The Rauner administration is trying to privatize nursing in Illinois’ prison system, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said Wednesday.

Biss’ comments were prompted by word that the Rauner administration is outsourcing the jobs of 124 prison nurses employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections to a private company. The unionized nurses are represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, and their layoffs are effective June 15, according to a March 18 letter from the administration to the association announcing the changes.

“This appears to be nothing more than a back-door attempt to get around Illinois’ ban on privatizing prisons,” Biss said. “Gov. Rauner is offering up another failed policy that looks like it came straight out of the Trump White House.”

Illinois banned private prisons in 1990. The General Assembly declared that “the management and operation of a correctional facility or institution involves functions that are inherently governmental.” However, the privatization ban does not apply to ancillary services, such as medical care.

“Just last week, Gov. Rauner tried to insist he had the best interests of state workers at heart. This week he’s laying off 124 nurses employed by the state,” Biss said. “The only interests I think Gov. Rauner has at heart are those of his business friends who can make money off state government.”

Category: Latest

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement today regarding a House committee’s overwhelming support for creating an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools:

“Chicago’s is the only public school district in Illinois that does not have an elected school board. It’s time that we bring basic democracy to the state’s largest school district. I look forward to supporting this measure when it comes over to the Senate from the House.”

Category: Latest

VotingBoothsAn effort to bring small donor matching to Illinois elections advanced out of a key Senate committee Wednesday.

That’s good news for most Illinoisans, whose voices are drowned out by corporate interests and wealthy political donors, said Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), the sponsor of Senate Bill 1424, the Small Donor Democracy Matching System for Fair Elections Act.

“I don’t buy the argument that Illinois can’t afford to do this. Illinois can’t afford not to do this,” Biss said. “When you look at how we got into the mess we’re in today, it’s largely because of a series of poor decisions and policies that were influenced by billionaires and corporations to benefit a very few people.

“Restoring the balance of power in government would ensure average people have greater influence over the decisions that are made in Springfield and would improve our future.”

Senate Bill 1424 would establish a small donor matching system for statewide races in Illinois, including governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senators and state representatives. The system empowers average people to compete financially and ideologically with special interests and wealthy donors. It also opens up the playing field to more diverse candidates for office and offers more options at the ballot box.

Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence the money in Illinois elections by doing the following:

  • Contributions between $25 and $150 from local donors would be matched 6:1 by public funds.
  • Limits would be set on the amount of public funds available to each candidate.
  • Candidates would not be able to accept contributions of more than $500 from a single donor.

The cost of the program is estimated at $1 per Illinois resident annually, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the proposal.

“The people I represent tell me they’re tired of big-money donors drowning them out in Springfield and in Washington, and they don’t know what they can do to be heard,” Biss said. “Small donor matching amplifies ordinary voices, helps elected officials do a better job, leads to more diverse elected officials and restores the balance of power in government. It makes sense in every way.”

Category: Latest

TaxReturnCurrencyPresidential candidates would have to release five years’ worth of income tax returns before they could appear on the ballot in Illinois under a measure sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss than advanced out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 982 also would apply to candidates for vice president. Under the legislation, candidates who don’t comply at least five days before certification of the ballot for the general election would not appear on the ballot.

“Unfortunately, right now as a nation we are learning what happens when we elect a president without demanding to know more about his or her business entanglements,” said Biss, an Evanston Democrat. “This legislation would enable Illinois voters to have better information about the financial interests of presidential and vice presidential candidates so they may make the best possible decisions at the polls.”

Federal law requires presidential candidates to complete financial disclosure forms that include information about income, property, liabilities, investments and certain financial interests of family members, but candidates are not required to release tax returns. Until 2016, major-party candidates for president voluntarily had released their returns since the Ford administration in an effort to appear transparent with voters.

Biss said the goal of the legislation isn’t to determine if a candidate is qualified to run for office; the goal is to ensure voters are able to make informed decisions.

“This is not about red states or blue states. I think Democrats and Republicans alike would agree that this kind of transparency is in the public’s best interest,” Biss said.

The measure passed 9-4 in the Senate’s Executive Committee Wednesday.

Category: Latest

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