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Biss’ Student Loan Bill of Rights to become law despite Rauner’s veto

biss 040517In a move to stand with college students and their families, the Illinois General Assembly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a Student Loan Bill of Rights Tuesday, with the Illinois House voting 98-16.

Sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss, the initiative of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office will hold lending companies accountable to bad-faith practices like roping students into loans with terms they may not understand or pressuring borrowers into deferments that ultimately serve only to prolong their indebtedness and harm their credit.

Biss’ student loan bill of rights gets new life

biss 031517 2SPRINGFIELD – Illinois college students who borrow money to pay for their education could be better protected from predatory lenders with the help of a student loan bill of rights, a measure sponsored by Senate Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

The Illinois Senate reaffirmed its support for the effort Wednesday when it voted 37-19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s August veto of Senate Bill 1351.

“Student debt is a real problem in Illinois,” Biss said. “This legislation takes a significant step toward tackling the problem, and it will make life better for student borrowers throughout the state, especially as the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility to people who are working hard to have a better future.”

Biss: Taxpayers deserve clarity about fees paid by public pension funds

biss 052917SPRINGFIELD – Private equity firms would have to disclose the currently secret investment fees they charge to Illinois’ public pension funds under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that was approved in the Senate Monday.

These sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are exempt from disclosure to taxpayers under Illinois sunshine laws. Even the boards that oversee the pension funds are kept in the dark about some fees.

Biss maintains that this kind of secrecy flies in the face of a steadily growing national and global movement toward more transparency.

“This is not a time for Illinois taxpayers to be paying fees they don’t know about,” he said. “If you’re concerned about the asset levels in the pension funds, you should be concerned about the fees you’re paying. That is the only expenditure that is secret from you right now.”

Senate Bill 779 would attempts to increase the state’s pension funds’ investment transparency by requiring that:

  • pension systems disclose agreements with alternative investment funds and certain provisions of those agreements;
  • alternative investment fund managers and general partners disclose certain investment fees paid directly or indirectly to the alternative investment fund;
  • if an investment fund utilizes the Institutional Limited Partners Association template, the fund will be in compliance with the disclosure requirements;
  • disclosures would be published on the systems’ websites and subject to FOIA.

The provisions of Senate Bill 779 would apply to every large retirement system or pension fund regulated by the Illinois Pension Code, as well as the Illinois State Board of Investment. The disclosure requirements would apply to new agreements proposed or executed after Jan. 1, 2018.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest system in Illinois, currently has nearly $8.5 billion invested and committed to the private equity asset class.

According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

“Common sense says that if we have that greater level of transparency, we’ll pay lower fees and have better returns,” Biss said. “We should know the fees we pay, and that knowledge will allow us to negotiate better deals on our pension funds. That’s a winning formula for taxpayers.”

Senate Bill 779 now will go to the House for consideration.

Biss, Senate move to protect Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions

pre exist 052917SPRINGFIELD – As Washington sends mixed signals about the future of affordable health care for millions of Americans, the Illinois Senate on Friday voted to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage to Illinoisans with pre-existing conditions.

House Bill 2959 garnered bipartisan support in the Senate’s 46-5 vote. The measure now has been approved in both the Senate and the House; it is expected to be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for consideration.

“This legislation guarantees that health insurance companies may not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions – something that roughly half of all non-elderly Americans have, according to the federal government,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat and the Senate sponsor of the legislation. Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) sponsored it in the House.

On May 4, Congress passed the American Health Care Act 217-213, which would allow states to opt out of community ratings in the individual markets. These ratings provide a way of spreading risk by setting rates for health insurance among a geographic area regardless of age, gender or health status.

Under the act, if this restriction is removed, states could vary premiums by health status for people who have had a gap in insurance of 63 or more consecutive days in the past year. The state would be required to set up a program for subsidizing high-risk patients, either through a reinsurance system that would pay money directly to insurers or by setting up a high-risk pool. The state would not be required to provide insurance coverage for these patients.

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released findings that the state waivers allowed by the bill pending in Congress could lead to skyrocketing premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, such as an extra $1,000 per month for maternity coverage in states that waive certain coverage regulations for insurers. Additionally, the CBO found that many people with pre-existing conditions simply would be priced out of coverage in states that use the waivers.

“While it’s unclear how all of these changes in Washington will shake out in the end, Illinois has too much at stake to sit idly by and wait to see what will happen,” Biss said.

“House Bill 2959 will help to protect vulnerable Illinoisans who rely on the ACA and are at risk of losing their coverage with no other affordable options available to them. Gov. Rauner should sign this measure into law so that we can provide a crucial protection for many of our constituents all over the state.”

Senator Daniel Biss

 biss-2015-lg

9th Senate District

Years served: 2011 - 2012 (House); 2013 - Present (Senate)

Associated Representatives: Laura Fine; Robyn Gabel

Committee assignments: Education; Environment and Conservation; Executive Appointments; Human Services; Labor (Chairperson); Revenue.

Biography: Full-time legislator; former University of Chicago math professor; doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Served one term in the House before his election to the Senate. Resides in Evanston with his wife, Karin, and their children, Elliot and Theodore. Co-chair of a bipartisan pensions working group in the House and chair of the Digital Divide Elimination Advisory Committee.