SenatorBissMarch2017Private equity firms would have to disclose the investment fees they charge to public pension funds in Illinois under legislation sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston).

These sometimes lucrative fees charged by private equity firms and hedge fund managers are exempt from disclosure to taxpayers under current state transparency laws. Even the boards that oversee the pension funds are kept in the dark about the fees. That’s ludicrous, Biss said.

“Taxpayers have the right to know what government pays for salaries, pensions, cars, office supplies, phone bills – every penny that goes out the door, down to the most miniscule expense,” he said. “But we make an exception for lucrative pension investment fees paid to private equity firms. It’s indefensible.”

Senate Bill 779 would require pension systems to disclose agreements with private equity funds and certain provisions of those agreements. It also would require private equity fund managers and general partners to disclose certain investment fees paid to the funds.

Disclosures would be published on the pension systems’ websites and would be subject to the state’s freedom of information act. The legislation applies to every retirement system or pension fund regulated by the Illinois Pension Code, as well as the Illinois State Board of Investment.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest pension system in Illinois, currently has nearly $8.5 billion invested and committed to the private equity asset class. Some funds, such as Downstate Police and Fire Funds, are precluded by law from making such investments.

Senate Bill 779 passed out of the Senate’s Licensed Activities and Pensions Committee Wednesday on a 7-5 partisan roll call.

According to a 2015 ranking by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, the country’s 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in an estimated $11.6 billion in 2014. The previous year, the top 25 collectively earned nearly double that, estimated to be more than $21 billion.

Comparatively, the aggregate pay for all of the kindergarten teachers in the nation in 2014 was an estimated $8.5 billion.

Category: Latest

The Rauner administration is trying to privatize nursing in Illinois’ prison system, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said Wednesday.

Biss’ comments were prompted by word that the Rauner administration is outsourcing the jobs of 124 prison nurses employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections to a private company. The unionized nurses are represented by the Illinois Nurses Association, and their layoffs are effective June 15, according to a March 18 letter from the administration to the association announcing the changes.

“This appears to be nothing more than a back-door attempt to get around Illinois’ ban on privatizing prisons,” Biss said. “Gov. Rauner is offering up another failed policy that looks like it came straight out of the Trump White House.”

Illinois banned private prisons in 1990. The General Assembly declared that “the management and operation of a correctional facility or institution involves functions that are inherently governmental.” However, the privatization ban does not apply to ancillary services, such as medical care.

“Just last week, Gov. Rauner tried to insist he had the best interests of state workers at heart. This week he’s laying off 124 nurses employed by the state,” Biss said. “The only interests I think Gov. Rauner has at heart are those of his business friends who can make money off state government.”

Category: Latest

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) issued the following statement today regarding a House committee’s overwhelming support for creating an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools:

“Chicago’s is the only public school district in Illinois that does not have an elected school board. It’s time that we bring basic democracy to the state’s largest school district. I look forward to supporting this measure when it comes over to the Senate from the House.”

Category: Latest

VotingBoothsAn effort to bring small donor matching to Illinois elections advanced out of a key Senate committee Wednesday.

That’s good news for most Illinoisans, whose voices are drowned out by corporate interests and wealthy political donors, said Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), the sponsor of Senate Bill 1424, the Small Donor Democracy Matching System for Fair Elections Act.

“I don’t buy the argument that Illinois can’t afford to do this. Illinois can’t afford not to do this,” Biss said. “When you look at how we got into the mess we’re in today, it’s largely because of a series of poor decisions and policies that were influenced by billionaires and corporations to benefit a very few people.

“Restoring the balance of power in government would ensure average people have greater influence over the decisions that are made in Springfield and would improve our future.”

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 average 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 offers more options at the ballot box.

Senate Bill 1424 would weaken the influence the 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.

The cost of the program is estimated at $1 per Illinois resident annually, according to The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which supports the proposal.

“The people I represent tell me they’re tired of big-money donors drowning them out in Springfield and in Washington, and they don’t know what they can do to be heard,” Biss said. “Small donor matching amplifies ordinary voices, helps elected officials do a better job, leads to more diverse elected officials and restores the balance of power in government. It makes sense in every way.”

Category: Latest

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District office:
3706 Dempster St.
Skokie, IL 60076
(847) 568-1250
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Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-2119

Email:
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