Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today regarding the death of Abner Mikva, a former congressman, federal judge, presidential adviser, lawyer, mentor and public servant from Chicago:
“For a man with perhaps the most impressive resume in politics, Abner Mikva was the kindest, most gracious and generous politician I’ve ever met.
“When I took his seminar on legislative process at the University of Chicago Law School, even at the end of his storied career, Ab’s enthusiasm for government and politics was contagious. He loved the process and he loved engaging young people in it.
“When I confessed my quiet interest in running for office, he said, “Do it. Don’t wait!” He was a great mentor and a wise counsel.
“Even in the last few months, he was pushing us hard to move forward on juvenile justice reform — all with a heart set on good policy and a keen appreciation for the evolving politics. He was a gentle giant and he will be missed by all he touched.”
Mikva died Monday in Chicago. He was 90.
SPRINGFIELD — School districts from Oak Park to Addison stand to receive more than $15 million in additional funding under a bipartisan budget proposal to be voted on when senators return to Springfield this week.
The education funding bill is part of a broader series of measures to keep the state running as the current budget year winds down. State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) noted that the measure clearly establishes education funding as a top priority for the state."
“This is the clean education bill that the governor wanted.” Harmon said. “We have listened to his feedback regarding earlier proposals. I hope the governor will sign this bill into law as soon as possible so that our schools open on schedule and teacher and administrators have time to plan for the year ahead.”
Under the proposal, $760 million in additional money is provided so that every school in the state receives state foundation level funding. As it stands, that means several school districts in the 39th District will receive more than $1 million in additional funding for the upcoming school year, and every school in the district will receive more this year than they did last year.
“This is a great step forward. With increased support and certainty from the state, every single student, no matter the ZIP code, will have a better chance of receiving a quality education,” Harmon said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The Illinois Senate returns to Springfield on Wednesday.
Children and adults with autism would benefit from two measures that passed out of the Illinois Senate with the support of Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
Senate Bill 345, which Harmon sponsored, acknowledges that autism is a whole-body disorder that affects more than simply a person’s neurology and behavior. The legislation would empower physicians to approach their diagnoses more effectively and would prohibit health insurance companies from restricting covered treatments for patients who have autism.
Studies have shown that medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal and immunodeficiency problems, commonly occur in people on the autism spectrum. When properly diagnosed and treated, not only do these medical conditions improve, so, too, do the autism symptoms.
“It is not uncommon for medical providers to dismiss underlying medical symptoms simply as autism and miss the opportunity to adequately evaluate and treat patients,” Harmon said. “Senate Bill 345 eliminates a bureaucratic barrier and encourages providers to be more thorough with their medical evaluations and recommendations for treatment.”
The legislation creates the Autism and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions Awareness Act. It passed unanimously in the Senate and in the House. It now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner to be signed into law.
Laura Cellini, a parent advocate from Springfield, supports the legislation. She noted that people with autism have a mortality rate that is 10 times that of their peers of the same age.
“Often this is due to their inability to receive accurate diagnoses and treatment for their underlying health issues,” she said. “That is why this legislation is so critical to improving health outcomes for people with autism.”
In addition, Harmon supported House Bill 4257, which would allow people on the autism spectrum to be issued state-issued wallet cards that identify them as autistic. The cards can be shown to police officers, firefighters and others during high-stress encounters in which the cardholder is unable to communicate effectively.
Individuals with developmental disabilities, autism and mental illness can have difficulty communicating with other people, especially during heightened situations, prompting law enforcement professionals and others to mistake them as simply being difficult or defiant. The wallet card would be a signal for authorities to de-escalate the situation.
The cards would be issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.
The legislation was sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego). Harmon was a co-sponsor in the Senate.
“As we continue to learn about the causes and symptoms of autism – a disorder that affects thousands of Illinois families and individuals every day – it is critical that we do whatever we can to offer people the kinds of resources they need to thrive,” Harmon said. “Ensuring they are not denied needed medical treatment and giving them the ability to communicate effectively when the stakes are high are just two ways we can help.”
A measure prohibiting new state regulation of training for yoga teachers will head to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk to be signed into law.
Senate Bill 2743, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), garnered bipartisan support as a pro-business measure that curbs government regulation where it’s unneeded.
“There’s simply no reason for Illinois to regulate something that, for most people, is a personal pursuit, not a profession or a career,” Harmon said. “It makes no sense from a business standpoint, from a government standpoint or from a practical standpoint.”
Harmon’s legislation exempts yoga instruction and yoga teacher training from state oversight as a trade, occupation, vocation or professional school.
Several yoga teacher training programs in Illinois were notified earlier this year by the Illinois Board of Higher Education that they were subject to state regulation as vocational schools and that they must obtain IBHE approval to operate in the state.
The measure passed unanimously in the Illinois House on Wednesday. It passed unanimously in the Senate in April.
Senator Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore
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