Newsletter August 21

Dear Christopher,

Last week, Gov. Pritzker signed an important new bill requiring insurance providers to cover EpiPens, the life-saving injections that interrupt severe allergic reactions.

It was a very important measure, and I was happy to vote in favor of it. But unfortunately, it's only a part of the solution. For people without insurance, and for those with high deductibles, the $600 price tag is simply unaffordable. People with severe allergies go without, putting their lives at risk every day so that the manufacturer can make bigger profits.

The price of the EpiPen — which has gone up more than 10x since 2007 — is just one example of how drug companies put their bottom lines over our survival. From insulin to MS medications to AIDS prevention drugs, manufacturers are charging exorbitant amounts for medicines that have already been researched, tested, and developed, because they know that sick people have no choice but to pay up.

This is why I started the Prescription Drug Affordability committee in Springfield, which I also now chair. We're up against a behemoth in Big Pharma that will do everything in its power to preserve its profits at our expense. But successes like the EpiPen bill, HB 3435, now signed into statute, are welcome reminders that we can win important victories for patients and people struggling to afford their needed medicines.

I'm looking forward to more work on this issue next legislative session, and in the years to come.

Sincerely,

-Will

Events

An information session for teaching immigrants about their rights.

Immigrant Rights Session

The deadline for property tax appeals is August 23. Tonight at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association in conjunction with Comminsioner Luis Arroyo Jr. they are hosting a workshop on how to file for appeals. Further date are on the flyer attached below

Property Tax Appeals Workshop

Services

The city is providing heavily discounted internet for those who recieve government assistance.

Discounted Internet

ASI is offering help with chores for senior citizens.

Heavy Chore Help

Employment

Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 73 are looking for apprentices. 

SMWU 73

The CTA is about to have its largest capital project and need's construction workers!

RPM Networking Fair

Illinois Tollway is looking for administrative workers.

Project Accountant

July 24th, 2019 Newsletter: Speaking Out About Hate

Dear Neighbors,

You may have seen that a few days ago, the Illinois Republican County Chairman's Association posted an incendiary and offensive image depicting four members of Congress as violent terrorists engaged in "political jihad."

Two days later, after intense criticism, they removed the post and issued a half-hearted apology for its content.

As you've probably noticed, I don't often use this space to comment on the political news of the day. But I felt an obligation to speak up about this, situated as it is in the context of the "Send Her Back" chants and a growing debate about who has a place in our country.

I've been writing you a lot about the situation at the border and the threats to our immigrant neighbors. We are facing a question at this moment about who we are as a nation. When people come to this country fleeing oppression, violence, and poverty, can they expect to be welcomed? To find safe harbor? To have a chance to become a part of the fabric of America, to maybe some day become a citizen, even to participate in our democratic institutions and find their way to the hallowed halls of Congress? Or should they expect to be torn mother from child, detained, interrogated, to live in constant fear, under never-ending threat of agents of our government kicking in their doors and destroying their lives?

This debate shouldn't be a political or partisan one in my view, but it has become one. The denigrating and taunting of these Congresswomen of color — even by my own colleagues — is racist, Islamophobic hate speech that serves only to turn our neighbors' hearts away from immigrants, refugees, and anyone who doesn't look or think like they do.

We have to call this out when it happens. But we also have to keep working to win that more just and loving version of America we believe in. Protect and care for your immigrant neighbors. Lift up the voices of women and nonbinary people, people of color, people of different faiths. And do your part to make sure that your elected officials hold the same values of decency and compassion.

Sincerely,

-Will


Events:

We're co-hosting a back-to-school fair with Senator Iris Y. Martinez at Avondale/ Logandale School on August 8th from 10am-1pm. We're providing free immunizations, physicals and school supplies, while supplies last. Hope to see you there and please RSVP at the link below!

RSVP Back-to-School Fair

If you can't make it out to the back-to-school fair on August 8th, join me at the Avondale Coalition's Community Health Fair on August 14. At this event we'll also provide free physicals and school supplies to families in need. 

Avondale Community Health Fair

Come out to meet neighbors, buy fresh produce and chat with Team Guzz, August 4th at the Portage Park Farmer's Market! We'll be there from 10am-1pm.

Portage Park Farmer's Market


Services

Chicago Public Schools are hosting back to school fairs across the city in the next few weeks. Click the link below to find one nearest you.

