Senate unanimous on Automatic Voter Registration

AVRAfter carefully negotiating changes requested by the governor, state agencies and other stakeholders, a plan to modernize the voter registration process has received unanimous approval in the Illinois Senate.

"Every effort should be made to make voting easier, not harder," said State Senator Steve Stadelman, a sponsor of the legislation. "Of the many issues I discussed with voters I represent during three recent Town Hall meetings, voting rights was among those that resonated most."

If enacted, eligible Illinois citizens would be given the option to opt out of registering when they interact with certain state agencies, as opposed to the current system that requires citizens to opt-in.

Currently, there are more than 2 million Illinoisans who are eligible to vote but aren't registered. Automatic voter registration will significantly reduce this number and will remove a barrier to voting for all eligible Illinoisans.

Rather than giving individuals the option to fill out a separate voter registration form when conducting business with a state agency, the measure would allow agencies to electronically transfer an individual’s data to the State Board of Elections. Automatic voter registration will streamline bureaucracy, do away with redundant paperwork and save taxpayer dollars.

Senate Bill 1933 is now pending in the Illinois House.
Senate protects "Right to Know"

State Senator Steve Stadelman helped Democrats pass a measure to give people more information about personal data that is collected and sold by commercial websites.

The Right to Know Act requires commercial websites to inform consumers of what data they have collected and with whom it has been shared when asked to do so by the consumer. Commercial websites including Facebook and Google collect data regarding the age, gender, sexual orientation, religion and other characteristics of site visitors.

Current Illinois law requires businesses that collect personal informational to implement security measures to notify customers of security breaches. However, commercial websites are not required to notify residents what data they collect or whom they share that data with. This new initiative would require commercial websites that collect personal information to notify customers of the information they have collected as well as any third parties with whom they may have disclosed personal information.

Senate Bill 1502 now moves to the House of Representatives for approval.

Category: Week in Review

Stadelman passes legislation to help domestic violence victims leave

SB 57State Senator Steve Stadelman secured passage of legislation this week allowing domestic violence victims to continue using their cell phone plans after separating from their abusers.

“One of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships is financial dependence,” Stadelman said. “This legislation removes the roadblock of having to find money to set up a new phone plan. Anything we can do to make it easier to leave is a positive step.”

The measure requires wireless providers to transfer the right to continue to use phone numbers on an account the victim shares with the abuser. Similar legislation was recently enacted in California, Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin.

“As we know, cell phones have become nearly essential in modern life,” Stadelman said. “This legislation allows men and women leaving abusive situations to keep their photos, addresses, contacts and emails, and to continue using their phone to seek housing and employment.”

The measure amends current law to allow victims to petition the court for the right to continue use of a phone number as part of a petition for an order of protection.

Senate Bill 57 passed unanimously in the Senate and will move to the House for consideration.

WATCH VIDEO of Senator Stadelman discussing the legislation.

Stadelman measure to direct federal funds to low-income student passes Senate in unanimous vote

Legislation introduced by State Senator Steve Stadelman that would put tens of millions of federal dollars intended for the education of at-risk students back into local schools, rather than into teacher pension accounts, won Senate approval this week. The measure to reform the use of federal Title 1 money would take effective July 1 and free up as much as $1.6 million for Rockford public schools.

“Right now, school districts are being required to use federal funds that are meant to go to students to pay down the state’s pension debt,” Stadelman said. “This disproportionately affects at-risk students in the districts that need help the most.”

The legislation allows school districts to pay into federally funded teachers’ pensions at the same rate as all other teachers, cutting the districts’ contribution rate from 45 percent to 7 percent. Individual teachers’ pensions would not be affected.

Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent, testified in committee in favor of the legislation last month. “What we’re advocating for is to let those federal dollars go to what the teachers and the principals in those schools say they need most, which is support for struggling students,” Jarrett said. “This is an opportunity for equity for those schools.”

Title 1 funding provides federal assistance to school districts with high percentages of low-income students to make sure their educational needs are met. Schools can use the money for individual, classroom or building-wide programs so long as they are designed to bring students up to state academic standards.

Senate Bill 0195 passed unanimously in the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

Happiness is yelling bingo!

BINGO rResidents at Alden Debes Rehabilitation and Health Care in Rockford asked some tough questions when Senator Stadelman spoke to them about state legislative issues, including an update on the budget impasse, but bingo numbers were what they really wanted to hear. Bingo, as Senator Stadelman discovered, bingo has become more high tech. Gone are the old wire cage filled with pinpong balls: The purple box he's holding provided digitally generated numbers with a push of the yellow button. In the foreground, Marjorie and Georgia eagerly await the right call.

Category: Week in Review

The Rising Cost of State Budget Chaospic 1

As Illinois nears the two-year mark without a budget, the impact of the political stalemate becomes more obvious and far-reaching with each passing day.

Domestic violence shelters
For many abused women, domestic violence shelters are the last refuge from which they can begin to rebuild their lives. Those shelters are now on the verge of closure due to the state’s ongoing budget impasse. In recent Senate hearings, experts have testified that Illinois' budget gridlock puts the safety and well-being of abuse victims in danger.

"Approximately 40,000 fewer Illinois students received prevention education programs last year," said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "Rape victims are hurt by the impasse as waiting lists for crucial counseling and advocacy services expand."

HIV/AIDS treatment, cancer screenings
During a recent Senate Appropriations I Committee hearing, the Illinois Department of Public Health came under fire for proposing spending reductions that would disproportionately affect minority communities including cuts to HIV/AIDS treatment and screenings for prostate, cervical and breast cancer. IDPH Direcotr Nirav Shah testified on possible ways to close a $5 billion gap in Rauner's unbalanced budget and took criticism for staging an event to celebrate National Minority Health Month while pushing service cuts that would most hurt minorities.

