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Harmon: Governor should revive labor negotiations immediately

afscme3SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and a bipartisan group of Springfield lawmakers today called for renewed contract negotiations between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the union that represents 38,000 Illinois state workers.

Harmon noted his support of a measure that would have allowed interest arbitration in the event of an impasse between Rauner, whose anti-union sentiments are well documented, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“Twice I passed a bill that would provide for interest arbitration. Twice the governor vetoed that bill, and twice the General Assembly failed to override the veto,” Harmon said. “The governor’s rationale at the time was that he was willing to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate a deal. That sentiment appears to have vanished.”

AFSCME – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – is the largest union representing state government employees. No contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union have occurred since Jan. 8, 2016, when the administration claimed the parties were at impasse.

More than 30 state lawmakers of both parties and both houses of the Legislature gathered for a news conference Wednesday to show their support for continued good-faith negotiations between the administration and union representatives to avert a labor disruption and bring about an acceptable compromise.

“I think it is critically important to the people of Illinois that we try to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone and enables us to continue to provide vital services,” Harmon said, adding that Gov. Rauner is not practicing what he preaches when he refuses to participate in negotiations.

“The governor is demanding that the legislative leaders join him at a bargaining table every day to discuss his agenda and its impact on our state budget,” Harmon said. “I would hope that he would hold himself to that same standard in negotiating with the union and return to the bargaining table immediately.”

Harmon disappointed in same-day voter registration ruling

Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today in response to a Republican-controlled think tank’s step toward curbing voter access in Illinois:

“How disappointing that on National Voter Registration Day – a day intended to remind people of their right to register and vote in this country – a blatantly political effort to quell participation in Illinois elections was able to get a toehold in a courtroom.

“Rather than seeking to scale back opportunities to register to vote in certain parts of Illinois, we should be working to expand access to the polls in all communities throughout the state.”

Harmon was the chief Senate sponsor of the 2014 same-day voter registration initiative, which was challenged in court in August by the legal arm of a conservative political think tank that is backed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. A judge on Tuesday ruled in its favor and issued a preliminary injunction barring same-day voter registration in Illinois. It’s unclear if an appeal will be filed.

Harmon calls on gun lobby, governor to do more to protect Illinois children

Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon is calling on the gun-rights advocates and Gov. Bruce Rauner to do more to help state lawmakers and local communities curb gun violence and protect the children of Illinois.

Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee on firearms, which heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would restore local governments’ right to control the types of weapons and ammunition allowed in their communities. Local control over such matters was taken away in 2013 when the state passed its concealed carry law.

As with so many other proposals designed to target gun violence and the illegal gun trade, gun-rights advocates are opposed to the measure.

“Kids are dying, and these products are causing it,” Harmon said. “It’s a crisis. Find a way to help us protect everyone, including law-abiding gun owners.”

Harmon, who favors greater accountability standards for gun dealers to stem the tide of illegal firearms flowing into Illinois, said that in the absence of Congressional action to deter gun violence and restrict access to weapons nationally, it’s up to state officials and local communities to protect residents themselves.

It’s not about taking rights away from law-abiding citizens who own and enjoy firearms, he added, acknowledging the state’s regional diversity when it comes to opinions about guns.

“In my time in Springfield I’ve evolved from someone who grew up in a house without guns to understanding my colleagues across the state who represent communities where guns are common and used responsibly. I respect them and the cultural differences more than I did when I started this job,” Harmon said.

“But kids are dying on our streets because there are too many guns, and we get no help from the gun lobby. I’m begging them to find a way to work with us rather than block our efforts and pay lip service to what we’re trying to do. We’ll protect law-abiding gun owners in the process, but we need them to help us put the bad guys out of business.”

Rauner this week signed Republican-backed legislation that increases criminal penalties for gun trafficking in Illinois. Harmon said the measure does not go far enough to curb gun violence, nor does it offer the local oversight that communities want.

He called on the governor – an ardent proponent of local control of government – to express support for local gun laws and statewide violence-prevention measures, and to do more to bring attention to the public health crisis that guns are causing in Illinois.

Harmon also appealed to gun-rights advocates to stop standing in the way of sensible restrictions that will protect people and that polling consistently shows the majority of Americans want.

In Illinois, since 2013 the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association have objected to a host of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and protect potential victims. Proposals they’ve opposed include state licensing of gun and ammunition dealers, barring people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining FOID cards, creating a firearms registry, banning imitation and replica firearms, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, creating a gun violence restraining order, strengthening the FOID card revocation process and barring the use of three-dimensional printers to create guns.

Meanwhile, just over halfway through 2016, gun violence in Chicago is on pace to eclipse last year’s statistics. More than 2,700 people have been shot in the city so far this year; in all of 2015 just under 3,000 people were shot.

Among the more than 50 victims of gunfire during the past weekend was an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the wrist as she attended a vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed early Sunday in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is in Harmon’s legislative district.

“Meet us in the middle, for God’s sake,” Harmon said in a plea to gun-rights advocates. “How many children are going to have to die while the gun lobby stands by and watches?”

Illinois yoga instructors to continue teaching without regulation

harmon yogaYoga instructors in Illinois will be able to practice freely without state regulation under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Friday.

Senate Bill 2743 garnered bipartisan support in the legislature as a pro-business measure that curbs government regulation where it’s unneeded.

“As we work to make Illinois a more business-friendly state, there’s simply no reason to impose unnecessary regulation on something like yoga instruction, which for most people is a personal pursuit or at most a small, independent business venture,” Harmon said.

The measure exempts yoga teacher training from state oversight as a trade, occupation, vocation or professional school. The legislation was prompted by news earlier this year that several yoga teacher training programs in Illinois were notified by the Illinois Board of Higher Education that they would be subject to state regulation as vocational schools and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.

Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago) sponsored the measure in the Illinois House.

Senator Don Harmon

harmon-2014-150

President Pro Tempore
39th District
 
Years served:
2003 - Present

Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.

Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.

Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly