Welcome to my website. I hope to make this site a very interactive tool that allows you, as a constituent, to communicate with me, stay updated on legislation and happenings in Springfield and find resources in our district. Using this site, you can join my email list, read my e-mail updates online, see the latest legislative news, view upcoming neighborhood events and contact me.
I welcome any questions, concerns or suggestions you may have. Please feel free to call my district office at (773) 769-1717 or email your question here. My district office is located at 5533 N. Broadway near Broadway and Bryn Mawr. We are typically open from 9am to 5pm, but please call to make an appointment.
Heather SteansState Senator, 7th District
May 24, 2016
What happens in Springfield affects you and your community, but especially at the end of the spring legislative session, following the action and separating rumors from fact can be difficult.
Representative Kelly Cassidy and I will host a virtual town hall this Thursday to provide you with a live update from the Capitol. Submit your questions prior to the event, and we'll answer as many as we can and email you with a response if we run out of time. Scroll down for details on how to join us on Thursday.
While work continues on a comprehensive budget, Illinoisans still don't know where the governor stands on desperately needed stopgap funding for human services providers, many of which are on the verge of running out of money and closing their doors. From Southern Illinois to the Sun-Times, pressure is building on Gov. Rauner to sign SB 2038 and provide immediate relief to the state's most vulnerable and those who are meeting their daily needs even as the state fails to meet its contractual obligations.
From the editorial board of The Southern Illinoisan: "We urge the governor to sign SB2038 ... Because all 167 'yay' votes in the General Assembly realize that the $700 million contains zero dollars from the state's General Revenue Fund. That's correct: the out-of-balance state revenue and expense picture is in no way impacted by this bill. It's money that MUST be spent on human services. $450 million comes from a dedicated 'Commitment to Human Services Fund' while the remaining $250 million comes from other state and federal (pass-through) funds. Ironic that the Governor is hesitant to release money from a 'Commitment to Human Services' fund, don't you think? Perhaps a commitment to 'winning' has clouded his sight."
And from the Sun-Times' Mitch Dudek: "Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sunday dodged the question of whether he will sign a bill on his desk that provides $700 million in emergency funding for groups that provide social services to the state's most vulnerable residents. 'These short-term fixes aren't really where we should focus our time,' he said, characterizing the legislation as a 'short-term Band-Aid...'"
You can add your voice by calling the governor's office at (312) 814-2121 or submitting your comments electronically here.
Sincerely,Senator Heather Steans7th District – Illinois
Join us for a virtual town hall live from Springfield!
Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Kelly Cassidy
Virtual Town Hall - click HERE to participate
6 p.m. on Thurs., May 26
Submit questions prior to the event by clicking HERE
5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640
773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)
122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706
SPRINGFIELD – The House and Senate sent Governor Rauner a stopgap budget today that will offer relief to many social services providers struggling to stay afloat during the funding impasse, which has now entered its eleventh month.
“While this is still not a complete budget, it is the latest bipartisan step in the direction of full funding for essential state services, and I am encouraged by the conversations that have taken place across the aisle and between the House and Senate to make this happen,” said State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th), who presented the legislation in the Senate. “My priority remains keeping services available for Illinois’ most vulnerable residents while continuing to work on balanced and responsible budgets for the current year and the coming year.”
Senate Bill 2038 releases $715 million from the Commitment to Human Services Fund and a number of smaller funds in order to pay for community mental health care, homelessness assistance, sexual assault victims’ services, services for people with disabilities, meals for low-income seniors, addiction treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings and more.
It will take effect if signed by the governor.
Senate votes to decriminalize marijuana possession
Steans’ legislation makes possessing small amounts punishable by a civil fine
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) secured Senate passage today of legislation that decriminalizes the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis, instead making it a civil violation statewide while still giving local governments discretion to impose additional fines or drug treatment requirements.
“The criminal prosecution of marijuana possession has become a festering site of inequity in Illinois, and we believe there’s a better way,” Steans said. “Although substantially the same percentage of African-American and white individuals use marijuana, black Illinoisans are arrested for cannabis possession at seven times the rate of white residents. Making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil rather than a criminal offense will free up law enforcement resources and allow us to focus on offering drug treatment alternatives rather than disproportionately arresting and incarcerating people who already face disadvantages.”
