12th District E-Newsletter
Friday, December 3, 2010

Dear Neighbor:

The General Assembly wrapped up the first part of the veto session and will finish the second part in January.

In a major step towards equality, the legislature passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act which will establish civil unions as a legal relationship between two people, regardless of gender. Civil unions will grant a number of legal rights and benefits currently denied to same sex or unmarried partners, such as hospital visitation rights, insurance benefits and probate rights.

Aside from same sex partners, civil unions have an often overlooked benefit to senior citizens who choose to not remarry because they would lose survivor's social security or pension benefits. Civil unions allow these senior partners to enjoy legal benefits in the state without the financial risk.

My vote in support Senate Bill 1716 was one of the most meaningful votes I have ever cast. The passage of civil union legislation is a testament to Illinois' commitment to human rights and can be credited to years of hard work, persistence and leadership from many right here in our community: organizations, advocates, allies, neighbors and in particular, Representative Greg Harris. Not to be overlooked are the herculean efforts of House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Pat Quinn that helped push this bill over the top.

In this veto session update e-letter, you will find some important information on legislation currently under consideration including budget matters, accountability and ethics reform measures and human rights issues. I will keep you updated with any new developments when the legislature reconvenes in January.

Until then, please feel free to contact my district office if we can be of any assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Sara Feigenholtz

  • State Budget
  • Legislative Updates
  • Tax Assistance
  • Consumer Protection
  • Community Events

  • State Budget

    My constituents have been clear in expressing their top concern for the state: a responsible, fair and sustainable budget. Although it may not always seem like we are making progress, there are several significant pieces of legislation and proposals that would put our state on the path towards recovery.

    One proposal expected to be introduced to the General Assembly in the coming weeks is a budgeting for outcomes approach to future state budgets which has been adopted by many other cities and states facing budget deficits and revenue shortfalls. In this results-driven process the state funds programs based on priority and focuses on those that will achieve the best results. This results in increased competition, efficient merit-based expenditures and a zero-sum approach to all budget line items. Programs are funded because they produce the best results and not simply because they were funded in the previous year, meaning that the state and the taxpayer are getting the best value for each dollar.

    Bipartisan legislative task forces have been formed to investigate and recommend reforms to Medicaid and workers' compensation. I have been appointed to the House Medicaid task force and will spend much of December working with my colleagues to make reform recommendations targeting fraud reduction and efficiency measures while maintaining services for those in need. The task forces on workers' compensation will review current policy and make recommendations for creating a more competitive business environment while still protecting workers' rights.

    Police and Fire Fighter Pensions
    The legislature passed pension reform measures for future police and fire fighters hires, who were exempt from the pension reform passed last year in Senate Bill 1946. Some of the reforms in Senate Bill 3538 include:

    • Retirement age for full benefits is age 55 with 10 years of service (currently age 50 with 10 years of service for Chicago employees)
    • Retirement age for reduced benefits is age 50 with 10 years of service
    • Pensionable salary cap of $106,800 (currently unlimited)
    • Calculation of final average salary as the highest consecutive 8 years of the last 10 years of service (currently the last consecutive 4 years in Chicago and the final day's salary elsewhere)
    • Provisions for municipalities to make timely payments

    This bill also holds cities and municipalities accountable for making pension payments by allowing the state comptroller to deduct funds from state tax money owed to cities if the city fails to make a complete pension payment. This legislation comes as more cities are forced to lay off public safety workers due to budget cuts and the escalating cost of pensions and health insurance.

    Legislative Updates

    Community Health Centers: I have sponsored Senate Bill 150 to provide much needed assistance to community health centers that provide services to traditionally underserved populations. While these centers can receive federal and state funds to provide services, they must rely on loans and private donations for construction, upgrades and expansion costs. This bill gives residents the opportunity to fund the Expanded Mental Health Services Program in their communities by voting for a nominal property tax increase (typically anywhere between $10-20 per year) through a front door referendum. The bill has passed the House and is awaiting a Senate vote.

    Death Penalty: Senate Bill 3539 abolishes the use of the death penalty in Illinois, which has proven to be ineffective in preventing crime, unable to ensure that no innocent person is sentenced to death, and significantly more expensive than a trial in which the death penalty is not sought. I am a sponsor of this bill which has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House.

    Ethics and Accountability: Many appointed agency directors, staff, or board members are currently serving in expired terms. House Bill 5057 requires all expired or vacant positions that are subject to Senate confirmation be filled. This will greatly increase governmental accountability and reinforces the checks and balances system. House Bill 5057 passed the Senate and will undergo House consideration.

    Redistricting Reform: Senate Bill 3976 creates the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 in anticipation of the upcoming re-mapping of the legislative districts. This bill requires four public hearings around the state to solicit the public's input on new Illinois House and Senate districts and includes protections for minority voters and minority districts. If passed, the Act would greatly increase transparency in the redistricting process.

    Tax Assistance

    Assistance for Families of Military Personnel
    The Illinois CPA Society is offering free tax for active duty military personnel and their families. For more information on these services, visit the ICPAS website. You can also download an application form here.

    Chicago Tax Assistance Center
    The City of Chicago provides tax preparation and filing assistance for eligible individuals. Individuals meeting certain income requirements may be eligible for up to $5,567 through the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Families earning less than $50,000 and individuals earning less than $25,000 are also eligible for free tax preparation assistance through the Center for Economic Progress and the Tax Assistance Program. For more information, eligibility requirements, and to locate a tax assistance site and hours, call 311 City Services or click here.

