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Bertino-Tarrant: Prioritize children over private school tax credits

jbt 120817PLAINFIELD- State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) advanced legislation to ensure public schools are funded adequately before any state funds are diverted to pay for tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporate scholarship donors. 

“This initiative solidifies our bipartisan goal to fund our public schools in a way that guarantees our children are provided an excellent education regardless of their zip code,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “Every single dollar in state education spending should go toward the adequate education of our children until the disparities created by generations of systematic inequality in Illinois’ school system are fixed.”

Bertino-Tarrant’s measure, Senate Bill 2236, was filed in response to Senate Bill 1947, which includes a five-year pilot program that would award a 75 percent tax credit to donors that contribute to scholarship funds for students to attend non-public schools. The credits are capped at of up to $1 million per taxpayer and $75 million statewide.  

“Public education should be the top priority,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “It is unacceptable that these tax credits are diverting resources away from the classroom.”

Bertino-Tarrant said this could take valuable taxpayer dollars away from Illinois’ public schools especially if the minimum funding level is not met.   

“The bipartisan reform passed in the Senate and House stipulated that the General Assembly shall meet the minimum funding level each year. This new measure simply helps guarantee the legislature stays true to its promises,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

The new school funding mechanism outlined in Senate Bill 1947 established an evidence-based funding formula to dispense state dollars to public schools. The formula institutes a base funding minimum that serves as a hold harmless to ensure school districts do not lose state dollars year after year.

Any additional funding the General Assembly appropriates is distributed through a tier-based system that prioritizes the state’s poorest and most disadvantaged schools. The funding plan outlined in the new law includes a minimum funding level of $350 million in additional funding each year, with the goal of meeting the total statewide adequacy target over a period of time.

Senate Bill 2236 passed the Senate’s Committee on Education and moves to the full senate for consideration.

Hastings pushes to stop Illinois’ participation in controversial Crosscheck program

hastings 021717SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Michael E. Hastings’ measure to halt the state’s participation in the controversial Interstate Voter Registration Data Crosscheck Program advanced today.

Senate Bill 2273, sponsored by Hastings (D-Tinley Park) would prohibit the state from sharing any voter information with any interstate voter registration program other than the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).

Hastings, Chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Sub-Committee on Cybersecurity, has continued to investigate the 2016 State Board of Elections security breach.

Tom Cullerton fights to give Quincy veterans honor and respect they deserve

tc 052617SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) advanced legislation today that would require the Auditor General to investigate the response by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy

Culleton has led the charge to evaluate the actions taken by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and to ensure current protocols and procedures are up to date. He also wants to ensure these procedures were properly followed by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.

“Our veterans have served our country with great honor and respect. Sadly, some loyal soldiers were unable to count on the State of Illinois to give them the care they deserved,” Cullerton said. “My hope is a thorough examination will create policies to guarantee our veterans will not perish due to preventable conditions.”  

Cullerton, who serves on the bipartisan Illinois Legislative Audit Commission, sent letters to fellow members State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) and Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) in hopes of cooperating to drive the audit. 

“The Illinois Auditor General must launch a full examination into the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy to give the General Assembly a clear picture of the problems we have on hand,” Cullerton said. “The sooner we examine this atrocity, the quicker we can remedy the situation.”

Cullerton said this is another example of mismanagement and ineffective usage of state resources by the governor’s administration. 

“Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has been thoughtless and ineffective in providing care and services to our veterans,” Cullerton said. “I’ll continue to fight for my fellow soldiers like they have fought for me.”  

Cullerton served as an infantryman in the Army from 1990 to 1993, and he currently serves as the chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

Senate Resolution 1186 passed the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs with bipartisan support and now moves to the full senate for consideration.

He will reconvene a bipartisan hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 7 to address this issue and continue to examine the care and services veterans receive at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy. 

Link: Tobacco 21 will reduce use among teens, improve health of Illinoisans

link 020217SPRINGFIELD – With tobacco use on the rise among teens for the first time in years, Senator Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) is sponsoring a proposal to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old.

“Smoke Free Illinois was a major step forward in improving the health of Illinoisans and making our state a better place to live,” Link said. “Tobacco 21 builds on that effort by reducing the number of teen smokers and curbing the next generation of adult smokers, moving us one step closer to a healthier, smoke-free Illinois.”

It has been more than 10 years since Link’s Smoke Free Illinois legislation banning smoking in most public places went in to effect. Since Smoke Free Illinois, there has been a 20 percent decrease in hospitalization of various smoking-related diseases. But with the advent of e-cigarettes, tobacco use among teenagers is on the rise for the first time in years.

“More than 90 percent of smokers start before the age of 21,” Link said. “We must do everything possible to curb teen use and protect the lives of adolescent Illinoisans. Tobacco 21 will help us do that.”

Limiting access to cigarettes has proven effective in reducing the rate of tobacco use among teens. In October 2014, Evanston became the first Illinois community to adopt Tobacco 21. Since then, tobacco use among high schoolers has dropped by 37.5 percent.