Dear friend,

 

Yesterday, I joined 15 other members of the Illinois General Assembly to call for ethics reform measures in light of the numerous, ongoing federal investigations involving bribery, influence peddling and insider trading impacting state government officials and lobbyists.

 

Illinois is facing monumental challenges – from the coronavirus and its economic impact, to the history of racial inequalities in our society, to the impact the state’s huge revenue loss will have on vulnerable residents. Our government will not be able to effectively meet all of these challenges without the confidence and trust of the people we represent. Unfortunately, trust in Springfield has been shaken given the charges and resignations involving a number of our colleagues.

 

To restore the public’s faith in state government, we are announcing nine specific ethics reform measures that we believe could receive bipartisan support in the upcoming veto session. These proposals would dramatically increase transparency and take meaningful strides toward restoring public trust in state government at a time when government action has never been more crucial to overcome the hardships and dangers we’re facing as a state and as a society. These nine measures seek to address three broad areas.

 

Lobbying Reform

 

  1. Prohibit legislator-lobbyists. We would prohibit any sitting legislator from simultaneously lobbying other units of government, including city, county or federal entities. This ban should apply to lobbying elected officials; performing legal or regulatory work should still be allowed.
  2. Stop the legislator-lobbyist revolving door. We would establish at least a one-year prohibition on legislators and senior management within each caucus (those who file statements of economic interest) leaving their offices and immediately going to work as lobbyists.
  3. Better define who is a lobbyist. We urge the Joint Commission to consider changing the current definition of what constitutes a lobbyist to cover additional individuals or consulting firms. Consultants and lawyers should not be able to use loopholes to perform lobbying and skirt registration as a lobbyist.

 

Legislative Reform

 

  1. Ensure better disclosure of outside income. We would expand current requirements for legislators to disclose the sources and amounts of their outside income and increase penalties for those who refuse to comply in full. This must be done in a way that protects confidentiality rules of professional conduct, and avoids disproportionately impacting legislators and candidates who are not independently wealthy.
  2. Initiate an official censure. We would establish a process to officially censure a legislator who has violated ethics laws, similar to that which is practiced in the United States Congress.
  3. Strengthen the Legislative Inspector General. We encourage changes to the Legislative Inspector General’s Office to increase its independence, such as allowing the LIG to self-initiate investigations and making it an independent agency for the purposes of budgets and hiring.
  4. End exemption from Human Rights Act. We would remove the current exemption of legislators’ direct employees from the state’s Human Rights Act, so those employees receive the same protections afforded to other employees.

Leadership Reform

  1. Establish term limits for legislative leaders. We would establish term limits for the period that legislators can serve in leadership positions, including the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House and the President and Minority Leader of the Senate.
  2. Establish a process for removal of legislative leaders and committee chairs. We urge creation of a policy calling for the temporary removal of a legislative leader or committee chair during any criminal investigation relevant to job duties involving that member or an actual charge/indictment. The individual can be reinstated upon completion of said investigation or upon their acquittal.

 

These nine steps without a doubt will bring a greater level of transparency to the business that is done in Springfield, and it is important that legislators work together to get them passed. Enacting meaningful ethics reform has been elusive and, given the magnitude of the ongoing investigations, it is imperative that we act in the upcoming veto session.

 

Mechanisms exist to begin making these changes. The Illinois House and Senate last year voted to empanel a Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, to whom we are submitting these nine proposals for ethics reform. The Commission was charged with holding hearings and issuing a report and recommendations by March 31, 2020. Although hearings began early this year, the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the commission’s work and final report. We understand the Commission is continuing its work and appreciate their consideration of these proposals.

 

For our full statement on our proposals, you can view an explainer at my website, [here]. I will keep you up to date on any developments as they occur. Springfield must work for the citizens of Illinois. It is past time for a change.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

Dear friend,

 

I’m proud to partner with 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, State Representative Kelly Cassidy, and Care for Real to host a school supply drive for the 48th Ward this Tuesday, Aug. 4.

 

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., we will be collecting supplies in the parking lot of St. Ita Catholic Church at 5500 N. Broadway. This drive is for one day only, with low-contact social distancing guidelines for your safety.

 

Donated supplies will go directly to Care for Real, whose team will sort and pack them into kits for distribution to local families. I encourage you to help out local families as they prepare for the new school year.

