- Published: Monday, January 09, 2017 10:12 AM
Our nation is emerging from a year of anger and preparing for a time of tremendous uncertainty. The presidential inauguration is just two weeks away, leaving many of us fearful of the consequences for civil rights, civil liberties, economic fairness and ethics in government.
This transition might have a significant spillover effect on state government, as the threatened reckless repeal of the Affordable Care Act would take away Medicaid coverage from many hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans, while additional proposed vicious changes to federal programs would further leave our residents in the lurch.
These terrible possibilities of course exist against a backdrop of a broken state government, one that now exists without any kind of budget at all, after stumbling through the previous six months with an irresponsible stopgap funding plan that, while better than nothing, did not provide stability or address our long-term problem.
In other words, Illinois politicians have failed us, and federal politicians are threatening to do the same.
In a situation like this, we have a choice to make. We must surely resist policies that would erode progress already made and freedoms already achieved. We have to fight to make Illinois a welcoming state for immigrants and refugees, for people of color and the LGBT community.
We cannot allow our achievements on health care and retirement security to slip away because of poor decisions made either on the federal or the state level.
Some would say that this is enough, that all we have to do is to stop bad things from happening.
They are wrong. It is never enough just to say no.
In a time like this, a time of fear and frustration, a time of justified anger and cynicism about the ability of government to accomplish really anything at all, we have a responsibility to transcend the dark mood and break out of the cramped false choices and unimaginative debates that have gotten us nowhere. We need to lay out a vision that shows we can fix our budget while providing services people need, like affordable college and child care – and that the best way to grow our economy is by raising wages and empowering workers, not racing to the bottom.
We've grown so used to a certain set of tired debates that this vision of what government can and must do can seem jarring, even silly, at first. But the alternative is to repeat the nightmare of the last two years, with an even worse result.
My resolution for 2017 is to operate not inside the dysfunctional box Springfield insiders have built for themselves but instead in the inspiring world of options that exist when we cast away political calculations and instead allow values and facts to guide us.
My promise is to think big on behalf of our community and our state, and to use my platform to start the conversation we need to be having, instead of adding one more discordant voice to a discussion that shouldn't be happening in the first place.
We've grown expert at saying no, and our state has barely lived to tell the tale. In 2017, let us all vow to create something that moves us to say yes.
I hope you will join me for an upcoming town hall meeting in Evanston to discuss this and many other topics. Read below for more details, and help me spread the word to others who feel compelled to act.
Let's talk: Join me for a town hall meeting Jan. 17
Please join me this month for a special town hall meeting where I'll provide an update about recent developments in Springfield and offer advice for how to stand up for principles that are under attack.
The discussion begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St. in Evanston.
I’ll update guests about recent developments in Springfield and explain my legislative agenda for this spring. We'll discuss potential paths out of Illinois’ terrible budget stalemate.
We’ll also discuss opportunities to advocate with the governor about the direction the state ought to go and what we must prioritize. And we’ll send you home with contact information for a variety of elected officials and newspaper opinion editors so that you can express yourself anytime you wish.
Finally, you’ll be able to connect with other members of our community who share some of the same concerns and want to be engaged during this important period for state and national government.
The event is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there.
What: Town hall meeting with Senator Daniel Biss
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17
Where: Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., Evanston
New year, new laws
Medical patients in Illinois – and particularly women – will be better informed about their treatment options because of an update to the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience law.
The law allows medical providers to refuse certain medical treatments based on religious objections. Until now, Illinois’ law had been among the broadest in the nation and failed to adequately protect patients’ rights to information about their medical condition and treatment options. This law restores some balance to the patient-doctor relationship.
The other new law gives police better guidance about the use of cell site simulators – or stingrays – for surveillance and the responsible collection and storage of cellular data.
Stingrays act as cell phone towers and trick phones in a particular area into thinking they are connecting to a phone tower operated by a service provider. Police can use the fake tower to determine someone’s location, the serial number of phones in the area and more. In addition to collecting data on targeted individuals, police can collect data on dozens or hundreds of other innocent people in the process as well.
It is important that Illinois takes steps to allow police to effectively investigate and solve crimes using the latest technology, but it is equally important that we protect innocent people from unnecessary and unwarranted invasions of their privacy.