Category: Legislative Update

Study: Area Residents Crushed By College Debt | Congressman and State Rep Seeking to Help Ease the Pain

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Sunday, February 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain & Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews

According to a recent study by LendEDU, which describes itself as “a marketplace for student loans and student loan refinance,” 70 percent of college graduates who live in the 7th Congressional District — which covers all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park — leave school with debt. The average student debt per borrower in the district is almost $30,000.

“In 2017, more than 44 million Americans are working to repay student debt,” the LendEDU study notes. “And, the average borrower is working to repay more than $28,000 after graduation.”

Two lawmakers at the state and federal level, however, are working on plans to help ease that heavy financial burden.

U.S. Representative Danny Davis, who represents the 7th Congressional District, is working on legislation to could make it easier for first-generation college students to pay for their education and he wants his constituents’ input.

The details of the proposal are still being worked out, Davis said, but the goals are clear. The congressman wants to create something that would not only help cover tuition but things like room and board, transportation and supplies.

Davis’ Education Advisory Committee, which is working on the proposal, held a public hearing on Feb. 18 in Chicago. The congressman said that residents are welcome to call his office to share their ideas of what the bill should include.

As Davis explained during the Feb. 18 meeting, the committee is just one of the many committees he has set up to help him create legislation.

“We have advisory committees on almost everything we can think of,’ he said. “When we run for office we ask [voters] to give us the ability to represent them. The reality is, I don’t know what you think and how you feel, and what your priorities are, so I spent a great deal of time asking people how they feel.”

The idea from this particular bill, he said, came directly from conversations with constituents.

“Every year, I encounter students who went [to college] for the first semester, but couldn’t go the next semester because they were in debt to the school,” he said.

To give your input, contact Davis’s district office, located at 2746 West Madison St., at (773) 533-7520. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also visit his website at davis.house.gov.

At the state level, Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district spans all or parts of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park, has co-sponsored House Bill 3447,  which would establish the Tuition Reduction Act. The bill is currently in the House Higher Education Committee, which Welch chairs.

Rep. WelchThe bill provides individual grants to full-time undergraduates in Illinois who are enrolled at public universities in order to help offset tuition costs.

The bill also requires “each university to annually report updated estimates of the total amount in grants awarded in an academic year to the governor and the appropriate committees of the General Assembly,” according to a summary of the legislation.

“As Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, I see a lot of proposals that would affect a student’s ability to enroll into one of Illinois’ many public universities,” said Welch.

“Constant tuition increases can prevent students from applying to state universities and colleges,” he added. “It can also force them to look at colleges out of the state, and many times these students do not move back to Illinois after receiving their degree.” VFP

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Obama Could Get an IL Holiday and a Roadway Named in His Honor

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Saturday, February 25, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) has drafted legislation to name Interstate 55 the Barack Obama Expressway.

A portion of I-55, from Lakeshore Drive to the Tri-State Tollway, is named after former Illinois Governor and two-time Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. The remaining 270-mile stretch of roadway from the Tri-State to East St. Louis would be named after Obama, Ford explained in a Feb. 22 statement.

“Barack Obama adopted Illinois as his home, becoming a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago and a professor of law at the University of Chicago,” Ford said.

“Twenty years ago, on January 8, 1997, Barack Obama was sworn in as an Illinois state senator, his first public office,” he said. “We can imagine that then state Senator Obama made many trips between Springfield and Chicago on Interstate 55, so it is very fitting that we rename Interstate 55 as the Barack Obama Expressway.”

If approved, the expressway naming would be just one of several significant roadways across the country that have been named after the 44th president.

Last December, state lawmakers in California and New Jersey introduced proposals to name portions of major roadways in those respective states after Obama. Some locales didn’t wait until the president left office.

In 2013, a city in Tanzania turned Ocean Road into Barack Obama Drive after the former president visited the country in 2013. Barack Obama Boulevard in West Park, Florida took effect in July 2009.

A separate proposal, introduced last month in the Illinois General Assembly by state Rep. Robert Martwick (19th) calls for designating all of I-294 along the Eisenhower Expressway as the President Barack Obama Tollway. That proposal currently sits in the House’s Tollway Oversight Committee.

