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Cunningham bill to eliminate annual reapplication of Homestead Exemption passes Illinois Senate

041415CM0234SPRINGFIELD — Legislation sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) to eliminate the need for an annual reapplication for the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption has passed the Illinois Senate.  
The Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a residential property tax exemption for Illinois residents aged 65 or older, is designed to help senior citizens financially.  Most years, the information needed to qualify for the exemption does not change. But state law requires seniors in Cook County to file paperwork annually and in some cases, to make trips to county courthouses to ensure they qualify, creating a hardship for those the exemption is intended to help.
"The current law places an unfair and sometimes confusing burden on seniors," Cunningham said. "Forcing some of our most vulnerable citizens to repeatedly file the same paperwork year- after-year is not only a waste of resources, it could lead to a situation where seniors are denied a tax break they've earned."  
In order to ensure senior exemptions are not awarded to residents who don't qualify, Cunningham's legislation also requires the Cook County Assessor's Office and the Recorder of Deeds Office to set up a communications system to alert the Assessor any time a home receiving a senior exemption is sold. This safeguard would prevent younger homeowners from "inheriting" a senior exemption for the previous owner.  
"By requiring county agencies to share information about housing transactions, we eliminate concerns about fraudulent exemptions being awarded and we shift the renewal burden from senior citizens to government agencies that should be tracking this information," Cunningham said. “This will hopefully give piece of mind to our seniors in Cook County and allow them to live their lives without this time consuming exercise.”  
Senate Bill 1488 now goes to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.

Cunningham legislation to aid Special Olympics

041415CM0167SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) has passed legislation in the Illinois Senate to create the Special Olympics income tax check off, which is expected to generate thousands of dollars for athletic programs for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  
"The Illinois income tax check off program provides funding for a variety of worthy causes across the state by allowing tax payers to donate a portion of their tax return directly to charities," Cunningham said. "The Special Olympics are a worthwhile cause that, I believe, Illinois taxpayers will want to help come tax season.”
The Special Olympics is a global organization dedicated to helping those with disabilities through sports, education and health. The group, which was founded in Chicago more than 40 years ago, provides opportunities for nearly 22,000 Illinois athletes throughout the 102 counties of the state, including training, competitions and other opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage and experience the camaraderie of sport.
Cunningham is a long-time support of Special Olympics, having co-sponsored previous legislation to establish a state lottery game to benefit the charity and as an annual participant in the Chicago Special Olympics' Polar Plunge, during which he joins thousands in jumping into the icy waters of Lake Michigan to raise pledges of financial support for special athletes.  
The Illinois income tax check off program provides the opportunity for Illinois taxpayers to fund a variety of charities. There cannot be more than 15 check offs per tax return and those check offs that do not reach a threshold of $100,000 in contributions are removed from the list. Those charities that are removed may be included again through legislation.
Currently, charities include Alzheimer’s disease research, breast cancer research, child abuse prevention, diabetes research, assistance to the homeless, relief for military families and wildlife preservation.

Hastings visits Matteson facility facing drastic budget cuts (VIDEO)

MentorOn March 31, State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) met with executives and clients of Illinois Mentor Community Services in Matteson. The organization provides residential and support services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as other specialized needs such as dual diagnosis (when a patient has mental illness along with a substance abuse problem), autism and those with medical, behavioral or physical challenges.

The budget proposed by Governor Rauner slashes funding for services to developmentally disabled individuals.

"Simply making a cut because it makes sense on paper is one thing," Hastings said, "but once you step into the shoes of these individuals and see how these services impact their lives it shows that it is not about the money."

Hastings met with executives Rochelle Johnson, Jennifer Humbert and Cherri Saindon to discuss their current budget planning and how the governor's budget could impact operations going forward.

Illinois Mentor's Host Home program allows individuals to live in a private family home provided by a mentor who is able to guide the individual to acquire skills and participate in the community life according to their own interests and abilities.

After speaking with the executives, Hastings visited a local host home in Matteson where two recipients, Ian and Larry, live with their host, Eddie. Host homes are filled on a completely volunteer basis, and recipients are matched with a host whose lifestyle matches their own.

Mulroe's 3D mammography insurance coverage measure passes Senate

mulroe-3d-passedSPRINGFIELD – Breast cancer incidences have been decreasing since the early 2000s thanks to new therapies, treatments and screening methods. One of the most effective early screening methods is now covered by some existing health insurance thanks to new legislation sponsored by Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago).

“Cancer screenings like 3D mammograms can be compared to reading a book,” Mulroe said. “Would you rather read one page and hope you understand the whole meaning of the text or rather read every single page for a full understanding? That’s very much how 3D mammograms work.”

Previous technologies only took a single dimension view of breast tissue when screening for cancerous cells. Tomosynthesis, also known as a 3D mammogram, takes a multidimensional view of the breast during the screening. As a result, a 3D mammogram has a higher success rate of detecting cancerous cells that are often difficult to detect, due to either size or dense breast tissue.

Senate Bill 54 amends the insurance code by adding tomosynthesis to the list of definitions of low-dose mammograms. As a result, the insurance mandate will cover 3D mammograms as well as the traditional 2D mammograms.

“I strongly believe that this legislation will help save lives of at-risk women who may not have known about this technology or may not have been previously covered,” Mulroe said. “It is our duty to protect the health and well-being of people in this state, and if we can save them time, money and emotional hardship then that is a bonus.”

After the legislation’s success in the Senate, it now moves to the House.

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