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  • New law prioritizes accessible playgrounds

    manar museums 8 7 15SPRINGFIELD – One Bunker Hill student asked a question and a new law that goes into effect with the new year is answering it.

    Maddie Heflin, a fifth-grader at Wolf Ridge Elementary School, wondered why there isn’t playground equipment that kids with disabilities can use.

    Luckily one of the people she asked was State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

    “Accessible playground equipment exists but she wanted to know why it isn’t in our parks and playgrounds. If we can provide equipment that lets them play freely with their classmates, it will promote acceptance and inclusion of students with disabilities,” Manar said.

    Maddie’s question lead to House Bill 3457, which is now a new law directing the Illinois Department of Natural resources to prioritize park grants to purchase accessible playground equipment. Manar sponsored the proposal in the Senate.

    The proposal was approved by the lawmakers this spring and signed by the governor. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

    Grants from DNR’s outdoor recreation program are already prioritized based on the useful life of facilities, safety needs and other factors. This proposal adds universally accessible swings, ground-level play features, wheelchair-accessible tables and ramped equipment to that list of priorities.

    “Maddie’s question and her concern for others is what led to the creation of this law. Thanks to her help every student will have a chance to participate, and it will teach children at a young age to ignore any stigma around disability,” Manar said.

  • ‘Conor’s Law’ enacted to protect young DUI offenders in Illinois

    manar 092617 2CARLINVILLE – Police in Illinois would have to make a reasonable attempt to find a responsible adult to take custody of anyone under the age of 21 who has been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs under a new law that was prompted by the 2015 death of a college student from Staunton.

    The law, signed Tuesday afternoon at Blackburn College in Carlinville, is called Conor’s Law after Conor Vesper, a 20-year-old Blackburn student from Staunton who died May 23, 2015, following a series of tragic events including his arrest for DUI, followed by his release from the police station alone after he paid a fine, a subsequent car chase with police from multiple agencies and a fatal self-inflicted gunshot.

  • Area parents call on lawmakers to override Governor’s veto on school funding

    Sen. Andy Manar speaks about SB1

    SPRINGFIELD — Local community leaders and legislators joined together today to highlight the damage to Illinois schools that Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1 will bring into reality. The bill vetoed by Rauner would have fixed our state’s broken education funding system. Parents from schools across Sangamon County joined in calling on local legislators to support the Evidence-Based Model for Student Success Act (otherwise known as SB1) in veto override votes.

    "Every child in Illinois deserves a high-quality education that gives them a fair shot at prosperity,” said Roy Williams Jr., Chair of the Education Task Force of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good. “Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto doesn’t fix the broken funding formula; it doubles down on a funding model that’s failing our kids. We need to begin mending our public education system, not tearing it down like the governor would with his amendatory veto."

  • Automatic voter registration initiative becomes law (VIDEO)

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  • Automatic voter registration moves forward in Illinois (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Automatic voter registration sent to governor’s desk

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  • Bennett, Manar, Ammons, Local Superintendents Speak Out Against Rauner’s Veto of School Funding Reform

    Senators Manar and Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons address local superintendents

    URBANA, Ill. – State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, joined local school superintendents and community leaders to discuss the devastating consequences that the governor’s veto of education funding reform would have on central Illinois schools.

    “Under the amendatory veto, it’s very clear that our schools lose in central Illinois,” said Ammons. “Senate Bill 1 would have ensured that our schools would receive the amount of money they need and deserve to serve our children. Gov. Rauner’s shameful veto would cut funding to over 550 school districts, including those here in Champaign-Urbana. We should be finding ways to invest more in schools, not cutting their already limited funding.”

    Senate Bill 1, which creates an equitable school funding plan, would have fixed the state’s broken education funding system, and ensured that every school in Illinois saw increased funding. Despite his agreement with 90 percent of the legislation, Gov. Rauner issued an amendatory veto of the legislation.

