for women of color the disparities are even greater,” Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat and the bill’s House sponsor, said in a statement. “HB 834 is aimed at closing that wage gap. It ends the pernicious practice of using prior wages to determine future pay, and increases the penalties on companies and organizations that utilize discriminatory pay practices.”

The new law will take effect in 60 days and will also prohibit employers from preventing employees from discussing their salary, benefits or other compensation with colleagues.

While the bill prevents a potential employer from seeking salary and benefit history from a previous employer, there are some exceptions. It does not prevent an employer from looking up a salary that is a matter of public record or available through the Freedom of Information Act, and it does not apply if an applicant is a current employee seeking another job within the same company.

If an applicant voluntarily discloses their salary or benefits history, an employer is not in violation of the law unless that information is used as a factor in determining whether to hire the person or determine their future wages.

If an employer violates the salary history provisions, the applicant may be eligible for up to $10,000 in damages and other fee reimbursements through civil litigation. Any legal action must be brought within five years of the alleged offense.

Language standards in school

Foreign language teachers in Illinois are being asked to update the way they teach those courses starting in the upcoming school year by putting more emphasis on world cultures and how to use languages across different academic disciplines.

The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday, July 31, released its newly-updated educational standards for world languages, replacing ones that were adopted in 1997.

“The Illinois State Board of Education supports biliteracy, not only to prepare students to thrive in an increasingly global society and economy, but also to build stronger and more connected communities here at home,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said in a news release. “Exploring and interacting with different cultures and perspectives strengthens students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

Traditionally, foreign language classes have focused on memorizing vocabulary lists and rules of grammar so students gain a functional understanding of the printed and spoken word of another culture.

But Kim Johnson, a consultant with ISBE’s Curriculum and Instruction section, said the new standards go beyond that by focusing on the people and the culture behind the language in order to give students studying that language — whether it be Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese or Russian — a broader, more multicultural view of the world.

Criminal justice reform

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1965 on Wednesday, July 31, expanding access to jobs in the health care industry for people with arrest or conviction records.

Currently, people with arrest or conviction records for certain kinds of crimes are barred from working in a number of health care fields unless the employer seeks a waiver from the Department of Public Health. That can happen only after the employer makes a conditional job offer and requests a fingerprint-based background check.

Pritzker’s office said in a statement the new law provides a more timely and efficient waiver application process.

Among other things, it allows certain workforce “intermediaries” who provide job training as well as organizations providing pro bono legal services to initiate the background check process. It also allows people with disqualifying records to apply for waivers before they are extended a job offer.

“Over 4 million Illinoisans have an arrest or conviction record – that includes over 40 percent of our working age population,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This vicious cycle of poverty, crime and injustice – which disproportionately impacts communities of color – does a disservice to everyone involved, from affected families to employers to taxpayers. I’m so proud that this legislation will dismantle another part of the wall that blocks people with records from living a dignified life.”

Before a hospital closes

Hospital corporations in Illinois now have to jump through more administrative hoops before they will be allowed to close or downsize a health care facility.

A new law that took effect this month requires the owners of those facilities to obtain a permit from the state’s Health Facilities and Services Review Board before they can close a hospital, ambulatory surgical treatment center, nursing home or other health care center. It also limits the number of times they can apply to discontinue a category of services to just once every six months.

Those new provisions were included in Senate Bill 1739, which Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law July 15.

The bill was prompted by a controversy in Cook County earlier this year when California-based Pipeline Health announced plans to shut down Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, a hospital that serves a large number of low-income patients.

Pipeline had purchased the 230-bed hospital in January, along with hospitals in Chicago and Oak Park. It initially said it planned to keep Westlake Hospital open, only to reverse that decision within a few weeks.

Under a state law known as the Health Facilities Planning Act, operators of health facilities are required to obtain a permit from the review board before they can build a new facility or modify an existing one by demonstrating there is a need for such a facility. But until passage of the new law, they could apply for an exemption from the permitting process in order to close or downsize a facility.

Clincs that declined federal funds

Health clinics overseen by Illinois organizations that opted not to receive federal family planning dollars may have to return or destroy contraception and other medication purchased at a discount.

All three of the state’s family planning groups — the Illinois Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness — are declining millions in federal grants after a court allowed new rules governing the Title X program to take effect.

Forgoing the funding removes the organizations, and the clinics they oversee, from the family planning program. The decision might also eliminate the clinics’ eligibility for a federal drug pricing program that allows safety net facilities to purchase medications directly from drug manufacturers and wholesalers at discounted prices.

