Measure initiating move toward public access to scholarship advances to governor

biss0516SPRINGFIELD —Legislation that State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) sponsored to work toward making state universities' taxpayer-funded research available to the public passed the House today by a vote of 98-16. Senate Bill 1900, which will require each public university to convene an open access task force, now awaits the governor's signature.

The task forces will study other institutions' experiences with open access and issue recommendations as to how each school can make more of its researchers' work available to the public at no cost.

"I would like Illinois' institutions of higher education to join the worldwide movement toward making scholarly articles available to all interested people instead of walling them off from the public in prohibitively expensive journals," Biss said. "The best way to accomplish this will be to let the universities study the issue and devise policies that will work for them."

Some open access policies require faculty members to submit articles accepted for publication to an online repository that members of the public can access for free. Others strongly encourage faculty to participate but allow them to opt out if a journal publishing their work refuses to allow the article to be made freely available. With state universities constrained by tight budgets seeking to limit expenses such as journal subscriptions, open access policies could benefit students and faculty as well as members of the general public.

Category: Press Releases

Insurance companies must honor a request to send claims info to a different address

biss0515SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) secured passage today of legislation requiring health insurance companies to accommodate any reasonable request to keep a covered individual's health information confidential when disclosure could endanger the person.

"When people threatened by domestic violence are covered by their abusers' health insurance, they are vulnerable whenever they obtain medical care," Biss said. "It's my hope that this legislation will remove barriers keeping people in abusive situations from seeking treatment."

House Bill 3300 requires an insurance company, upon request, to protect an endangered patient's privacy by sending claims-related information to a different address or by alternative means. It also prohibits the insurance company from disclosing medical or personal information to the policyholder when a request has been made. The company can require the insured person to state in writing that disclosure could threaten his or her safety or that of a dependent child.

The measure was approved by both chambers without opposition and now awaits the governor's signature.

Category: Press Releases

State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) speaks in support of Senate Joint Resolution 32 during floor debate Tuesday at the Capitol.SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement on the Senate's approval today of a resolution, which he co-sponsored, to create the Advisory Committee on Education Funding:

"Illinois' education funding system is inequitable, outdated and broken. A panel recommends a per-pupil minimum spending level, which the legislature has ignored since 1997, instead setting a level that now lags behind the recommendation by more than 25 percent. Supplemental grants assist high-poverty districts but benefit low-income students to different degrees depending on where they live. 'Hold harmless' provisions and a separate formula for tax-capped districts complicate matters, producing winners and losers.

"Most distressingly, this byzantine system is then subjected to a blunt 11 percent cut across the board, because Illinois can no longer afford to fully fund even this inadequate formula. The funding process is so absurdly illogical that we might as well be sending school districts completely random amounts of money.

"Two-thirds of Illinois school districts engaged in deficit spending this year. At the heart of the problem is our schools' heavy reliance on local property taxes; our constitution gives the state primary responsibility for financing public education, but Illinois is last in the nation in the percentage of funding schools actually receive from the state.

"We all benefit when children have access to a high-quality, adequately funded public education, no matter where they live. Illinois' arcane funding mechanism is no stranger to criticism, but for decades lawmakers have preferred minor tweaks to bold reforms. I am optimistic that armed with the latest research and recommendations from this committee and moved by the urgency of the times, we will finally enact a more equitable system that reflects the value Illinoisans place on education."

The legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 32, will next be considered by the House.

Category: Press Releases

Establishes goal of integrated employment at competitive wages for those with disabilities

biss75x75SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Employment First Act, sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), passed the Senate today by a vote of 54-0 and now awaits the governor's signature. When state agencies help people with disabilities find employment, the measure would require them to first consider positions that offer competitive wages and the opportunity to work in an integrated setting alongside non-disabled employees.

"Illinois residents with disabilities have much to contribute to our workforce. It's important to align the state's policies with the values of inclusion and fair pay," Biss said. "The Employment First Act is a necessary part of making sure our laws maximize the opportunities people with disabilities have to live with dignity."

In Illinois, only 34.3 percent of adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 are employed. While 12.6 percent of adults without disabilities have incomes below the poverty line, 26.9 percent of adults with disabilities live in poverty.

If the Employment First Act (House Bill 2591) becomes law, a task force will collect data on job opportunities for workers with disabilities and establish measurable objectives for the state as it moves toward the goal of integrated, competitive employment for all.

Category: Press Releases

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