 

Suggested items for donation include:

- Pencils and pens

- Pencil sharpeners

- Erasers

- Spiral and composition notebooks

- Crayons, markers, scissors, glue, and other arts & crafts supplies

- Pocket folders

- Calculators

- Headphones with microphones

- Hand sanitizer

- Washable, reusable masks

- Backpacks

 

I hope you’ll donate and help a family start the school year! You can follow this event on Facebook here.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

flyer

Dear friend,

 

As we prepare to receive our 2019 property tax bills from Cook County, there are a few things to remember. It’s likely many homeowners will be looking at an increase over their 2018 bill. I’ve outlined a few important things to remember as you prepare to settle your property tax bill in anticipation of the Aug. 3 deadline.

 

While the due date for tax bills is Aug. 3, homeowners can settle their tax bills as late as Oct. 1 without incurring penalties. Be aware, however, that failing to pay by Oct. 1 could result in your property being subject to a tax sale. You should be receiving your 2019 final installment tax bill in the mail this week. Remember that Cook County collects your 2019 taxes a year later in 2020.

 

At this time, you can't appeal your assessment, but you can review the bill for correctness and then pay the amount owed. If you believe you may not have received all the proper exemptions to which you are entitled, the first thing you should do is check to the exemptions at the bottom left part of the second installment tax bill.

 

The key exemptions are:

  • Homeowner. You own the property and live there;
  • Senior Homeowner. You own the property, live there and one of the owners is 65 years or older; and
  • Senior Freeze. You own the property, live there, one of the owners was born in 1954 or before, your 2018 household income was $65,000 or less, and you have filed a verified Senior Freeze application.

 

If any of these exemptions are missing or if you see another error on your tax bill, do one of the following before paying the bill:

  • You can call the office of your county commissioner. 13th District Commissioner Larry Suffredin can be reached at 847-864-1209 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to discuss how to correct the bill. 10th District Commissioner Bridget Gainer can be reached at 312-603-4210 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • If you live in New Trier Township, contact New Trier Township Assessor Jan Churchwell (847-446-8202 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
  • If you live in Niles Township, contact Niles Township Assessor Scott Bagnall (847-673-9300 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

Once you are satisfied that your exemptions are correct, you can safely pay your bill to the Cook County Treasurer in one of the following ways:

  • Mail a check using the envelope provided
  • Pay online at cookcountytreasurer.com
  • Pay at any Chase Bank location

 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions about your property tax bill. You can contact my office via email here.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

Dear friend,

Building a budget this year posed significant challenges. In the face of significant unknowns, including uncertainty about additional federal assistance for states, the outcome of the fair tax in November, and how the economy will rebound as Illinois reopens, the legislature opted for a preservation budget. As a lead budget negotiator for the state Senate, I shared the aim of protecting the state services that we need now more than ever in the face of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

 

If signed into law by the governor, the budget will provide additional support for families and small businesses that are struggling, helps seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes at a time when that’s never been more important, increases resources to protect abused and neglected children, and provides more than $600 million in funding for businesses that have done the right thing and closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

This budget ensures construction projects continue. It preserves funding for P-12 education and the essential services that help provide food and shelter to the elderly, children, and people suffering during the outbreak.

 

Importantly, it makes our full required pension payment for the eighth year in a row.

 

This was done in a way that balances the incredible, unprecedented needs of our time with the strains on revenue that come with them. COVID-19 has devastated the budgets of families and businesses, and it has also devastated the budget of the state. For that reason, this budget makes significant cuts from the governor’s original plan, reducing it by nearly $1 billion.

 

What we have sought to do at every level is ensure that those cuts are not going to be felt by the people who can afford them the least or the institutions whose help they need right now. Read on to learn more about some of the specifics of the budget.

 

Sincerely,


Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Illinois Senate District

 

Highlights of the budget

 

Governor’s proposed FY21 Budget

 

Enacted FY21 Budget

Estimated Revenue

   Income Tax

   Sales Tax

   Other Sources

   Federal Sources

   Revenue and Bonds

$42.131 billion

   $22.615 billion

   $9.038 billion

   $5.392 billion

   $3.651 billion

   $1.435 billion

 

Total Estimated Revenue

   Income Tax

   Sales Tax

   Other Sources

   Federal Sources

   Borrowing

$43.070 billion

   $20.5 billion

   $7.5 billion

   $5.2 billion

   $3.6 billion

   $6.3 billion

Proposed net spending

$42.049 billion

 

Proposed net spending

$41.309 billion

    Non-discretionary spending

$21.000 billion

 

    Non-discretionary spending

$21.051 billion

    Discretionary spending

$22.030 billion

 

    Discretionary spending

$21.255 billion

Surplus

$82 million

 

Surplus

$113 million

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Included in the budget this year:

