052714CM0293SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) was pleased today with the Senate's passage of his legislation removing unnecessary barriers to working as an engineer or architect in Illinois.

"These professionals help build safe, high-quality infrastructure and are a key part of the highly-educated workforce that consistently attracts businesses to the state," Biss said. "Doing away with redundant requirements and unnecessary delays in the licensure process will improve our business climate and show we are a state that welcomes global talent."

Current Illinois law requires applicants for architecture, engineering and structural engineering licenses who are native speakers of languages other than English and obtained their degrees outside the United States to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Biss' legislation allows this requirement to be waived when the applicant has earned a subsequent advanced degree in the United States. Such students must pass the TOEFL in order to be admitted to U.S. graduate programs in the first place and, by successfully completing advanced courses taught in English, have already proven their English language competence. Requiring these architects and engineers to pay to retake the TOEFL or order and wait for proof of their scores presents a hardship that serves no public purpose and may cause some to accept employment elsewhere.

Biss is grateful for the support of numerous architects and engineers who currently live and work in Illinois, as well as the South Asian Research and Policy Institute, the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois, the Asian American Coalition of Chicago, the Association of Chinese American Scientists and Engineers, the Philippine Engineers and Scientists Organization and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association.

The legislation, House Bill 4535, will now go to the governor, whose office is also supportive of the measure.

Category: Press Releases

Legislation would give 2.5 million workers new retirement savings option

052114 js 0440 350SPRINGFIELD — The Secure Choice Savings Program Act, an innovative private sector retirement savings initiative sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), met with the approval of a House committee this morning.

"The need to address our looming retirement crisis is urgent; there are 2.5 million Illinois workers likely to retire into poverty because they lack access to retirement accounts through their employers," Biss said. "The good news is that this solution costs government and employers nothing and actually gives small businesses a boost by letting them compete for the best hires with larger companies that can afford retirement benefits. I'm grateful to Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie for her leadership in the House on this critical issue."

The Secure Choice Savings Program would give employees access to portable savings accounts if their employer is a business with 25 or more workers that has been in existence for at least two years and doesn't already offer retirement plans to their workers. Other businesses could participate voluntarily. Automatic withdrawals would invest three percent of workers' paychecks in their accounts each pay period, but an employee could change their contribution rate or opt out at any time. Participants would also be able to select from higher-risk and lower-risk investment options.

Neither the state nor employers would contribute to Secure Choice retirement accounts; pooling the individual accounts would simply allow for lower fees and diversified, professionally managed investments. All administrative costs would be covered by participant contributions. Businesses would not be responsible for running or funding the program, nor would they be liable for the performance of their employees' investments.

"In the 21st century economy, people increasingly change jobs and careers many times during their working lives," Biss said. "Illinois workers need a 21st century option for their retirement plans that's portable and follows them as they change jobs. Most importantly, we have a responsibility to provide this option to Illinoisans so they can save their own money and retire in dignity."

The Secure Choice Act, Senate Bill 2758, can now be considered by the full House.

Category: Press Releases

Legislation expands on law he sponsored last year applying ethics act to county board appointees

051914 js 0778SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) has secured passage of legislation that expands an ethics law he sponsored last year. That law applied state ethics requirements to individuals appointed by a county board chair or president to serve on any governmental body. The measure approved today applies these ethics rules to appointees of any member or members of a county board.

"Anything we can do to eliminate loopholes in Illinois' ethics laws improves public confidence in government," Biss said. "This legislation is one more way of ensuring that the opportunity to serve comes with the responsibility to behave ethically and honor the public trust."

The State Officials and Employees Ethics Act includes gift bans and prohibitions on the use of public time and resources for political activities.

House Bill 4208 has now passed both chambers and awaits the governor's signature.

Category: Press Releases

Measure would create a procedure for units of government to consolidate, save money

051914 js 0359SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) successfully asked his Senate colleagues today to approve a new procedure allowing units of local government to consolidate, potentially providing services more efficiently and saving tax dollars.

"Current law allows for the creation of street light districts, cemetery maintenance districts and other taxing bodies, but no way to combine them, even when their own governing boards believe consolidation would provide better value to residents," said Biss, who has championed local government efficiency measures in the past. "The aim of this legislation is to remove barriers to consolidation while allowing these decisions to be made locally and openly."

House Bill 5785 would allow 13 types of local government bodies, from county historical museum districts to tuberculosis sanitarium districts, to consolidate with adjacent districts or be annexed by a city or county. A majority of the members of the governing board or authority of each governmental unit involved would have to vote in favor of the change during a public meeting. Employees of the district being consolidated or annexed would be transferred to the new authority and would retain all labor and contractual rights.

"No state has more taxing bodies than Illinois," Biss said. "If government units themselves believe their independent existence is unnecessary and that the taxpayers would be better served by a more efficient arrangement, the state legislature certainly shouldn't stand in the way."

The House of Representatives has already approved the legislation, but HB 5785 must return to the House for one more vote before going to the governor's desk because the Senate added a minor amendment.

Category: Press Releases

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