Once clinics are no longer participants, they are not permitted to keep any of the birth control medication, intrauterine devices, treatments and other drugs purchased through the initiative.

The amount of medication Illinois clinics will need to dispose of depends on the facility, with factors including how many patients it serves and its inventory, a spokesman for HRSA said in an email. He clarified the rules apply to the products purchased through the program at a discounted price from a drug manufacturer or wholesaler.

There are 1,423 health facilities that participate in the drug pricing program in Illinois. Of those, 68 are Title X grantees, according to HRSA data.

Planned Parenthood’s clinics will not be affected by the organization’s departure from the Title X program, Brigid Leahy, senior director for public policy, said.

It is unclear how the 72 clinics overseen by the Department of Public Health might be impacted.

A spokesperson for Aunt Martha’s also did not return a request for comment about how its nine clinics might be impacted.

Less interest on consumert debt

Illinois residents who have had judgments entered against them for consumer debts will soon start paying less interest on those debts, and collectors will have a shorter timeframe in which to collect on those debts.

That’s the result of a new law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Monday, July 29. House Bill 88, known as the Consumer Fairness Act, reduces the interest rate charged on post-judgment debt of $25,000 or less to 5 percent, instead of 9 percent. It also reduces the time for collecting on a judgment to 17 years, instead of 26 years.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

In a statement, Pritzker said the intent of the legislation is to relieve consumers from the burden of high-interest debt.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Will Guzzardi and in the Senate by Sen. Iris Martinez, both Chicago Democrats. It passed both chambers by unanimous votes without opposition from debt collectors or other financial institutions.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.

Safe closure of coal ash pits

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new state law Tuesday, July 30, aimed at ensuring safe closure of toxic coal ash pits and financial protections for taxpayers should the pits cause environmental disaster.

Coal ash is the byproduct left behind when coal is burned to produce power, and it contains harmful heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic which can seep into groundwater. In many cases, coal ash is placed in unlined pits, where it remains long after the power plants are closed.

Senate Bill 9 requires a coal ash impoundment owner to submit to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency a “closure alternatives analysis” addressing several closure scenarios and options laid out in the legislation. It would give the EPA the authority to choose the safest plan for coal ash remediation.

It also creates initial fees of $50,000 for each closed coal ash plant and $75,000 for those that have not yet been closed. Owners of operational impoundments would then pay an annual fee of $25,000, and a $15,000 fee would be charged for closed plants that had not yet completed “post-closure care.”

The fees would be paid into the Environmental Protection Permit and Inspection Fund to be used for regulation purposes.

Senate Bill 9 also prohibits coal ash discharge into the environment and directs the IEPA to propose new rules to the Pollution Control Board governing the regulation of coal ash, including permit application requirements and what the threshold for “complete removal” is.

While advocates said the bill was a significant step forward for clean air and water, opponents including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said changes were needed to the bill moving forward.

Rep. Mark Batinick, a Plainfield Republican, warned during a May floor debate that financial provisions in the bill might cause companies to go bankrupt and be unable to pay for safe coal ash removal.

Rep. Guzzardi-sponsored law amending the Child Care Act of 1969 now in effect.

By Local Labs News Service | Jul 23, 2019

A new law sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39) that was introduced with the purpose of amending the Child Care Act of 1969 went into effect on July 12, according to the official Illinois General Assembly website.

The legislation was introduced in bill HB2571 on Feb. 13, when Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-12) filed it with the House clerk.

According to the General Assembly website, the bill as introduced was designed to "amend the Child Care Act of 1969".

After debate, the House passed the bill on July 12 and it arrived in the Senate on April 3, and both chambers agreed to the final version of the legislation on May 21. The bill was sent to the governor on June 19 and was signed into law on July 12. The law went into effect immediately.

Illinois legislature enacts laws through bills that can be introduced in either the state House of Representatives or the state Senate. Either chamber of the legislature can reject or amend a bill before it becomes law. Legislators sometimes sponsor "shell bills" devoid of substantive provisions, introduced with the intention of being amended later to include actual legislation.

Rep. Guzzardi-sponsored law creating the Seizure Smart School Act goes into effect on July 1, 2020

By Local Labs News Service | Jul 23, 2019

A new law sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39) that was introduced with the purpose of creating the Seizure Smart School Act will go into effect on July 1, 2020, according to the official Illinois General Assembly website.

The legislation was introduced in bill HB1475 on Jan. 29, when Rep. Terri Bryant (R-115) filed it with the House clerk.

According to the General Assembly website, the bill as introduced was designed to "create the Seizure Smart School Act".

