Illinois News Network
What are the biggest challenges facing the state?
“Deep and abiding fiscal challenges. The main causes are our continuing struggle with unemployment and getting people back to work. To me, the most important challenge is how we fund education. Kids outside of Chicago get less money to go to school than kids in Chicago. We have spending disparity in the education sector throughout the state. So for me education is the biggest. Obviously things like the deficit and debt are huge too.”
What are the biggest recent successes?
“I think we’ve made some really great strides in several areas. Passing marriage equality was big. That was big for families in Illinois. We expanded Medicaid to something like half a million people, which lowers costs for the working poor. It makes sure people who need medical care are treated with dignity. We’ve passed universal background checks for handgun sales which limits violence in areas that need to be safer.”
What is one specific policy on which you’re focused for the next legislative year?
“Senate Bill 16. It passed the Senate and is ready for House debate next session. This provides the education funding reform we need. It places the funding in one pot, to be distributed for kids in poverty, for better transportation options and for kids who really need it.”
“I serve as the chair on a commission to combat illegal gun trafficking. We’ve worked on legislation to coordinate police forces in an effort to crack down on gun runners coming into our cities and state from other places. I’m proud of that work and optimistic about the steps we’re going to continue to take.”
What’s the best part of being a member of the legislature?
“I’m still new, so I guess I’m not too jaded yet. For me the best part is getting to wake up every day and if there’s an issue I care about or my constituents come to me with I can introduce a bill or hold a press conference. I can take action. It’s humbling that so many people have entrusted me with their vote and have asked me to make a difference to them.”
The worst part?
“Probably the partisanship, but I actually think we do better at that in Springfield than in Washington D.C. People on both sides have really good ideas, but often because of labels we get backed into our respective corners and nothing gets done. I wish it was easier to recognize good and bad ideas for what they are, not the party letter next to the name of who they came from.”