SKOKIE — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), State Representative Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) will host a discussion of pressing environmental issues facing Illinois, including fracking, climate change, renewable energy and coal.

  • WHO: Sen. Biss, Rep. Fine and Rep. Gabel joined by representatives of the Illinois Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • WHAT: Environmental Forum
  • WHEN: 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13
  • WHERE: Lakeview Room, Glenview Park Center,  2400 Chestnut Ave., Glenview
Category: Latest

Legislators consider restrictions on police use of electronic location data

SmartphoneThis morning in the Senate Criminal Law Committee, I presented legislation that would limit the circumstances under which law enforcement may use electronic location surveillance, including GPS tracking information from cell phones, in criminal investigations.

From our phones to the GPS systems built into many of our cars, the devices we use every day can reveal a surprising amount of detailed information most of us believe should stay private. Location data can establish not just where you are right now, but your habits, your hobbies, groups you spend time with, items you probably purchase and your daily routine. I’m excited about this legislation, which I first introduced last year and have been working to improve since then, because I think it effectively balances legitimate law enforcement needs with the basic, constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches.

Senate Bill 2808 would allow a law enforcement agency to obtain a tracking order — similar to a search warrant — if officers can convince a judge they have probable cause to believe obtaining current or future location information from an individual’s electronic device is needed to solve or prevent a crime. In the absence of a tracking order, information collected through electronic surveillance would be inadmissible in court. The legislation contains exceptions for emergencies, such as responding to a 911 call or locating a missing person believed to be in danger. It also clarifies that police and prosecutors may make use of information already available to the public, such as locations posted on social media.

In 2012, a Congressional report revealed the staggering statistic that in the past year, cell phone carriers had responded to 1.3 million requests from law enforcement agencies for customer information. Currently, there are few limits — either state or federal — on when law enforcement agencies can make these requests, what they can do with the information, how they must store it, etc. But while the technology is new, the principle isn’t: a free society needs to put strict limits on the government’s collection of information about citizens’ private lives.

Now that members of the Criminal Law Committee have approved the bill, it can go to the full Senate for a vote. Check back for updates on SB 2808 and other legislation you read about here.

Category: Latest

securechoice020514There are 2.5 million workers in Illinois with no access to any retirement plan through their employer. Without any convenient method to save for retirement, these workers will be overwhelmingly reliant on Social Security. In fact, Social Security provides 90 percent of the income of one-third of Illinois retirees, even though it was never intended to be a sole source for retirement income.

In short, we face a looming retirement security crisis.President Obama announced in his State of the Union address this year the creation of the MyRA program – an opportunity for workers to enroll in government-backed savings accounts through their employers. This is an encouraging step, but without congressional approval, the president cannot go as far as is needed to address this crisis. That's why we need to pass the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program (Senate Bill 2758).

The program automatically enrolls workers without access to employer-based retirement plans with a 3 percent deduction from each paycheck. Employees can increase or decrease their contribution, or they can opt out altogether. This flexibility allows all workers to participate in the way that makes the most sense for them.
 
Assets from individual accounts are pooled and professionally managed, resulting in low fees and competitive investment performance without requiring workers to make complex investment decisions on their own. Accounts are portable, so participants continue to accrue benefits even as they change jobs.
 
Finally, the program doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. Only employees can contribute to their accounts, so employers aren't on the hook to fund the program either. The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program is the only proposed solution to our looming retirement crisis that doesn’t burden government or business.
 
We must take action to head off our looming retirement crisis, and luckily the Secure Choice program is a low cost, simple tool that provides workers with the security they deserve and the flexibility they need. We should pass it immediately and give all Illinoisans the tools they need to save for a secure future.

Category: Latest

biss020414Illinois’ education funding system is so broken that the state is now sending school districts nearly random amounts of money. For the last three years, aid to schools has been prorated across the board, which is among the least thoughtful and most regressive ways of dealing with a budget shortfall.

Recently, the Education Funding Advisory Committee released what I believe is a very important and encouraging report. You can read it here. I’m thankful to the members of the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee for spending the last six months thinking through some of the most complex questions we face and listening to those who directly experience the effects of haphazard state aid.

The committee has made a number of recommendations designed to repair the funding mechanism. They include: 

  • Creating a single funding formula through which 96 percent of state K-12 education dollars would flow
  • Giving additional weight in the formula to high-need students (socioeconomically at-risk, English language learners and students with special education needs)
  • Requiring greater transparency from school districts about how state funds are spent, not just at the district level but in each individual school building
  • Reforming the “PTELL adjustment” used for tax-capped districts so we do a better job accounting for each school district’s true ability to pay for education using local resources

 

I’m very encouraged by the committee’s recommendations. Rolling most types of state K-12 funding into a single formula is the best way to give local school districts the resources they need. Changing the formula that distributes money to school districts will never be painless or easy. But the committee’s recommendations are a firm step in the right direction, and I’m excited about supporting and assisting the committee this spring as we work toward a formula that does what it was intended to do.

Finally, any formula is pointless unless we fully fund it. Once we come up with a formula we believe in, we must devote enough state dollars to make it work. Adequate state funding for education must be a primary consideration as we address the state’s budget and tax structure.

Please be in touch with me with feedback about these proposals and your thoughts on education funding. I can be reached in my office at (847) 568-1250 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Category: Latest

Contact Me

District office:
3706 Dempster St.
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 568-1250
(847) 568-1256 FAX

Springfield office:
417B Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-2119

Email:
senatorbiss@gmail.com

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