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Lightford vows support for funding early childhood projects

Senator LightfordSPRINGFIELD – Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) is drawing attention to the need for designating funding for early childhood building and renovation projects in the state’s next construction program.

“Our previous construction plan missed the mark on supporting early childhood programming,” Lightford said. “We need to ensure that we dedicate the funding to make sure our families have access to these critical services.”

The state’s last construction plan was implemented in 2009, and included a $45 million appropriation from the Build Illinois Bond Fund for the state's first Early Childhood Construction Grant program. However, the Capital Development Board received 227 applications totaling more than $539 million in requests for these construction and renovation resources, illustrating the unmet needs of early childhood facilities.

Senate Resolution 85 urges the next state construction program to dedicate a minimum of $250 million from state bond sources for the purpose of supporting critical early childhood projects.

“While this is only half of what was needed ten years ago, this is an important first step that puts the need for these projects on the forefront,” Lightford said.

The measure was approved in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday and is scheduled to move to the full Senate for consideration.

Stadelman advances measures to fight urban blight

Senator StadelmanSPRINGFIELD – Cities and counties would have a streamlined process to address vacant homes under two new measures sponsored by State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford).

Senate bills 2052 and 2097 implement recommendations made by the Illinois Community Revitalization Task Force, a panel created to help reduce blighted properties and revitalize communities throughout Illinois.

“Blighted properties don’t just affect one or two neighbors, they can have a ripple effect on an entire block,” Stadelman said. “Getting our cities and counties the tools they need to fight this problem is the first step to rehabilitating our neighborhoods.

Stadelman partnered with Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and the Illinois Housing Development Authority to work on a legislative fix that helps communities.

“Sen. Stadelman recognizes the impact that foreclosures have had in Rockford, and I appreciate all of his work in Springfield to help mitigate this issue, which has made it difficult for many of our homeowners to recover from the economic downtown,” McNamara said.

“My administration has taken aggressive action to strengthen our neighborhoods, including working with the city council to develop a vacant property registry and a land bank. Both these will reduce the impact of blighted and abandoned homes. And we will continue advocating for state-wide legislative tools that can help us in this work.”

Audra Hamernik, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, said local governments need more tools for dealing with vacant properties.

“When confronted with abandoned and deteriorating homes, it is often local governments that bear the cost of maintaining, administering and demolishing these properties,” Hamernik said. “This urban blight is siphoning off critical resources from other programs vital to these communities. I applaud Senator Stadelman’s leadership in identifying real solutions as to how the state can better advocate for neighborhood revitalization, ensuring Illinois’ cities and towns become safer and more stable.”

Senate Bill 2052 allows municipalities to transfer government-owned properties to a county or intergovernmental agency without triggering the formal statutory process that is imposed on non-home rule municipalities.

Senate Bill 2097 gives counties authority to purchase blighted properties to renovate them for resale to revitalize neighborhoods. The legislation also allows counties to keep the profits of the sale in order to renovate more homes.

Both measures passed out of committee this week and now head the Senate floor for a vote.

Munoz plan requiring presidential candidates to release tax returns passes committee

taxreturn 031319SPRINGFIELD- The price of appearing on Illinois ballots as presidential and vice-presidential candidates would be publicizing tax returns under a proposal led by Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago).

“Anyone seeking to hold presidential office should be transparent with their conflicts of interests,” Munoz said. “Voters have used this information in their decision-making process for decades, and it’s time we make it law.”

Senate Bill 145 requiring presidential candidates to file the five most recent years’ tax returns with the Secretary of State before appearing on a primary or general election ballot was approved by the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.

Candidates would need to file their returns five days prior to the date set for certification of the ballot for the general election.

The measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Martinez works to expand eligibility for Grow Your Own Teacher initiative

TeacherSPRINGFIELD — Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) is continuing her long-time advocacy for the Grow Your Own Teacher (GYOT) initiative by advancing legislation that expands the ability of schools and future teachers to participate in the program.

“Illinois is dealing with a teacher shortage, so we need to do all that we can to place dedicated teachers in schools,” Martinez said. “We especially must work to ensure students at schools that are traditionally hard to staff – like those in low-incomes areas – have the same access to quality education as anyone else.”

The Grow Your Own Teacher initiative is a program designed to train people to become teachers in hard-to-staff schools.

Martinez’s legislation would expand the definition of "eligible school" and "hard-to-staff" schools for the initiative to include early childhood programs in which no less than 40 percent of the children it serves are receiving subsidized care under the Department of Human Services' Child Care Assistance Program.

It would also extend eligibility for participation in the initiative to high school students enrolled in a dual credit course at a participating institution of higher education.

Senate Bill 244 is similar to legislation Martinez passed last year that then-Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed. It passed the Senate Higher Education Committee without opposition Tuesday and heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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