The legislation, which incorporates changes the governor requested when a similar measure passed last year, also realigns standards used to determine whether a driver is under the influence of cannabis. Because THC, the compound in marijuana that produces its characteristic “high,” can remain in a person’s bloodstream long after he or she is no longer impaired, there is a need to redefine the threshold in order to ensure that drivers are being tested for their current level of impairment rather than their past usage. The new standard would mirror the current law regarding blood alcohol levels.
Currently, possession of up to 2.5 grams of cannabis is a Class C misdemeanor, while possession of between 2.5 and 10 grams of the substance is considered a Class B misdemeanor. Almost 50,000 Illinoisans are arrested for cannabis possession each year. Under Steans’ proposal, possession of up to 10 grams would be a civil violation punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200. The state’s local governments, more than 100 of which have already passed ordinances removing at least some criminal penalties for cannabis possession, would be able to assess additional fines and conditions, such as a requirement that the violator enter a drug treatment program, but could not impose criminal penalties. Records of cannabis-related civil violations would be automatically expunged each year.
Senate Bill 2228 passed the Senate by a vote of 40-14 and now goes to the House for consideration.
February 23, 2016
While we are now 8 months without a budget for our current fiscal year (FY16), the governor gave his budget address last Wednesday to present his proposed FY17 budget. Following my brief overview and comments is a table comparing the FY15 budget, the FY16 estimated budget and the governor's proposed FY17 budget. You can review the budget in detail here.
The governor's proposed budget has a $3.5 billion budget deficit he proposes to close by following one of two paths:
1. Working with the General Assembly to increase revenues after enacting items in his "turnaround agenda," such as additional workers' compensation reforms, pension reforms and limits on collective bargaining
2. Asking the General Assembly to give him power in FY16 and FY17 to reduce spending by
• Forcing reductions in spending from any fund except debt service, K-12 general state aid and funds for early childhood education; reductions to pension payments would be allowed• Transferring any amount from any fund to the general fund (excluding federal funds, debt service funds, pension funds and the road fund)• Eliminating or reducing transfers to local governments and other statutory transfers• Lowering rates paid to providers• Adjusting human services program eligibility and provider rates
In addition to being out of balance, there are a number of other potential concerns with the proposed budget:
1. While the Governor suggests fully funding P-12 education, his plan does not fix the state's broken education funding formula. Thus, poor areas of the state will continue to fall further behind.
2. On top of the $3.5 billion deficit, the budget assumes savings that will require legislative action, such as pension reforms, changes to health insurance for state employees and revisions to the procurement process.
3. The budget eliminates 15 human services programs that were funded at $53 million in FY15 and replaces them with a single lump sum of $25 million. Programs cut include homeless prevention, addiction prevention, the Autism Program, Teen Reach after school programs and immigrant and refugee services.
As noted in a Crain's Chicago Business editorial, this budget proposal "was a bit like watching a dog chase its tail. Gov. Bruce Rauner went through the motions, again insisting his turnaround agenda priorities are key to fixing Illinois' fiscal problems despite scant evidence to support this claim. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, immediately rejected Rauner's call to pass his budget or allow him to make the cuts he deems necessary to put spending in balance."
The budget impasse is horrible for the state. Real people are getting hurt by this inaction. Universities are in danger of closing or losing accreditation. Students who may not receive state scholarships are unable to return to school. Seniors can no longer receive care in their homes. And social service agencies throughout the state are closing programs and laying off staff with devastating impact to people they serve.
We can and should work with the governor on his turnaround agenda issues and more, but as critical social services shut down on a near-daily basis and higher education flounders, my focus is a budget for Illinois. I'm working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to get to a solution as soon as possible - on the budget and reforms - and I am convinced there is a path forward that is positive for residents, workers and businesses throughout the state. While the Senate President has been looking for areas of agreement to end the impasse, we need all our leaders to put the concerns of the public first.
Please also see below for two informative events - one on property tax appeals and the other on financial literacy - taking place tonight in the 7th District. As always, I encourage you to contact me with any questions by calling my office at (773) 769-1717 or through my website.
District Office 5533 N. Broadway Chicago, IL 60640 Office: 773-769-1717 Fax: 773-769-6901
Springfield Office 623 Capitol Building 301 S. Second St. Springfield, IL 62706 Office: 217-782-8492