Colleges and universities
Northeastern Illinois University has announced it will cut three days of classes to cut costs, a direct response to the state's failure to produce a budget that funds higher education. Northeastern is no different than schools across Illinois that are issuing staff furloughs, laying off faculty and losing students to other states. Northeastern's decision to cancel classes comes after the Chicago campus furloughed employees who typically work during spring break and let others go altogether.

Stadelman speaks candidly on budget impasse

pic 2At three Town Hall meetings in a week, Senator Steve Stadelman told citizens he fears deep political divisions in Springfield will prevent Illinois from passing a budget until after the 2018 election for governor, when the state's backlog of bills will approach $24 billion.

Stadelman explained to two audiences in Rockford and a third in Machesney Park that 90 percent of state spending is on auto pilot through court orders, contractual obligations and special legislation to keep public schools open. With fallout confined to the remaining 10 percent of the budget, there hasn't been sufficient pressure to break the two-year long impasse. Higher education and social services such as Meals on Wheels for seniors, after-school programs for at-risk teens and domestic violence shelters are going unfunded or underfunded.

"When you deal with ideology and 'my way or the highway,' nothing gets accomplished in government," Stadelman said Tuesday evening during the third gathering at the Rockford Public Library East Branch. "What's happening now isn't good for anybody, no matter what your political leanings are. The negative headlines don't make Illinois an attractive place to locate businesses, which prevents us from growing the economy and creating jobs."

Stadelman said he had high hopes for a bi-partisan Senate compromise, which incorporated some of Rauner's self-titled "turnaround agenda." But the compromise collapsed after Rauner called off Republicans as they were about to approve the most critical parts of the multi-bill deal.

Although Stadelman isn't opposed to some of Rauner proposals, several -- such as property tax relief, independent political mapping and term limits -- have "zero impact on the state budget." He also questioned why Rauner has avoided using the line-item veto to amend budgets sent to him previously by the General Assembly, rather than issue a blanket rejection..
"The governor has this amazing tool that he chooses not to use," Stadelman said. "Why? Because as soon as you mention specific cuts in the budget, people get upset."

Citizens asked about issues ranging from restoring passenger rail service to Chicago and fully legalizing marijuana to pension reform and gun legislation, with Stadelman drawing the biggest applause for his strong opposition to any attempts to limit voting rights in Illinois.

Elected in November 2016 to a second term, Stadelman also discussed legislation that is working its way through the General Assembly, despite the budget gridlock, including legislation he passed in the Senate to let pharmacists to refill prescriptions without doctor authorization if abruptly discontinuing a medication could cause medical harm. Stadelman introduced Senate Bill 1790, now pending in the Illinois House, after his son, a Type 1 diabetic, ran out of insulin and needles while on family vacation at a time when his doctor could not be reached.

Category: Week in Review

300pxStadelmanStadelman moves to protect online customers

Senator Steve Stadelman has introduced legislation in committee that would protect the rights of consumers to leave honest online reviews of products and services without fear of retaliation. The measure prevents companies and service providers from enforcing non-disparagement clauses when included in sales contracts. Such clauses typically contain language prohibiting consumers from leaving negative feedback about the retailer. Oftentimes, particularly online, a consumer must accept the terms of a contract before completing a purchase.
“Although I understand that businesses don’t want to be unfairly criticized, it is important to protect the right of the consumer to voice their opinion,” Stadelman said. “In many cases, people might not even realize they signed a non-disparagement agreement until a company takes action against them.”  

Only two states – California and Maryland – have laws in place banning non-disparagement clauses. Illinois has general consumer protection laws in place that prohibit unfair business practices and fraud but do not specifically address non-disparagement clauses. SB 1898 passed the Senate judiciary committee and will move to the full Senate for consideration.

Stadelman invites public to three Town Hall meetings

Senator Steve Stadelman has scheduled three Town Hall meetings to listen to concerns of the citizens he represents and answer questions about Illinois’ budget process and legislation pending in Springfield. A representative from the state’s I-Cash program will be available April 11 and 18 to conduct data base searches for Illinois residents who may be eligible for millions of dollars in unclaimed funds.

Tuesday, April 11
5:30-7 PM
Rockford Public Library – Montague Branch
Constance V. Lane Community Room
1238 S. Winnebago St.
Rockford, IL
Thursday, April 13
5:30-7 PM
Machesney Park Village Hall
300 Roosevelt Road
Machesney Park, IL
Tuesday, April 18
5:30-7 PM
Rockford Public Library – East Branch
Community Room
6685 E. State St.
Rockford, IL
Former Senator Holmberg honored with Senate Resolution

Joyce Holmberg, who represented the 34th District in the Illinois Senate from 1982 until 1992, has been honored with Senate Resolution No. 356, which mourns her passing March 20 at age 86 and commends her many accomplishments as a teacher and public official.

The resolution, introduced in the 100th General Assembly by Senator Steve Stadelman, was presented to her family during a memorial service last week at Zion Lutheran Church in Rockford.

Holmberg was a graduate of East High School in Rockford and earned education and counseling degrees from Northern Illinois University and Adler School of Professional Psychology. Before her election to the Illinois Senate, Holmberg hosted a weekly cable television show on parenting in her position as parent-community coordinator for Rockford Public Schools. She also was a Rock Valley College instructor.

As a state lawmaker, Holmberg created the Illinois College Savings Bond program and secured funding for the NIU campus in Rockford. She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, 1992 and 1996.

"Joyce Holmberg was a passionate advocate for public education and a trailblazer for women in government," Stadelman said. "I'm honored to serve in the seat she held with distinction."

Category: Week in Review

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Contact Info

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
(815) 987-7529 FAX