CPS Back-to-School Events

Senior citizens are owed as much as $45 million in unclaimed Cook County property tax exemptions. Click the link below to find out if you or your family members are owed money!

Cook County Assessors Office

We've had an incredibly hot summer so far. Click the link below to find cooling centers across Cook County, and please share widley so our neighbors know where to go if they're in need of a cool place on the hottest days to come.

Cooling Centers


Employment

The State of Illinois is Hiring Forensic Scientists. Click the link below for information on how to apply!

Forensic Scientist

CTA is hiring bus drivers right now. Click the link below to find out how to apply!

CTA Bus Driver

May 21st 2019 Newsletter & Springfield Update

The 2019 legislative session is set to adjourn on May 31. We have a number of critical issues that we'll be tackling in the next two weeks. Here's an idea of what's on our plate:

  • The budget. After four years of Governor Rauner's budget crisis, we're trying to stabilize our state's finances. As I wrote in our last email, the long-term solution here is transitioning to a fair income tax, but that won't happen until we can amend the Constitution by referendum in November of 2020.

    In the mean time, we're hoping to pass a balanced budget that responsibly funds our obligations in human services, health care, education, and public safety. We plan to increase funding to K-12 schools by $350 million. We also aim to raise wages for providers of direct services to seniors and people with disabilities. And we will pay our obligations to the state's pension funds.

    How will we do all that?
     Well, we got some good news recently: the state's income tax receipts this year were a lot higher than expected. That will help a lot. And we're considering a few new sources of revenue to help make up the difference.

  • Legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis. This is a big potential revenue stream. I've been a proponent of this, as long as we do it the right way. For me, that means three things. First, criminal justice reform: we need to make sure that people with cannabis-related convictions have their records expunged, and people in prison for cannabis-related offenses can petition to reduce their sentences. Second, inclusion: we need strong provisions that ensure that people who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs have access to the benefits of the cannabis economy. Third, reinvestment: a considerable portion of cannabis revenues should go toward services and investments in neighborhoods that have suffered from over-policing and violence due to cannabis prohibition.

    I think we're close to a solution on all three of those issues, and if we can get there, I'll be glad to support this idea.

  • Gaming. The US Supreme Court recently ruled to allow states to license online sports betting. We're coming up with a plan for how to do that. We need to legalize and regulate this black-market activity, while making sure we capture considerable revenues for the state and provide protections for people who might be susceptible to addiction. In addition to this discussion, there are ongoing conversations about opening new casinos in Illinois, including the possibility of a casino in downtown Chicago. I'll keep you posted as these discussions continue.

  • Capital. On top of all that, we're considering borrowing a lot of money to fix our state's crumbling infrastructure. Rebuilding roads and bridges, expanding mass transit, and funding construction projects at hospitals, schools, nonprofits, and state-owned buildings. This would be a huge undertaking that would create tens of thousands of jobs and stimulate our state's economy. We'll need some revenue to pay back the bond, however. We're contemplating a number of ways to pay for it, including slight increases to the gas tax or the cigarette tax and taxing e-cigarettes and vaping products.

That's a lot of moving parts! And we've got two weeks to bring them all to fruition. It'll be a busy time for me in Springfield, but I'll do my best to keep you informed as to how this all shapes up.

More soon,

-Will

Check out some great events and other resources below!

Newsletter 2019 Fair Tax Update

This week, the Illinois Senate passed a resolution for a Constitutional amendment to create a fair tax code in Illinois.

The next step is for the House to pass the resolution with a 71-vote supermajority. Then the measure will come before you, the voters, in the 2020 general election.

The plan as we've structured it is simple.We'll give a tax cut to 97% of Illinoisans — everyone making less than $250,000 will pay a little less.We'll raise taxes on the highest earners in Illinois — although millionaires will still pay less than they do in many other states. And we'll use the extra money we raise to fully and fairly fund the basic operations of government — public schools, health care, safety, and infrastructure.

I've said since I first ran for office that tax fairness is the single most important issue facing our state. I'm excited for the House to take on this historic issue.

May's going to be a busy month — I'll be in Springfield just about every weekday until we adjourn on the 31st. Still, I hope to see you around the neighborhood, including at tomorrow's Bike for Belmont Cragin (see below)!

