As 2013 draws to a close, it's a perfect time to reflect on legislative achievements, milestones, and issues that require further consideration in 2014.
During my many years serving as state representative, none can compare to this year. So many watershed issues were passionately debated and ultimately approved by the state legislature, it's hard to know where to begin.
Left: Governor Quinn signs Medicaid expansion into law.
Right: Receiving the AARP legislator of the year award for Medicaid expansion and improved senior services.
Although there are bumps in the road with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, it remains one of our nation's greatest achievements. In May of 2013, Illinois did our part by passing Medicaid expansion, which will extend healthcare to 342,000 uninsured, low income adults. In total, Illinois will draw $12 billion in matching federal funds and will create an estimated 20,000 healthcare related jobs. I was proud to carry this bill in the House - it was a great accomplishment for our state.
Left: Thanks Commonwealth Edison for the energy audit that helped me reduce my electric bill.
Right: Evening on Astor annual block party with my former colleagues Susana Mendoza and friends.
By the summer of 2013, Illinois was the holdout state on concealed carry of guns. (For once, being "last" was a good thing). But after a protracted court battle, concealed carry became the law. While I did not support this measure, I understand the necessity for its passage. Without this legislation, residents of Illinois would have been allowed to carry concealed weapons without restriction. This legislation may not be ideal, but it did set some of the most rigorous testing requirements and qualifications necessary to obtain a concealed carry permit in the country.
For the record, measures that keep people safe and curb gun violence will always have my support.
Left: Summer 2013's pride parade was the biggest ever-- next year we will celebrate FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY!
Right: Imprinted the tree of life wall at the 15th anniversary of the Uptown Café.
For nearly two decades, I have passionately advocated for the LGBT community to bring marriage and family equality to Illinois. After a surge of public support, 2013 marked a historic victory for the LGBT community in Illinois, as we became the fifteenth state in the nation to pass marriage equality. There are countless elected officials, volunteers, field organizers, and financial supporters who worked tirelessly, and patiently, to deliver this extraordinary, long-awaited, and breathtaking moment.
Senate Bill 10 provides for same-sex marriage and allows couples who have entered a civil union to convert that union to a marriage. Additionally, the legislation provides same-sex couples and their children equal access to the status, benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities of civil marriage under Illinois law.
Left: Our informational session on the Affordable Care Act was well attended and resolved many questions.
Lakeview residents learn how the new Ventra system works.
In the final months of this year, the state legislature finally addressed an issue that had been approaching a precipice for decades-pension reform. This year, Democrats and Republicans worked diligently to pass a financially responsible budget that ensured the state lives within its means and pays its bills on time. However, the primary causes of the state's financial woes were the rising and unsustainable costs of the state's pension system.
I voted in favor of a bipartisan pension reform bill that addresses many of our current pressing financial issues and ensures that our future retirement system is solvent. These reforms are not a perfect solution, but they were necessary to preserve the state's pension systems for those that have faithfully paid into them, and to spare devastating cuts to critical state services like public safety, education, health care, and care for seniors and veterans. Ultimately, I believe that the legislature had no choice but to act, and this plan was the only feasible, reasonable option.
Left: Some of our furry four-legged neighbors visited us at our holiday open house.
Right: Ushering in the holiday season with Congressman Quigley and Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts at the Wrigley Tree Lighting ceremony.
We can all look forward to the possibilities that 2014 has to offer. If this past year is an indication, I believe that there is much that can and will be accomplished in the state of Illinois. There is always more that can be done to improve the lives of families in Illinois, and I eagerly await that challenge each year.
Before the New Year arrives, let us all work together to assist those families that need a little extra help this holiday season. Visit our website for a list of local shelters and food pantries to learn how you can volunteer and/or donate non perishable items. To learn more on how you can make a difference, click here. Be sure to call ahead for meal times and donation drop-off locations.
I pledge to remain open, accessible, and fully involved in the community in the New Year. If I can be of assistance with anything related to state issues or programs, I strongly encourage you contact me, and I will serve you to the best of my abilities.
Enjoy the holiday season, and I wish you a blessed New Year.