* Press release…
State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, joined a group of good government activists and local supporters Thursday to announce filing of the Fair Maps Amendment, a comprehensive reform of Illinois’ redistricting rules.
Costa Howard’s announcement was part of a statewide network of news conferences held Thursday by a bipartisan group of legislators and advocates supporting the Fair Maps Amendment. The events were coordinated with CHANGE Illinois, a non-partisan, non-profit group leading a coalition of more than two dozen organizations supporting the Amendment.
The Fair Maps Amendment would overturn the current system, which empowers legislators to draw partisan gerrymandered districts. Instead, an independent redistricting commission would be chosen to draw the district maps for the Illinois Senate and House. The commission members would be carefully selected to represent everyone who lives in Illinois, instead of placing power over district boundaries in the hands of politicians who have a vested interest in protecting their own careers.
“The first step toward increasing people’s trust in government is assuring voters that their elections are honest and that their voices are heard,” said Costa Howard. “By filing this amendment today, we are beginning a statewide conversation about the meaning of fairness and the importance of truly representative government.”
Costa Howard, who is sponsoring the Amendment in the Illinois House, announced the groundbreaking legislation in the Lombard Historical Society’s Victorian Cottage Museum, surrounded by posters and memorabilia highlighting Lombard’s historic support of women’s suffrage. In 1891, Ellen Martin, an attorney and Lombard resident, became the first woman to vote in Illinois after she found a loophole in the village charter granting voting rights to every Lombard resident over the age of 21, with no reference to gender.
The shocked polling judges admitted that Martin was legally entitled to vote, and 14 more Lombard women joined Martin in heading to the polls and casting their votes as well. Soon afterward, however, state legislators took action to severely restrict Illinois women’s ability to vote in local elections. Despite that setback, Lombard remained a center of women’s suffrage activism until 1920, when the ratification of the 19th Amendment recognized American women’s right to vote.
“When state legislators took action to keep Lombard women from exercising their right to vote, that was a particularly egregious example of politicians choosing their voters, instead of the other way around,” Costa Howard said. “Today, we’re honoring the bravery of Ellen Martin and so many other voting rights advocates – in Lombard and throughout Illinois – by demanding district boundaries that reflect community interests instead of following the self-centered wishes of incumbent elected officials.
“As elected officials, we should trust the voters of Illinois to make wise, well-informed choices,” Costa Howard added. “We need to take action now to reform Illinois’ redistricting system and strengthen people’s faith in our state government.”
Costa Howard’s event, held in the 48th district, was followed later Thursday by a news conference in the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. The Thompson Center event, led by CHANGE Illinois, included a bipartisan group of the Amendment’s chief co-sponsors in the state House and Senate, including: State Sen. Melinda Bush, of Grayslake; State Sen. John Curran, of Downers Grove, and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, of Chicago. They were joined by representatives of several non-partisan, non-profit state and national groups supporting the Amendment, including the Illinois League of Women Voters, Common Cause Illinois, AARP-Illinois, and RepresentUS. State Rep. Ryan Spain held a news conference Thursday in his home district in Peoria.
“The people of Illinois overwhelmingly support redistricting reform,” Madeleine Doubek, executive director of CHANGE Illinois, said in a news release. “An independent poll by SIU’s Paul Simon Institute found 67 percent of Illinois voters want an independent commission to draw our legislative lines. The people of Illinois understand that we can’t have honest government and hold politicians accountable if we don’t have truly competitive elections that restore power to the people.”
After state Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted for allegedly embezzling money from the Teamsters, the Villa Park Democrat was removed as chair of the Senate Labor Committee.
But instead of losing a powerful leadership position and the additional $10,327 stipend that comes with it, Cullerton simply took over as the chair of the Senate’s Veteran Affairs Committee.
That game of musical chairs left one of his Senate colleagues scratching her head.
Hoping to make sure tainted lawmakers truly face the music, state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, has introduced a bill that would bar members of the General Assembly who face criminal charges from serving in any leadership or committee positions.
* Illinois Public Radio…
Democratic state Sen. Ram Villivalam of Chicago is expected to file paid-family leave legislation similar to a measure passed in the Senate last year. Democratic state Rep. Mary Flowers, also of Chicago, said she plans to reintroduce a revamped version of her family leave measure the legislature failed to consider in 2019.
“When the mother has to rush back to work because of the pay … we are really hurting a lot of families by not getting them paid family leave,” said Flowers, who says she believes leave policies should cover parents and those who act as caregivers to ailing relatives.
If Illinois enforced some form of paid family leave for its residents, it would be the eighth state to do so.
State employees in Illinois had six weeks of paid parental leave until August when Gov. J.B Pritzker’s administration boosted that to 10 weeks. The city of Naperville just approved six- to 12-weeks of paid parental leave for its employees.
* Press release…
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, will be joined by NBA athletes Sterling and Shannon Brown and professional sports agents for a press conference to announce their support for the Student Athlete Endorsement Act on Friday, Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. in the James R. Thompson Center press room.
“To kick-off the start of NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago, professional players and agents are joining me in the effort to bring equity and fairness to college athletes by supporting the Student Athlete Endorsement Act,” Welch said. “This legislation gives college athletes the compensation and recognition that they deserve for their athletic achievements. I’m excited to announce the growing support for this initiative so we can work to get this passed in the Senate and signed into law.”
Welch’s House Bill 3904 creates the Student Athlete Endorsement Act allowing student athletes at any of Illinois’ four-year public or private universities to seek out endorsement opportunities or payment for the use of their name, image or likeness. The measure passed the Illinois House in October and is awaiting consideration by the Senate.
Welch will be joined by Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks and Shannon Brown formerly with the Los Angeles Lakers. Both athletes are graduates of Provisio Township High School District.