Senator BissOn Sunday, President-Elect Donald Trump announced the appointment of white nationalist Stephen Bannon as a senior adviser in his administration. Bannon is considered to be an extremist who peddles racist viewpoints, anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic writings, misogyny, xenophobia and other divisive rhetoric.

Today, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement condemning Trump’s choice and calling on others to urge the president-elect to withdraw the appointment:

“The White House is no place for bigots. I am outraged and deeply troubled by the president-elect’s choice of Stephen Bannon as a top adviser. This man has made it his mission to fan the flames of hatred, bigotry, sexism and intolerance in our country, and now he’s being rewarded with the ear of the leader of the free world.

“Bannon’s appointment is an insult to the people of this nation, to our ongoing struggle for civil rights and to the values held by Americans of both political parties. I enthusiastically support the right of the president-elect to assemble an administration that reflects his policy priorities, whether or not I agree with those policies. However, we must draw the line when it comes to bigotry.

“I am calling on him to withdraw the appointment and to do everything within his power to unite the country and to quell the racially charged attacks that have spiked since his election last week. I hope Democrats and Republicans in Illinois and across our country will join me in that call.”

Bannon is the former editor of Breitbart News, an alt-right website that, under his leadership, promoted material encouraging hate and intolerance.

For example, postings on the site labeled former Congresswoman and assassination survivor Gabby Giffords “the gun control movement’s human shield” and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.” In the aftermath of a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Breitbart published a piece titled, “Hoist it high and proud: the confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage.” Another headline asked, “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?”

Bannon also hosted a SiriusXM radio show during which he interviewed numerous anti-Muslim extremists and promoted Islamophobia. A former Brietbart employee called Bannon a “legitimately sinister figure.”

Category: News

BissOct17HrngCHICAGO – Christine Rivera cares for six men who are developmentally disabled and live together in a Downers Grove group home. The work can be grueling and physically demanding, but it also is gratifying, she testified Monday during a Senate Human Services Committee hearing in Chicago.

But after 15 years of caring for people who are developmentally disabled, Rivera makes just $11.90 per hour based on rates set by the State of Illinois. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation this year that would have given caregivers like her a long-overdue raise to $15 per hour.

Low salaries are largely responsible for a severe statewide staffing problem that prevents developmentally disabled residents from getting services they need and deserve. Organizations that offer the services on behalf of the state are unable to expand programs or hire more caregivers because people can earn more at many other jobs, including, for example, at a fast-food restaurant.

The result is a backlog of nearly 19,000 developmentally disabled Illinoisans in desperate need of services, with little hope of receiving them anytime soon.

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), chairman of the Human Services Committee, said it’s time for the legislature to take a stand for workers like Rivera and the families that rely on them to care for their loved ones.

“Today we heard the best explanation we could ever hope for about why the legislature must override the governor’s veto,” Biss said. “This crisis is causing justifiable and extraordinary anxiety for many Illinois families. We have to offer decent living wages to these caregivers if we are to have any hope at all of resolving this problem.”

Read more: Biss: Lawmakers should override governor’s veto of caregiver pay hike

Category: News

Biss05252016CHICAGO – Nearly 19,000 developmentally disabled Illinoisans and their families could face an uncertain future when the benchmarks of a 2011 court mandate requiring the state to offer services to them expires next year with no apparent plan in place for going forward.

The sunset of the Ligas consent decree’s outlined requirements on June 15, 2017, could cause additional chaos for the state’s network of human service providers, which already is reeling from the state budget stalemate. The decree requires the state to fund certain services, regardless of its ability to pay.

Families, providers and members of the Senate Human Services Committee hope to get some clarity about the matter during a hearing Monday in Chicago.

“I am troubled by the lack of transparency about how the state intends to continue offering services for developmentally disabled individuals. Their families are alarmed and frustrated, and I share their concerns,” said Senator Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat who is chairman of the Human Services Committee.