Yours,

-Will

2018 End of Session Update 2: Will's Bills

Dear Neighbors,

I hope this note finds you well.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the progress on the state budget. If you missed that email, find it here.

Today I'd like to tell you about some legislation I introduced this year and where it went.

One of my top priorities was an expansion of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the law that prevents discrimination in the workplace. Ready for a shock? Right now, the Human Rights Act only applies to businesses with 15 or more people. That means in most of Illinois, it's perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, religion, etc. as long as you have fewer than 15 employees.

Chicago passed a local human rights ordinance that covers all employers, but I believe those protections should apply to every employee in every part of Illinois. Workplace discrimination should be illegal everywhere. That's why I introduced HB 4572, which does exactly that: applies the Human Rights Act to all employers regardless of size.

I'm happy to report that the bill passed the House and the Senate, and is now awaiting the Governor's signature. Our friends at Equality Illinois made a form you can use to urge Gov. Rauner to sign the bill.

I also worked on legislation to allow qualified Illinoisans to receive professional licenses regardless of their immigration status. This will encourage our DACA recipients, green card holders, and others who have work authorization to seek out jobs in every field from medicine to social work to hair styling. The doors of opportunity should be open to everyone regardless of their status. This bill, SB 3109, also passed both houses and will head to the Governor's desk soon.

A few other pieces of legislation I introduced have passed as well. One bill will allow graduate research assistants to join a union. Another will work to reduce class sizes in public schools. Others will allow foster youth to receive birth certificates without a fee, allow farmers to sell canned tomatoes at market, and allow craft brewers to sell cider on tap.

One disappointing note: my "PHARMABRO Act," which I've written you about before, passed in the House but died in the Senate. The bill would keep drug companies from price gouging on essential generic and off-patent drugs. Unfortunately, the industry lobbyists were powerful enough to shut the bill down. But don't worry: I'm headed to DC next week for a conference to meet with some national advocates on the issue, and we'll be back next year to give it another shot!

We'll send one final update soon; meanwhile, don't forget about our town hall meeting on Wednesday, July 11th! Click here to RSVP.

All best,

-Will

2018 End of Session Update 1 + Town Hall!

Dear Neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session adjourned on May 31. I'd like to catch you up on what transpired, where we made progress, and what work is still ahead.

I'll be sending a few emails in the coming days explaining some of this, but we'll also be doing it in person at our upcoming town hall meeting:

End of Session Town Hall

Haas Park Fieldhouse, 2402 N Washtenaw Ave (Entrance is through the park on Fullerton Ave)

Wednesday, July 11th 2018 at 6pm

RSVP Here!

Let's start by talking about the budget.

First of all, we have one! As you may remember, after Bruce Rauner got elected, the state went three years without passing a budget. The results of this impasse were catastrophic for our most vulnerable neighbors and for the people who take care of them.

So I can't overstate the importance of simply having passed a balanced budget. It will provide predictability and stability for our educators, public health providers, and human service organizations.

And despite the state's difficult financial situation, we were able to provide increased funding to some areas that really needed it. K-12 education got an increase of $350 million, including hundreds of millions which will come to Chicago's schools. Public universities saw a 2% increase in operational funding after suffering through decades of cuts, and we created a $25 million scholarship for low-income students. We restored funding to anti-violence and mental health programs, and created new state funding to combat the opioid crisis. And based on other emerging crises, we dedicated special funds to protecting our elections and ensuring access to services for vulnerable immigrant populations.

Of course, the budget is far from perfect. We didn't do anything to address our long-term pension obligations. And we didn't take the kind of dramatic action that will be required to address our state's persistent challenges: stagnant wages, unemployment, violence and instability, and the too-high costs of healthcare, housing, and education from preschool to college.

Those challenges will cost money to fix. That's why I remain a proponent of fair tax brackets in Illinois so that rich folks pay more, the rest of us pay less, and the state brings in the money it needs to start creating solutions. I've also continued to fight for closing corporate loopholes in the state's tax code.

We weren't able to make progress on those revenue solutions this year, but I'm hopeful that the conditions will be more favorable next year.

Please send along any questions you might have about this budget stuff. My next email will talk about some of the bills I worked on this year and how far they've gotten through the process.

All my best,

-Will