Four other proposals were introduced in the General Assembly to make Aug. 4, Obama’s birthday, an official state holiday. Gov. Bruce Rauner, who expressed support for the holiday, explained that it “shouldn’t be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off,” according to a Chicago Tribune report.  VFP

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Maywood Religious Leader Gives Statehouse Prayer | Welch Says IL Should Be Welcoming State, Passes ‘Zombie’ Bill | Lighford Minimum Wage Proposal Hits Snag

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Maywood Bishop Willie J. Chambliss opens the Illinois House of Representatives in prayer on Feb. 9.  Below, Chambliss with state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) | Photo courtesy: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch/Facebook

16507859_10211008983047914_4467463062846390790_nThursday, February 9, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Bishop Willie J. Chambliss, the founder of Miracle Revival Center in Maywood, delivered the opening prayer for the Illinois House of Representatives on Feb. 9.

‘Zombie Preparedness Month’ will be in October 

A resolution filed by state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) last month proposing to designate October “Zombie Preparedness Month” unanimously passed the Illinois House of Representatives on Feb. 9.

The resolution (HR 0030) “urges all Illinoisans to educate themselves about natural disasters and take steps to create a stockpile of food, water, and other emergency supplies that can last up to 72 hours.”

The measure may provoke bouts of laughter when first heard, but what’s at stake is no laughing matter, Welch told the Chicago Tribune.

“I am told that if you are prepared for zombies, then you would be prepared to deal with a natural disaster like tornadoes, blizzards — natural disasters of any kind,” he said.

“Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, said while zombies bring levity to the conversation, the measure calls attention to the importance of natural disaster planning.”

The Tribune report notes that the resolution wasn’t without its detractors, with some lawmakers saying that these are no times for laughs considering the state budget’s fiscal condition.

“This may sound like fun, but if you’re really concerned about disaster, the natural disaster that’s happening in Illinois is all economic,” Repulican Rep. Jeanne Ives told the Tribune.

“If we need to do something like Zombie Preparedness Month to get people’s attention to an important issue like preparing for a natural disaster, then so be it,” Welch countered.

To read the full Tribune article, click here.

Welch sponsors ‘Safe Zone’ bill

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Members of the Melrose Park-based nonprofit P.A.S.O. demonstrating against mass deportations. | Photo courtesy P.A.S.O.

On Feb. 8, Welch co-sponsored HB 0426, which would “establish protections for immigrants from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) or agencies working with I.C.E.”

“The goal of this legislation is to protect people’s rights from invasive actions by the government,” Welch said in a recent statement. “We must stand with those who feel that their government is not fighting for them. Illinois should be a welcoming place to those who are trying to make a better life for themselves.”

According to the proposal, safe zones are defined as elementary and high schools, places of worship, colleges and universities, and health care facilities. If the legislation passes, governments would be “prohibited from entering the safe zones without a court-ordered warrant,” the statement notes. Additionally, students and their families will only be required to share their immigration status with schools,

“Additionally, students and their families will only be required to share their immigration status with schools, colleges and universities in a few instances.”

At a pro-immigrant rally in Oak Park last Saturday, a few days before that village passed an ordinance declaring itself a “Sanctuary City,” Welch led a chant.

“No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!”

“We are going to take this fight all the way to the state and make Illinois a safe zone,” Welch said. “We don’t believe your kid should go to school the day after the election, like they did last year, worried about getting deported. We don’t think you should go to the hospital and worry about those health officials reporting you to ICE … We believe that Illinois should be a welcoming state just like Oak Park is a welcoming city.”

In the statement, Welch said that, while the bill won’t require Illinois to become a sanctuary state, it would at least “acknowledges the fear of deportation many families face and provides them with somewhere they can go to feel safe.”

“While the bill does provide immigrant families with protections they need, it also puts in place policies that make our community stronger,” he said. “As we try to find ways to move the state forward, common-sense immigration policies like this need to be part of that conversation.”

HB 0426 is currently in the House’s Human Services Committee.

Lightford minimum wage bill hits snag

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 11.07.20 PM.pngAccording to a report in the Southern Illinoisian, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford’s (4th) proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021 “will not be discussed as part of the Illinois Senate’s “grand bargain” until further negotiations are held.”

Lightford, the bill’s sponsor, said that the “Senate is still working on establishing a minimum wage proposal that different supporting groups can agree on.”

“It’s still part of the package,” she said. “We are just not ready to call it.”

To read the specific reasons for why negotiations may have hit a wall (at least temporarily), click here. VFP 

Photo above right, Associated Press.

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