Illinois’ statewide needs-based PUNS database – Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services – currently has 18,671 individuals awaiting services from the state. This includes adults with developmental disabilities, children with autism, and people with cerebral palsy and other diagnoses.

Families are worried that it will take even longer for their loved ones to receive the help they need.

In January, the state’s Ligas court monitor determined Illinois is out of compliance with the consent decree for reasons including how little it pays human service employees who work with developmentally disabled individuals. Starting wages can be as low as $9.25 per hour for these physically and emotionally demanding jobs.

Such low rates lead to job vacancies and uncertainty, which in turn causes providers to scale back the services they are willing to offer. The result is an even longer PUNS wait list.

“Direct Support Professionals are the single most critical component in the delivery of quality services. We have a DSP staffing crisis in Illinois that requires immediate attention,” said Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association, which serves nearly 2,500 children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the DuPage County area.

“Until a deliberate effort is made to address the staffing crisis, people will continue to wait for critical services and more and more families will spiral into emergency situations.”

The Senate Human Services Committee on Monday will hear from the Ligas court monitor, service providers and families affected by the consent decree and the state’s continued shortcomings in meeting its obligations.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in Room C600 of the Bilandic Building in Chicago.

 

    Details
    What: Senate Human Services Committee hearing regarding expiration of benchmarks in the 2017 Ligas consent decree
    When: 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 17, 2016
    Where: Bilandic Building, Room C600, 160 N. LaSalle St., Chicago
    Who: Scheduled to testify are Ronnie Cohen, the state’s Ligas court monitor; Barry Taylor, vice president of the civil rights team at Equip for Equality; Scott Mendel, legal representation for intervenors and Misericordia; Mike Baker, parent and state advocacy chair of Autism Speaks; Kim Zoeller, president and CEO of the Ray Graham Association; Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Envision Unlimited; and Christine Rivera, a direct support worker.
Category: News

BissAprilThe state of Illinois will continue its mean-spirited and counterproductive practice of suing prison inmates and parolees to recoup the cost of their incarceration because the governor vetoed a measure that would have put a stop to the practice across the board.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), was sparked by a Chicago Tribune investigation that exposed the legal but morally questionable practice that often targets current and former inmates who come into small inheritances or court settlements stemming from their arrest and incarceration.

“Enabling the state of Illinois to use the courts to pursue inmates and parolees for the cost of their incarceration is an example of wasteful, illogical government,” Biss said.

“Gov. Rauner claims that he wants to do away with governmental programs that fail to produce a return on investment for taxpayers. These lawsuits are Exhibit A. It costs far more to pursue these lawsuits than the state recoups from them.”

Senate Bill 2465 would have prohibited the Illinois Department of Corrections from suing current and former inmates to recoup the cost of their incarceration. Illinois has had a law allowing the state to sue inmates since 1982, but it rarely was used until recently. Victims always have been able to pursue civil action against wealthy perpetrators of crime against them, and it remains illegal to profit from the commission of a crime.

“This reprehensible practice is an example of crony capitalism run amok. Wexford Health, a private company, is profiting from the administration of a program that hampers the state’s ability to pursue its stated goals of rehabilitation and integration,” Cassidy said. “It is shocking that Gov. Rauner is unwilling to put a stop to this.”

The state has recovered about a half-million dollars in the past six years, and most of that was from just two inmates.

Illinois has discretion in determining which inmates and parolees to sue. Most are poor and had received modest inheritances or civil settlements involving private matters.

Given this discretion, and because SB2645 will not become law, Biss and Cassidy urged the Illinois Department of Corrections and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to take matters into their own hands.

“Because Gov. Rauner is unwilling to sign legislation banning the ineffective and immoral practice of suing to recover costs of incarceration, we are calling upon you to make this step unilaterally,” Biss and Cassidy said. “In the name of advancing our shared goals of fully reintegrating ex-offenders into society, please stop bringing these lawsuits.”

Category: News

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