jjc 042717SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton received the “Visionary Leadership Award” for his work to promote tolerance and diversity from the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago as part of Thursday’s ninth annual Illinois Muslim Action Day.

In presenting the award, council co-founder and Chairman Dr. Bassam Osman cited President Cullerton’s current efforts to pass the Illinois Trust Act. It would clarify that Illinois law enforcement will not participate in detaining people for federal authorities unless a warrant has been issued.

President Cullerton thanked the council for its help over the years in working on legislation and programs to encourage diversity. One of the first things Cullerton did upon becoming Senate President in 2009 was start a Senate page program so students participating in the annual Illinois Muslim Action Day at the Capitol could learn more about state government.

“I started this program with the help of your organization to set the foundation for future conversations, because by talking to each other we learn to appreciate our differences and discover our similarities,” Cullerton said.

“The history of Illinois is one of coming to terms with ethnic and religious differences. Our future relies on a similar commitment to protect and honor religious freedom,” Cullerton said. “As we know too well, threats still exist. There are still those who seek to distort public discourse in a desperate attempt to slow the sands of time from burying their ignorance and intolerance to the forgotten depths of history.

“But, whether they like it or not, change happens,” he said. “We are a people, a society, a government that ultimately exists to expand and accept.”

More about the Illinois Trust Act: http://abc7chicago.com/news/illinois-trust-act-aims-to-protect-immigrants/1833325/

An effort to have Illinois ratify the Equal Rights Amendment passed the Illinois Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday. Senate President John J. Cullerton supports the effort and offered this statement following the committee vote:

“We have the opportunity to correct the record on women’s equality. We should seize every opportunity to send the message to generations of women throughout Illinois and across the country that their rights should not and will not be denied based on their gender.”

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Hundreds of women, men and children gathered in front of the Capitol in Springfield on Tuesday to advocate for a progressive agenda and a balanced budget.

The Women’s March on Springfield is part of a growing movement worldwide of marches and protests.

Participants held a rally at noon before marching around the Capitol and heading into the rotunda to lobby for dozens of progressive bills being considered in the House and Senate.

Senate President John Cullerton spoke at the rally, vowing that the Senate is willing to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s promised veto of HB 40, a measure that would protect legal abortion in Illinois.

“I can’t speak for everyone at the Capitol. But I can speak for the Illinois Senate,” Cullerton said. “And let me tell you, we hear you. You want equality? So do I.”

Cullerton pointed out that the Senate passed legislation ensuring marriage equality for same sex couples, passed the Illinois Voting Rights Act and cleared the way for immigrants to become licensed and insured drivers.

He also called for a budget that includes funding for childcare, breast cancer screenings and domestic violence shelters.

“What’s happening in our communities is a tragedy, and it needs to end now,” Cullerton said. “Let’s stop the political theatrics and get a budget. Too many people have already been hurt.”

Senator Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, spoke about the remaining work towards gender and racial equality and called on the governor to work with lawmakers to pass a balanced budget.

“Today we recognize that although we’ve come a long way, there is still so much more work to do,” Hunter said. “As we embark on this movement for justice, we must work harder to make people aware that racial bias and gender bias must not be tolerated.

“The budget impasse has greatly damaged the economic wellbeing and status of this state. What we need to do is urge the governor to take a stand with us and not against us. Ladies, together, we are more powerful.”

Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, expressed frustration at continued inequality in Illinois and nationwide.

“This is not a march we should have to have. You shouldn’t have to come down here to demand your rights,” Harmon said. “I don’t understand how so many forget that more than half of the people we represent are women.”

Senator Heather Steans, D-Chicago, who is sponsoring the initiative in the Senate for Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, stressed the importance of action.

“We don’t have equal protections right now,” Steans said. “We need your help.  Let’s make Illinois the 37th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.”

The Senate is considering a number of progressive legislative measures. These include:

  • SB 981 – Sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss. The Equal Pay Act.
  • SB 1754 – Sponsored by Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez. Allows midwives to be licensed in Illinois.
  • SB 1657 – Sponsored by Senator Don Harmon. Requires licensing of gun dealers to slow illegal firearm trafficking.
  • SB 298 – Sponsored by Senator Melinda Bush. Creates transparency on gender-based pricing for goods and services.
  • SB 1296 – Sponsored by Senator Toi Hutchinson. Requires paid sick and FMLA time for working families.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton recently spoke at a government forum sponsored by Elmhurst College. His presentation was on the fiscal realities Illinois faces with its budget and why the state needs to get its backlog of unpaid bills under control.

The following slides accompanied his speech and walk through where the state of Illinois gets its funding, where that funding goes, the true pressures facing the state budget and the devastating trajectory of the backlog of unpaid bills.

The Senate President has been working on what’s been called a “Grand Bargain” to try to stabilize the state’s finances and enact key economic reforms.