    “The governor’s veto was clearly intended to hurt Chicago but caused a great deal of collateral damage to the schools of downstate Illinois,” said Bennett. “We must ensure that the formula that becomes law guarantees fair funding for schools all over Illinois.”

    Manar noted that Rauner’s introduced changes to Senate Bill 1 would punish schools for enrollment declines, thwart local economic development efforts and bar school districts from claiming voter-approved tax cap adjustments. These provisions unfairly harm downstate Illinois’ least-funded schools the most, including many here in central Illinois.

    “Rather than roll up his sleeves and work with lawmakers to solve Illinois’ school funding crisis, Gov. Rauner is pitting region against region, children against children, and education against economic development. That’s not leadership,” Manar said.

    “The governor hasn’t put forth a roadmap for success. He needs to tell us how he wants to solve this problem. He vetoed the entire state budget, and he vetoed Senate Bill 1, inserting provisions that would result in higher property taxes in the most underfunded areas of the state. He needs to get serious. We have to solve this problem, and we have a limited amount of time to do it.”

  • Clean coal would be priority under Manar plan

    manar 051016SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to re-invest in clean coal would help jolt the industry that has endured a crippling decrease over the years.

    “The coal industry was a major source of income and jobs for the rural parts of our state. When it started to slow down, thousands of jobs were downsized and many mines were closed,” said Manar. “Investing in clean coal technology and creating a system for those companies to partner with local utility companies will give this industry a much-needed boost.”

    The plan, Senate Bill 3426, would create the Clean Coal Technology Development and Utilization Fund and call for greater investments in clean coal producers on behalf of the state. The fund would then be solely used to fund clean coal project investments by the Illinois Finance Authority.  

    In addition, the measure requires that local utility companies utilize energy created by the clean coal sites as a source of power for their customers.

    “This plan is a two-fold investment. It provides the capital to create clean coal projects, as well as the customer base to sustain the projects there afterwards,” said Manar.

    Senate Bill 3426 is currently pending in the Illinois Senate.

  • Debt Transparency Act becomes law after Senate overrides governor’s veto

    transparencySPRINGFIELD – A day after Illinois’ bill backlog reached $16.7 billion, members of the state Senate rejected a system that allows government agencies to conceal unpaid invoices from the comptroller and taxpayers for months on end.

    The Illinois Senate on Wednesday voted to override the governor’s veto of the Debt Transparency Act, a commonsense measure that demands better accounting and reporting practices by state agencies so that officials can understand the true extent of the bill backlog at any given time.

  • Diverse Coalition, Bill Sponsors Urge Gov. Rauner to Sign Bipartisan Automatic Voter Registration Legislation Before Friday Deadline

    avr votingCHICAGO-- With one day left for Governor Rauner to sign or veto bipartisan Automatic Voter Registration legislation, the Just Democracy Illinois coalition  joined the bill’s legislative sponsors to call on Governor Rauner to sign the bill into law on Thursday.

    “Automatic Voter Registration will add eligible Illinois voters to the rolls, make our voting lists more accurate, and save taxpayers money over time,” said Abraham Scarr, Co-Coordinator of Just Democracy Illinois and Director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “We urge Governor Rauner to seize this opportunity to modernize voter registration in Illinois.”

  • Documents on ed funding published by governor's political allies (VIDEO)

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  • Few specifics, missed opportunities in governor's budget speech (VIDEO)

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  • Full year funding, no proration in K-12 education bill

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  • Governor vetoes MAP, community college funding for Illinois students

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  • Governor’s resistance to formula change this year will plague Paxton-Buckley-Loda

    manar 032416Spending more won’t fix inequity

    SPRINGFIELD – Students and taxpayers in Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10 are being disadvantaged under Illinois’ antiquated system for funding education. The current education formula funnels money to largely wealthy districts that have the resources to spend as much as $30,000 per student. Recent data suggests that Paxton-Buckely-Loda CUSD 10 spends roughly a third of that per student, about $9,696. Reforming the state’s education funding formula could send more state money to Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

    Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner is pushing to put more tax dollars into the system that shortchanges Paxton-Buckley-Loda. He toured the high school Thursday.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) appreciates the governor’s commitment to improving education, but is trying to win support for a modern school funding system that better recognizes the needs of schools like Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

    “Increasing our investment in education alone will not get to the heart of the inequity between Illinois’ school districts,” Manar said. “It’s disheartening to hear the governor tell students, teachers and parents all over the state in struggling school districts that he will fix the problem, while he refuses to commit to implementing a more equitable funding formula.”

    Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Paxton-Buckley-Loda, based on the needs of its students. Under the reform plan, Paxton-Buckley-Loda could see an additional $237,000 in annual state aid, or about $170 more per student. Manar notes that this pending legislation would not require more spending, as the governor has proposed, at the state level. 

    “I have advised the governor that he is making the same mistakes as his predecessors. He thinks we can spend our way out of this problem,” said Manar. “We spend $12 billion today on schools, and we have the least equitable system in America.  We can spend that $12 billion better to drive better results and bridge the inequity gap.” 

    The new proposed funding formula takes student need into account, by providing more money to districts serving higher numbers of low income, special needs or English learning students. According to recent data, 49 percent of Paxton-Buckley-Loda students are low income, close to the state average.

    Roughly 16 percent of students in the district have disabilities, higher than the state average of 14 percent.

  • Grieving Staunton parents plead for stricter DUI custody laws for underage offenders

    conors law 050217SPRINGFIELD – Conor Vesper was a happy child, a joy to raise, a compassionate friend to all, an animal lover, valedictorian of his high school class, a college biology major on a full-ride scholarship and a young man with a bright future, his mother recalled through tears Tuesday.

    “We were blessed and honored to be a part of Conor’s life,” Alice Vesper said, addressing a panel of state senators with her husband, Jack, at her side and surrounded by photographs of their son taken at the family’s home in Staunton.

  • Higher Ed funding is investment in middle-class families

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    As Illinois students begin preparing for mid-terms, Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the Senate’s Higher Education Committee at Joliet Junior College to hear from students, parents and state community colleges and universities on the impact the current budget impasse is having on higher education in Illinois.

    “Time's a'wastin' - first semester already has started. Governor Rauner, get on board,” McGuire said. “Support MAP and higher education funding so Illinois high school graduates and returning adults can earn the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy to make our state strong again.”

  • House testimony confirms Senate Bill 1 is best way forward on school funding reform

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  • Illinois Senate approves Manar’s library taxing district measure

    manar 042617SPRINGFIELD – Thanks to a proposal State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) passed through the Illinois Senate this week, Illinois residents will be less likely to find themselves living in a new library taxing district without their consent.

    Manar’s proposal, Senate Bill 864, was approved 55-0 Wednesday in the Senate.

    “Taxation without representation was one of the principals our founding fathers fought against,” Manar said. “Libraries are important assets to our communities, but property taxpayers deserve to have a say on their property tax bill.”

    The measure was prompted by a municipal library in Macoupin County that converted to a public library district. The new public library taxing district included three additional communities that had not been included in the former taxing district.

    Similar situations are happening across the state. Because of ambiguous phrasing of current state law, residents in those communities did not have a direct say in whether they wished to be included in the taxing district for a library potentially many miles from their home.

    Senate Bill 864 bars a public library from converting to a library district that includes areas not previously taxed before the conversion without direct approval of local governments. It will close two loopholes currently in the law that allow municipal library to become a library district without the consent of municipalities and areas that would be included and taxes in the new district.

  • Law creates Springfield high-speed rail commission

    manar hi speed railSPRINGFIELD – A proposal creating a commission that will oversee Springfield’s 10th Street Rail Corridor was signed into law Wednesday.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) sponsored the commission that aims to increase transparency and ensure accountability in minority hiring.

    Manar and Scherer credited citizen participation, specifically the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, for this commission becoming a reality.