Regular session in the 100th General Assembly ended on time last week. For the first time in four years, with true bipartisan negotiations in the House and Senate, we’ve passed a fair and balanced budget. Social service providers and our public universities are still recovering from the budget crisis, and the work that was done this session will help these institutions continue down the path towards stability.

Some highlights of the budget include:

  • no tax increases or new taxes
  • reductions in pension costs
  • increased funding for education
  • paying down old debt and finding additional funds to pay down the backlog

The passage of this budget came the day after the Illinois House voted in favor of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. We are now just one state away from giving women in our country stronger safeguards from discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of women over the course of decades fought for this moment, and I’m so proud to have had the opportunity to vote yes.

The ERA would:

  • give women another tool as we work to close the wage gap
  • end discrimination against pregnant women and young mothers
  • ensure women have better access to protections from domestic violence.

Over the course of this session, the General Assembly made many important strides to make life better for all Illinoisans, but especially for those who need help the most. Some bills of which I am especially proud are described below.

Every year, thousands of people in our state are diagnosed with cancer that could leave them infertile after treatment. A measure I spearheaded (HB2617) will require insurance companies to cover the freezing of a woman’s eggs or a man’s sperm if they are fighting cancer.

I passed multiple pieces of legislation that aim to end child abuse, including the creation of a parenting education pilot program in high school (HB4442) that equips young adults with the skills and knowledge they need if they decide to have children in the future.

Parents who are under the supervision of DCFS or another social service agency will have access to subsidized childcare so they can participate in services such as counseling and substance abuse treatment that they are required to attend in order to remain with their child.

We’ve made real progress towards putting an end to gun violence by passing gun dealer licensing, requiring a 72 hour waiting period to purchase a firearm, and empowering individuals who are worried that a loved one may harm themselves or others to petition for the removal of any firearms that person may have.

In a national climate that is often hostile towards immigrants, the General Assembly has proven that hate has no home in Illinois with the passage of the Illinois VOICES Act (SB34), which provides stronger protections for undocumented immigrants who have been the victims of violence or trafficking, and the Immigrant Safe Zones Act (SB35), which prevents unwarranted searches and seizures at places like courthouses and public schools.

Following Evanston’s lead, the General Assembly voted to raise the age to 21 years old to purchase tobacco in Illinois this year (SB2332). This should reduce the number of high school students who smoke.

I also worked hard to pass a number of other bills that reform child care, Medicaid, strengthen our Illinois EPA, and raise the wage for Direct Service Professionals. You can find all of the bills I worked on this session here.

There is still work to do to solve the problems facing our state, but I am proud of the work that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have done to improve the lives of Illinois families this year.

It’s now incumbent upon the governor to do the right thing and sign these lifesaving bills into law. We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting this session, and between the legislation we’ve passed and the balanced budget we’ve created the state of Illinois needs a Governor that listens to constituents and signs the bills that bipartisan majorities achieved this year. You can do your part by contacting the Governor’s office here and letting them know the issues that are important to you.

Until veto session begins this fall, I am looking forward to a summer in the 18th district where I can meet with you and hear about your ideas and suggestions for future legislation.

I hope to see you at one of our fantastic farmer’s markets, community meetings, or just out and about at the beach or grocery store!