Biss05052017As the White House rolls back federal protections for student loan borrowers across the nation, the Illinois State Senate sent a clear message Wednesday that it won’t succumb to pressure from loan services and their lobbyists.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that would establish a student loan bill of rights in Illinois and help to protect students from predatory college lenders passed in the Senate Wednesday.

“The fact that the student loan industry sent high-powered lobbyists to Springfield to fight against these practical, commonsense protections for middle- and low-income families tells me that we’re on the right track with this legislation,” Biss said.

“Students are drowning in debt the second they complete their education. It can take decades to dig out from that kind of financial burden, and quite often students quickly fall behind on their payments or end up in default. This is no way to start a life, a career or a family.”

Senate Bill 1351 establishes the Student Loan Bill of Rights in Illinois to provide as much protection as possible for student borrowers, a population that frequently is targeted by bad actors in the student loan industry.

The measure would help to ensure students and their families receive clear information about the money they borrow for higher education and how their student loans are serviced. Among the protections offered in the legislation:

  • Creates a student loan ombudsman in the office of the attorney general to assist borrowers with student loans.
  • Requires student loan servicers to provide specialized employees to assist borrowers with questions about loan payments, explain repayment options and evaluate a borrower’s financial situation to determine which payment plan is appropriate.
  • Requires loan servicers to give borrowers accurate information on billing statements and properly process borrowers’ payments, and bars servicers from charging unreasonable fees.
  • Requires loan servicers to tell borrowers when and how their federal loans may be discharged due to a borrower’s disability or a problem with the school the borrower attended.
  • Requires loan servicers to provide information so cosigners know the conditions of being released from their obligations.
  • Requires servicers to follow procedures when a loan is transferred to a new servicer to ensure continuity and ensure borrowers’ payments are properly handled.
  • Ensures borrowers have the right to request information and file account disputes with their servicer and appeal any servicer determination.
  • Establishes a student loan servicing license with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to qualify, oversee and discipline services for violating the Student Loan Bill of Rights.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has investigated abuses in the student loan industry and filed a lawsuit against Navient, one of the largest student loan servicing companies in the nation. She said she supports Senate Bill 1351 because it would reform the student loan industry to better protect borrowers from rampant student loan abuses.

“My investigation revealed Navient boosted its profits by unfairly putting struggling student borrowers into plans that allowed its operators to get off the phone faster and added on millions of dollars in unnecessary debt for borrowers,” Madigan said.

“Further, U.S. Education Secretary (Betsy) DeVos has abandoned student loan borrowers and their families by revoking reforms designed to rein in the widespread abuses revealed in my investigation, making it critical to set standards at the state level for borrowers to get the proper assistance to repay their loans.”

Additional supporters of the legislation include the Woodstock Institute and Illinois PIRG.

Senate Bill 1351 passed in the Senate 34 to 15. It will move to the Illinois House for consideration.

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Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement today regarding his vote in support of House Bill 40, legislation that ensures women in Illinois continue to have access to important reproductive health care:

“Consider what we know about how President Trump sees America. We know he has objectionable views on women’s autonomy, and we know his administration has been surprisingly eager to scale back laws supporting groups of people who fought hard to earn basic civil rights in the first place.

“With Trump in the White House and a bull’s eye on Roe v. Wade, it is incumbent upon Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner to act today to protect women’s ability to access safe reproductive medical care, free of government intrusion or interference.

“We cannot allow Illinois to return to the days when women had so few options for reproductive care that they desperately resorted to back-alley quacks, poison, knitting needles, disappearing from public sight or suicide to deal with unwanted pregnancies. That’s not who we are as a state, and that’s not how women should be treated.

“I urge Gov. Rauner to keep his campaign promises to do the right thing where House Bill 40 is concerned and sign it into law immediately.”

House Bill 40 passed in the Illinois Senate 33 to 22 on Wednesday. It previously was approved in the House and will be sent to the governor for consideration.

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BissTrust665An effort to foster trust between Illinois police agencies and immigrants who live in the state passed out of the state Senate Thursday.

Local police should have to do the federal government’s job, and immigrants should not have to live in fear of local police, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said regarding Senate Bill 31, which would create the Illinois Trust Act. The measure passed in a vote of 31-21 and will move to the House for consideration.

“In these uncertain times, we should do everything we can to assure people that we want them to feel welcome and safe in their surroundings and secure in going to the police when they have information about criminal activity,” Biss said. “And we want our local police to do what they do best – to be our local police, not federal agents.”

The Illinois Trust Act is based on the premise that immigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws. The act would:

  • clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
  • prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
  • prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
  • establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.

The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.

The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor would it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid warrants.
Evanston has been a sanctuary city where all people are welcome since 2008.

“I am proud to live in a diverse community and a diverse state,” Biss said. “Voting for this measure was a no-brainer. We have to take a stand against hateful, divisive rhetoric and defend those who are too scared or weak to defend themselves.”

 

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Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement regarding the passage of automatic voter registration legislation in the Illinois Senate today:

“Today I was pleased to vote again for automatic voter registration, a system that makes sense for generations of voters who are accustomed to certain aspects of life happening automatically and with ease – from cell phone updates to grocery stores knowing our buying habits. There’s simply no reason to require people to jump through hoops to register to vote every time they move, when it just as easily can be done automatically when they update their driver’s licenses. That’s good government.”

Senate Bill 1933, which passed in the Senate in a vote of 48-0, would establish an automatic voter registration system in Illinois by July 1, 2018. Biss is a chief co-sponsor of the measure.

Under the system, qualified voters would be automatically registered to vote when they visit the Illinois secretary of state and other state agencies for services. Voters would be able to opt out of the system if they wish. A series of checks would ensure no one is registered to vote that should not be.

Illinois currently has an opt-in voter registration system in which adults who are 18 or older must find, fill out and submit a voter registration form to an appropriate government agency. Voters frequently forget to update their voter registrations when they move, change marital status or go to college, causing confusion at the polls and inaccuracies on the state’s voter rolls.

Automatically registering voters when they do business with the state enables government to do away with redundant paperwork, streamline bureaucracy and be more cost effective for taxpayers.

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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:
biss@senatedem.illinois.gov

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