Measure would amplify ordinary people’s voice in government

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Daniel Biss’ measure to bring small donor matching to Illinois to ensure government better reflects the people it serves advanced out of the Illinois Senate Tuesday.

“Everyone who is frustrated today by the influence that corporations and billionaires wield over politicians and the policy decisions they make should support the concept of small donor matching,” said Biss, an Evanston Democrat.

“This is one way we can restore the balance of power in government and ensure that average people – those who represent Main Street America and middle-class values, not Wall Street and the corporate class – have greater influence over the decisions that are made in Springfield and elsewhere.”

Senate Bill 1424 would establish a small donor matching system for statewide races in Illinois, including governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, state senators and state representatives. The system empowers ordinary people to compete financially and ideologically with special interests and wealthy donors. It also opens up the playing field to more diverse candidates for office and leads to more options at the ballot box.

Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence of money in Illinois elections by doing the following:

  • Contributions between $25 and $150 from local donors would be matched 6:1 by public funds.
  • Limits would be set on the amount of public funds available to each candidate.
  • Candidates would not be able to accept contributions of more than $500 from a single donor.

Under the legislation, the General Assembly could appropriate money to a special fund in the state treasury. The funds would be either $1 per Illinois resident or 1/20th of 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, whichever is greater.

“It’s time for Illinois to step up to the plate and implement this important reform, which would ensure that the voices of local donors are amplified in Illinois elections,” said David Melton, senior advisor to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the legislation. “Everyone should have an opportunity to run for office and participate in the political process.”

Proponents from Common Cause Illinois said fair-election initiatives like small donor matching are gaining momentum all over the country. Such efforts are borne of people’s frustration with the growing influence of wealthy special interests in government and the political system. Illinois is no exception, said Jay Young, political director with Common Cause Illinois.

“During the last election, we watched campaign spending in this state spiral out of control with nine local statehouse races exceeding $2 million in contributions,” Young said. “Proposals like Senate Bill 1424 provide candidates with the option to break the cycle of chasing larger and larger checks.”

Biss added that Illinois can’t afford not to pursue small donor matching, particularly in light of the state budget stalemate and the harmful influence of the corporate class at the highest levels of state government.

In 2014, Illinois saw the highest percent of total contributions from large donors in the United States, with $108.8 million from just 21 donors. Fifty-one percent of total candidate contributions were from donors who gave over $1 million in that election cycle.

“This is a structural reform that everyone should be able to agree is good for Illinois and its future,” Biss said.

Category: Press Releases

biss floor fall2015SPRINGFIELD — In response to the recent announcement from the comptroller’s office that Illinois will skip its November pension payments, Sen. Daniel Biss (D–Evanston) issued the following statement:

"The budget impasse continues to wreak havoc on the people of Illinois, and the longer we go without a resolution, the more pain that will be felt. With each day comes more news about Illinoisans unable to get basic services, devastating nonprofit closures and additional mistakes that will take far longer to remedy than they take to create.

"Indeed, just this week, Comptroller Leslie Munger announced that she will not make the state's November pension payment, a practice that has indisputably led to the current condition of our state pension systems. Skipping this payment is simply repeating the biggest mistake of our past, and it puts our state's fiscal stability at even greater risk. We know what happens when we short our pension systems, and credit agencies do, too.

"For all the talk about getting rid of 'business as usual' in Springfield, this certainly feels like more of the same."

Category: Press Releases

floor point augustCHICAGO — Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) sent the following letter to Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger requesting information regarding state payments to vendors and service providers.

The request comes in light of recent threats that Illinois may be held in violation of court orders for not paying bills owed to programs serving people with disabilities.

"As chairman of the Senate committee on Human Services, I want to make sure we fully understand who is being served and who is being left out during this budget impasse," Biss said. "Committee members and all Illinois taxpayers deserve complete transparency on what payments are being made and who is making these decisions and why. Vulnerable people are at risk, and we need to know about it."

Category: Press Releases

biss august floorSPRINGFIELD -- Licensed mental health professionals in Illinois no longer are able to treat patients under 18 using "conversion therapy" methods thanks to a bill signed into law today.

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) sponsored legislation prohibiting the practice, which aims to change clients' sexual orientation.

"These so-called 'therapies' treat homosexuality as a disease," Biss said. "They're out of date and can be deeply destructive to youth. Outlawing these practices is a small step in our pursuit for LGBT rights, but it's an extremely important step in protecting young people in Illinois."

Under the new law, Illlinois youth still can get counseling to discuss concerns or thoughts about their sexuality. However, therapists and other professionals, if licensed by the state, may not try to change a minor's orientation. The clear consensus of professional associations and medical researchers is that conversion therapy can have terrible consequences, including increased depression and risk of suicide attempts.

Illinois joins a handful of other states and Washington D.C. with conversion therapy bans on the books.

Category: Press Releases

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