Stadelman stands up for hungry students

In school districts across Illinois, students who are unable to pay for lunch can be stigmatized with a special wristband or hand stamp and even denied lunch. To stop this practice known as “lunch shaming,” State Senator Steve Stadelman passed Senate Bill 2428 through the Illinois Senate Education Committee this week.

“Lunch shaming punishes kids for the mistakes of their parents,” Stadelman said. “All students, no matter what their background or parents’ income level, deserve to eat. In some cases, this may be the only hot meal a student eats all day.”
 
Under Stadelman’s proposal, every school will be required to provide a meal to a student who requests one. While the school can contact the parents directly to request they pay for children’s lunches, the school cannot throw out meals, force students to wear wristbands or otherwise stigmatize them.  If parents owe $500 or more and a reasonable effort to collect the debt has been made, the school district can request the Illinois Comptroller withhold tax refunds to parents to pay off the debt.
 
“The top priority of our schools is to educate our children,” Stadelman said. “Forcing hungry children to sit through class makes it nearly impossible for them to focus and could have a long-term impact on their education.”
 
Stadelman's bill passed in committee on a vote of 9-2-1 and now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.


Senate passes Equal Rights Amendment
 
ERApicAfter a nearly 50-year-long battle, the Illinois Senate took a historic vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and solidify equal rights for all.  Introduced in Congress in 1923 and sent to the states for ratification 46 years ago, the ERA declares that equality of rights will not be denied by the United States or any state on account of sex.

"In voting to ratify the ERA, Illinois lawmakers are listening to and standing up for women across the state who are demanding action that is long overdue," State Senator Steve Stadelman said in support of the measure.  "The ERA cements legal protections for women that otherwise are subject to shifting political winds in the White House and on Capitol Hill."

Several advancements for women's rights, such as the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, could be repealed by a majority vote in Congress. The Executive Branch could also reduce enforcement of these acts.

Currently, 36 states have voted to ratify the ERA, with Nevada being most recent. To be ratified to the Constitution, 38 states must approve the amendment. Illinois' legislation now moves to the House for further consideration. For Illinois to ratify the ERA, three-fifths of House members must vote in support.

The Illinois Senate Women's Caucus also gave the Equal Rights Amendment its support at a press conference before the vote, the first piece of legislation to earn the bipartisan group's backing. Watch the press conference HERE.
 
Stadelman bill to increase transparency on car rental agreements advances
In response to the proliferation of cashless tolls, State Senator Steve Stadelman has advanced a proposal that offers protection for rental car drivers. After returning a rental car, many drivers may be surprised to find they were charged additional fees for a tollway collection device, similar to an I-PASS. Stadelman won committee approval this week for legislation to allow drivers to opt-out of using these devices.

“Drivers deserve to know up front what they are paying for, instead of finding out when it is already too late,” Stadelman said.

Under Stadelman’s proposal, rental car companies must allow renters to opt-out of the tollway collection device. The company also must post the terms and conditions in the rental agreement and in a visible location in the business. If a company fails to offer a customer the ability to opt-out, the fees are capped at $2 per day that the device is used, in addition to the cost of the tolls.

 “Many people may not be aware they can avoid these costly fees by using their own transponders, paying cash or paying the fees online,” Stadelman said. “This additional level on transparency can only benefit consumers.”

Stadelman’s proposal, Senate Bill 2522, passed through the Illinois Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee with a vote of 7-2-1. It will now head to the full Senate.

•    Video of Senator Stadelman commenting on legislation

Category: Week in Review

Stadelman listens to student concerns about gun violence

Students from East High School met with Senator Steve Stadelman this week to share their thoughts on gun violence in America and learn about legislation to regulate firearms at the state level. Alondra Lavariega, Rachell Alvarado (center) and Simon Davis helped organize the recent March For Our Lives at Davis Park and an earlier protest at East.

Stadelman discussed two gun safety measures approved this month in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly:
•    ban on the sale of assault weapons to anyone under age 21
•    72-hour waiting period after purchase of an assault weapon

Neither piece of legislation has been acted on by Governor Bruce Rauner, who vetoed a third measure to require state licensing of gun shops. Stadelman explained to the students that what happens to that bill depends on whether enough Republicans are willing to cross party lines in the Illinois House because the Illinois Senate can override Rauner on the votes of Democrats alone.

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Stadelman commended the students' efforts and noted that his four children participated in the local March For Our Lives, one of more than 800 nationwide and two dozen across Illinois.

"You're moving the needle," he said. "The fact that you're taking action could lead to legislation no one today would have envisioned."