After debate, the House passed the bill on July 12 and it arrived in the Senate on April 10, and both chambers agreed to the final version of the legislation on May 16. The bill was sent to the governor on June 14 and was signed into law on July 12. The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Illinois legislature enacts laws through bills that can be introduced in either the state House of Representatives or the state Senate. Either chamber of the legislature can reject or amend a bill before it becomes law. Legislators sometimes sponsor "shell bills" devoid of substantive provisions, introduced with the intention of being amended later to include actual legislation.

Illinois House Passes Bill Calling For Chicago Elected School Board

March 3rd, 2016

The Illinois House passed legislation Thursday that would create an elected school board in Chicago. The bill, HB 557, which passed by a 110-4 vote, was introduced by state Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago) "after seeing overwhelming resident support for the idea and in response to Chicago Public Schools' mounting financial problems."...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, who is a longtime supporter of an elected school board, released a statement detailing his take on today's developments.

"I've been fighting for years for an elected school board, alongside community organizers and education leaders around Chicago. After my first unsuccessful election in 2012, our volunteer leaders worked tirelessly on this issue, placing a referendum on the ballot in hundreds of precincts that year," said Guzzardi. "Since then, we've been working in our communities and in Springfield to mobilize support for an elected school board, and I'm incredibly excited to see our efforts bear fruit today. I was proud to support Rep. Martwick's leadership in building broad bipartisan consensus on this issue, and we're eager to see HB557 pass the Senate and get signed into law."...

Read the Whole Story Here

DNAInfo: Elected School Board Approved By House — Is Rahm's CPS Control In Danger?

By: Heather Cherone

March 3rd, 2016

Chicagoans would be represented by an elected - not appointed - School Board, under a measure that won overwhelming approval Thursday in the Illinois House...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Logan Square) said he had been working with community groups since his failed 2012 bid for the Illinois House to get legislation requiring an elected School Board in Chicago.

"I’m incredibly excited to see our efforts bear fruit today," Guzzardi said.

Read the whole story here...

Illinois Radio Network: Home Care Agencies Feeling The Pinch

By John Gregory - Illinois Radio Network

2/4/2016

Home care agencies may have to shut down or cut many of their services due to the budget impasse, with Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers each trying to pin the blame on the other...

State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) then added “the only possible solution is bringing in more money. Republicans know that, Democrats know that, the governor knows that, the speaker knows that.”...

Read the whole story here.

Illinois Radio Network: Chicago Teachers Prepare to Strike

By John Gregory - Illinois Radio Network WGBZ

2/3/2016

CTU’s “Big Bargaining Team” turned down the latest proposal from CPS Monday, saying in a statement the offer “"does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the longer-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city."...

Rauner’s preferred solution is legislation first proposed several weeks ago to allow CPS to be controlled by state-appointed oversight board, which would then be dealing with CTU in contract talks...
 
Democratic legislators from the city like State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) disagree, saying Rauner’s proposals, like allowing local units of government like CPS to declare bankruptcy, have hurt contract talks and worsened the financial condition of CPS.
 
“The rate at which CPS can borrow money has gone through the roof, and I think the governor’s statements about bankruptcy were directly responsible for that,” Guzzardi said. “The idea of taking over the district is not helping either.”

Read the whole story here...

Progress Illinois: With State Owing Agency $1 Million, Chicago Home Care Service Struggles To Keep Doors Open

By Ellyn Fortino

February 2nd, 2016

A Chicago-based home care service agency is on the verge of having to cut payroll costs in half for its 250-member workforce as a direct result of the ongoing state budget impasse.

Family Home Service, Inc. provides in-home services to more than 500 seniors and people with disabilities in Chicago...

"To the seniors, to the people with disabilities and to the employees of this agency, many of whom live in my community, I want apologize," Guzzardi said. "I'm here as a member of state government, and state government has failed you. It's an embarrassing situation."...

Guzzardi said it is "unacceptable" that Family Home Service and other agencies are struggling to pay their workers a "basic wage" as a result of the budget battle in Springfield. 

At the same time, Guzzardi said, "the state of Illinois is paying of millions of dollars in bank feesto the biggest banks in this state, despite having no legal obligation to do so."

"We're putting the banks in the front of the line," he said, "and we're putting the seniors and the folks who serve them at the back of the line."...

"The state does not have enough money ... to pay a wide variety of services. We are billions of dollars short. The only possible solution is bringing in more money. Republicans know that. Democrats know that. The governor knows that. The speaker knows that," Guzzardi said. "The only question, in my mind, is: who do we ask to pay?"

Read the whole story here