  • $8.9 billion for P-12 education, an increase of $12.7 million when compared to what was enacted in FY 20, including an increase of $6.77 million to evidence-based funding to ensure all schools’ funds are level and an additional $11 million over the previous year for mandated categoricals, including level funding for transportation.
  • Level funding for early childhood education.
  • Level funding for higher education.
  • An increase over FY 20 of $43 million to public safety agencies, including increases to violence prevention and reduction programs, two new classes of State Police cadets, and 280 additional staff and equipment, commodities, and supplies to improve operations at the Illinois Veterans’ Home at Chicago.
  • A $438 million increase to human services, with funding that includes:
    • Increases to the Community Care Program and similar home care services like Home Delivered Meals, Adult Protective Services, Senior HelpLine and area agencies on aging.
    • $299.5 million increase to DHS to cover Rehab Services, Mental Health Division, Developmental Disabilities Division, substance abuse prevention, and Child Care Assistance, among others.
    • $178.5 million increase to DCFS to hire 123 additional direct service staff, with the goal of improving the state’s caseload ratios. Includes step pay for union employees.
  • $19.1 million increase to the Dept. of Public Health, as well as $600 million in new federal funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $447.4 million increase of state funding and a $780 million increase in federal funding to HFS, covering increased Medicaid liability.
  • Most state agencies will remain at or very near level funding compared to the previous year. Overall, a total of about $1 billion in cuts to the governor’s original proposed FY 21 budget are reflected in the final plan passed by the General Assembly.

 

Using federal funding from the CARES/CURES Act

An important component of the budget has been the use of federal CARES Act funding for everything from health care and contact tracing to business assistance.

 

Included is $1.5 billion in funds to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to respond to the pandemic, nearly $400 million in rental and mortgage assistance grants, and $636 million in grants to businesses that have experienced interruptions because they are doing their part to keep the community safe.

 

Here is a complete rundown of the areas where we are using that funding:

 

CURES Funding to DCEO for grants to local governments

$250,000,000

CURES Funding to IEMA spent at the direction of the governor

$1,500,000,000

   Personal Protective Equipment at IEMA

$700,000,000

   Testing and Contact Tracing at IEMA

$600,000,000

   Pandemic costs at DHS

$100,000,000

   Health and safety measures at IDOC

$100,000,000

Business Interruption Grants at DCEO

$316,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$159,000,000

    to livestock management facilities

$5,000,000

   Statewide

$157,000,000

Business Interruption Grants at DCEO for day care providers

$235,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$70,000,000

   Statewide

$165,000,000

Business Interruption Grants at DCEO for underserved communities

$60,000,000

Business Interruption Grants for daycare/childcare in underserved communities

$25,000,000

Illinois Housing Development Authority Grants for rent/mortgage assistance

$296,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$79,000,000

   Statewide

$217,000,000

Illinois Housing Development Authority Grants for rent/mortgage assistance for underserved communities

$100,000,000

DHS to fund mental health, substance abuse

$30,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$10,000,000

DHS for Welcoming Centers to assist COVID impacted families

$32,000,000

HFS for long-term care (excluding Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities)

$385,400,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$129,182,000

   Statewide

$256,218,000

HFS for long-term care (excluding SMHRF's) in underserved communities

$50,000,000

HFS for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

$150,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$50,000,000

   Statewide

$100,000,000

HFS for FQHC's in underserved communities

$40,000,000

HFS for ambulance providers, and medical assistance providers

$190,000,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$63,333,300

   Statewide

$126,666,700

HFS for SMHRF's

$14,600,000

   for counties outside of Cook and the Collars

$4,818,000

Total

$3,674,000,000

 

Borrowing

This budget relies on $5 billion in federal borrowing, a tactic the state has faced criticism for resorting to in the past. I nonetheless stand behind this decision as we look forward to a year where our state will be reeling from historically unprecedented hardship. It is true that borrowing now costs money later. We have also seen, very recently, what happens when the state simply allows its obligations to languish unfunded.

 

Indolence on the part of our previous governor saw day care centers shutting their doors, university programs cut to the bone or discontinued entirely, and widespread layoffs of personnel we needed in 2016 and 2017. In the year to come, with more need than ever and a public health crisis that demands the state of Illinois move quickly and decisively in the interest of saving lives, we cannot let the same thing happen.

 

The budget awaits the governor's signature. If you have further questions or concerns about the budget, you will have an opportunity to let me know and hear my answers this coming Monday, June 8, as I join State Reps. Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy on a virtual town hall event to address the budget and other major items that came out of Springfield last month. You can submit your questions here and join us Monday, June 8 at 7 p.m. to watch us answer questions at this link.

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