Category: Week in Review

Marijuana question may go on November ballots statewide
Illinois voters may get the chance to let their voices be heard on legalization of cannabis under legislation passed in the Illinois Senate last week. The legislation, Senate Bill 2275, would place an advisory question on the 2018 ballot asking Illinois voters if they are in favor of marijuana legalization.

State Senator Steve Stadelman, who voted in favor of putting the issue before voters in November, says the advisory referendum will help legislators gauge public opinion on the subject. Most states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana have done so through ballot initiatives.

As proposed, the referendum would ask this “yes” or “no” question: "Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?"

If passed in the House and signed by the governor, the bill only would set the non-binding referendum in motion, not legalize the sale of recreational marijuana.

Legislative committee investigates Rauner inaction on veterans home
Lawmakers in Springfield expressed frustration this week over Bruce Rauner's failure to rid the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy of the deadly Legionella bacteria after a top official in governor's administration revealed a change of strategy that is presumed will only cause more delays.

During a legislative hearing this week, Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries said the Rauner administration now plans to tear down the residence halls where 13 deaths have been attributed to Legionnaire outbreaks since 2015. Jeffries had no cost estimate for the solution, only a timetable of three to five years. Previously, the governor was exploring the cost of replacing old plumbing.

Later in the week, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) once again urgently requested from Rauner a detailed plan of action for ensuring the safety of residents, family and staff at the home. They also pressed for acceptance of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ offer of technical assistance – which includes a site visit to the Quincy home – as well as ongoing VA financial support and expert assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Rauner administration claims a preliminary report will be issued by March 31.
 

In case you missed me on Facebook ...

Steve Stadelman added 3 new photos.
March 7 at 8:54pm ·
Another boost for downtown Rockford! The popular City Market is expanding. A "wall breaking" ceremony starts construction on an indoor City Market building next-door. Congratulations to Rock River Development Partnership for its work in making the project possible.
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 Steve Stadelman
February 20 ·
 
Congratulations to members of Unity Church in Rockford who presented the results of their Teddy Bear Project to Children Home + Aid today. The gently used stuffed animals were kept in the church sanctuary as they were being collected, and thye were held by churchgoers who "filled them with love" during Sunday services. Organizers like Alice Stacionis hope The Teddy Bear Project brings comfort to vulnerable children in stressful circumstances.
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Category: Week in Review

Stadelman says Rauner budget is unbalanced, increases property taxes
 
raunerbudgetaddressState Senator Steve Stadelman is concerned about the negative effects Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget would have on education, human services and benefits for retired teachers and other public employees, while noting it’s technically not balanced and relies on shaky math.

"Once again, the governor’s rhetoric failed to match reality," Stadelman said following Rauner's annual Budget Address to the General Assembly in Springfield. "Bruce Rauner says he wants to reduce property taxes, but his proposal will result in a significant property tax increase on Rockford families.  While I appreciate the governor’s call for cutting back government, his priorities are misplaced. He proposes cutting autism and addiction prevention services, yet he wants to spend $30 million on a horse barn in Springfield."

Stadelman noted the governor's spending plan is essentially unbalanced for a fourth year in a row because of unrealistic assumptions including pension reform that requires legislative and court approval. There's also no escaping the hypocrisy of Rauner including revenue from an income tax increase he opposed to balance spending, Stadelman said.

What's more, giving school districts more flexibility to negotiate contracts and removing health care from collective bargaining illustrate that weakening labor is primary goal for the governor, according to Stadelman.

"The governor needs to drop his campaign talking points and lay out a genuinely balanced budget that addresses our $8 billion backlog of bills and puts our state on stable financial footing," Stadelman said.
 
Concerns grow about Rauner's turnaround on school funding
Beyond being deceptive, Gov. Rauner's budget proposal undermines a key accomplishment on his watch -- education funding reform.

Rauner calls for $350 million in additional spending on  public education, the amount required by the new funding formula he considers a top accomplishment. But the proposal then wipes out the increase by dumping nearly $500 million in state retirement costs onto local schools, according to State Senator Steve Stadelman.

"Public education ends up losing under the Rauner plan," Stadelman said. "Rockford and Harlem classrooms are especially harmed because the new funding formula benefits communities with low property values, high poverty and larger numbers of at-risk students."

Stadelman pointed out that schools still have not received a penny under the new formula, which Rauner is already trying to change. If enacted, Rauner's shift of pension costs to local government would leave schools no choice but to raise property taxes, something Rauner claims to oppose.

The combined effect of Rauner's proposals would result in a net $1 billion decline in state support for public schools.

In the news: Illinois schools say pension shift would undo funding revamp

Category: Week in Review

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Springfield Office:
Senator 34th District
121A Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8022
 
District Office:
200 S. Wyman St.
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 987-7557
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