    Property Tax Appeal Workshop
    Saturday, December 4, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
    4740 N. Sheridan, MLK Room

    This free workshop is hosted by Andrea A Raila & Associates and is co-presented by the North Side Community Federal Credit Union and Lakeside CDC. Homeowners will learn the ins and outs of reading, understanding, and appealing their property tax bills. Register for this event by calling Jennifer (x224) or Elena (x228) at (773) 769-5800 or emailing jpallas@northsidecommunityfcu.org.

    Consumer Protection

    Attorney General Lisa Madigan has prepared a number of tools for holiday season safety, including comprehensive directory of recalled children's products and the Safe Shopping Guide. The Attorney General is also encouraging consumers to be especially careful to avoid fraud and identity theft with these helpful tips. If you find yourself a victim of fraud, submit a consumer complaint form or contact the Consumer Fraud Hotline at (800) 386-5438. For more information on other consumer protection initiatives, contact the Attorney General's office.

    Community Events

    Rink at Wrigley, Grand Opening & Open Skate
    Saturday, December 4, 1:00 pm
    Rink at Wrigley, Clark & Waveland

    Join the Cubs and community sponsors for the grand opening celebration of the Rink at Wrigley, now in its second year of operation. The celebration will be followed by a open skate for the community. If you can't make Saturday's event, visit the rink's website for information on this season's hours and pricing information.

    North Dearborn Association, Joy of Toys
    Saturday, December 4, 1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
    Mario's Ristorante, 21 W. Goethe

    The North Dearborn Association is hosting its annual Joy of Toys gift wrapping party to benefit children in need at the George Manierre School and the Catherine Ferguson Child Parent Center. Admission is at least one unwrapped toy for a 5-7 year old child ($20 value) that could include dolls, action figures, sports gear or hand-held electronics. Toys that require a computer or other hardware, toy guns, oversized toys, strictly educational or are religious-themed are discouraged. Then, join NDA neighbors for wrapping and complimentary food and beverages! To date, NDA has donated more than 4,000 gifts through Joy of Toys. For more information click here or call (312) 632-1241.

    Park West Community Association, Annual Holiday Party
    Saturday, December 4, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
    Rocco's, 1925 N. Lincoln

    Please bring an unwrapped toy for a child 10 or younger to be donated to Toys for Tots or a similar program. Food and drinks will be provided along with a special visit from Santa. Admission is $15 for members, $20 for non-members, $5 for children ages 2-12 and children under 2 are free. For more information call (773) 599-2336 or email info@parkwestcommunity.com.

    Regional Transportation Authority, Public Budget Hearing
    Monday, December 6, 6:00 pm
    RTA Board Room, 175 W. Jackson Blvd, Suite 1650

    The RTA is hosting its last meeting of the year regarding the proposed 2001 budget and various agency initiatives. Citizens are encouraged to attend and may also participate in one of two scheduled webinars. Information on the hearing and on both of the webinars may be found here. Questions may be directed to (312) 913-3153.

    Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Holiday Party & Silent Auction
    Thursday, December 9, 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon

    The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce's annual event features a silent auction including Blackhawks tickets and prizes from local businesses. LPCC will also be collecting toys to benefit the Juvenile Protective Association and can be brought to the event or dropped off at 1925 N. Clybourn, Suite 301. Tickets are $30 for members and $40 for non-members if purchased before December 7 and $35 for members and $45 for non-members if purchased at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the LPCC website or call (773) 880-5200.

    Mortgage Relief Project
    Saturday, December 11, 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
    Truman College Cafeteria, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

    Governor Pat Quinn established the Mortgage Relief Project to help you take advantage of new government programs that can help lower your mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure and keep your home. Learn more at this event hosted by Senator Steans and Representatives Harris and Osterman. Bring your latest mortgage documents (bills, statements, notices, etc.), two most recent paystubs, and state ID or driver's license. For a full list of documents needed, to register, or for more information on this event, click here.

    Lake View East Chamber of Commerce, Lake View East Shopping Extravaganza
    Saturday, December 11, 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm

    Save your holiday shopping for Lake View East Chamber of Commerce's Shopping Extravaganza! This LVECC event will feature a Holly Jolly Trolley (and even some karaoke), 25% off all Lake View East Gift Card purchases, free gift wrapping, carolers, and many more treats from local merchants. Spend $300 and you'll receive a free $50 gift card. Please participate in this fun way to support our local businesses!

    Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Budget Town Hall
    Tuesday, December 14, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
    DePaul Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield, Room 120B

    Commissioner Gainer created a 'Citizens' Guide to the Cook County Budget' to provide a road map for taxpayers to the $3.5 billion dollar annual budget. After consistently hearing from her constituents, local neighborhood groups and Chambers that good information on the County budget was impossible to find, Commissioner Gainer organized a presentation that breaks down the $3.5 Billion dollar budget into information people really need: where does the money come from, where does it go and who makes the decisions about how to spend it. This town hall is sponsored by the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Lake View Citizens' Council, Wrightwood Neighbors, 43rd Ward United Organization, Sheffield Neighborhood Association, Park West Community Association, among many others.

    phone: (773) 296-4141
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