This spring legislative session, the General Assembly took action on a number of important initiatives including the budget deficit and job creation, among other issues.  Some of my legislation ultimately did not make it through the General Assembly, but I promise to continue discussions and try to resolve these issues.  For more information on the 2012 spring session, read the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus’ legislative wrap-up

Listed below are a handful of my legislative accomplishments over the past several months. 


Encouraging more opportunity for youth employment

In 2011, national youth employment was at its lowest level in post- World War II history at 26 percent. Because of this astounding number, I am sponsoring Senate Resolution 596, urging Congress to pass legislation that would invest in youth employment opportunities that benefit both young individuals and communities. 

Senate Resolution 596 urges Congress to pass the $5 billion Pathways Back to Work legislation.  The funding would be allocated for summer and year-round employment, education, and training. Pathways Back to Work is an expansion of the $1.2 billion President Obama and Congress allocated to summer youth employment in the 2009 economic stimulus package that employed over 330,000 youths nationwide. 

At the state level, youth unemployment in Illinois last year was 73 percent for teenagers 16 to 19 years old, with minority teens experiencing the heaviest unemployment rates. I recently introduced Senate Bill 3660, which would move the Youth Empowerment Program to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program would provide competitive grants for local community-based non-profits, educational facilities, and government agencies to hire up to 5,000 low-income youths each summer. Each youth, age 14-21, would be given a stipend of $7.50 an hour up to 200 hours over a 10-week period.

Helping Illinois’ minority and female-owned businesses 

Responding to public outcry, Metra decided to delay awarding a contract to an Elgin-based contractor to build the Englewood Flyover rail bridge. Metra officials said they would postpone awarding the contract after Congressmen Danny K. Davis, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Bobby Rush disputed the original winning contract because it was not awarded to a local company. In an effort to end this type of contract awarding, Senate Bill 2491 establishes the Working Capital Loan Repayment Fund, which will aid struggling Illinois minority and female-owned construction businesses in winning procurement contracts with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).  The Fund will be able to provide the companies with loans up to $3 million a year over the next 10 years, helping them with their current liabilities and expenses associated with these projects. The measure has not yet been called for a vote in the House of Representatives, and it is Senator Hunter’s plan to continue advocating for its passage.

Giving disadvantaged youth access to higher education

Working with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Senator Hunter was able to champion a measure that will broaden eligibility for DCFS scholarships to children who obtained an education through homeschooling or online courses, or who aged out of foster care. The measure, Senate Bill 2818, is currently awaiting Governor Pat Quinn’s signature.

Bringing awareness to the threat of diabetes in Illinois

As a member of the Illinois Legislative Diabetes Caucus, Senator Hunter led the effort designating November 14 of each year as Diabetes Awareness Day. November 14 is World Diabetes Day and the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, conducted experiments in 1922 that led to the discovery of insulin to manage diabetes. Another initiative by Senator Hunter reinserts the Diabetes Research Checkoff Fund into next year’s income tax form and would essentially exempt the checkoff from being removed from the form in the future. This checkoff allows taxpayers to donate their tax refunds to diabetes research.

Helping rehabilitated felons find jobs

House Bill 5771 makes it easier for a convicted criminal to receive a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct in order to obtain employment. First, the bill allows an applicant to have multiple felony convictions. Currently, a person who has more than two felony convictions is not eligible for either certificate.  Second, the bill decreases the minimum period of time a felon must serve to be eligible for good conduct credit from three years to one year. 


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SPRINGFIELD, ILThe Senate voted yesterday to change Medicaid eligibility in Illinois in an effort to bring down spending and the deficit.  State Senator Mattie Hunter joined several of her colleagues in voting against the measure because the bill changes the eligibility standards for Medicaid in Illinois.

“Legislators are out there saying this is Medicaid reform, but this is not reform,” Hunter said. “Reform does not mean balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. This bill kicks almost 300,000 people off of Medicaid. These people are just the top tier of the poor, and they are not able to afford the services they need on their own. This is a disgrace for our state, and it is criminal.”

Almost 2.7 million people in Illinois, or about 21% of the state’s population, currently rely on Medicaid. More than 60% of those are children, about 9% are adults with developmental disabilities, and just over 6% are seniors that primarily receive help paying for nursing home care. To be eligible for Medicaid, a person must have a low income and be a child (or child’s caregiver), pregnant, elderly, or disabled.

“We keep taking and taking from the people who depend on these services,” Hunter continued. “Now we are eliminating a program helping seniors with prescriptions, taking away dental care, and other programs.  This bill is not the right solution.”


Listen to Senator Hunter's comments from the floor of the Illinois Senate {mp3}HunterMedicaidCutCommentsFloor24May12{/mp3}

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The Illinois Senate passed a balanced budget for the next fiscal year that spends $255 million less than last year’s, fully funds the state’s pension obligations, and sets aside $1.3 billion to pay old bills. While making across-the-board cuts to most agency budgets, it avoids reductions to K-12 education, MAP grants, and other priorities. The budget uses extra money from special funds to pay vendors like childcare providers and nursing homes. The budget stays within caps established earlier this year based on the state’s expected revenue.

“I am concerned about the cuts to human services and corrections, but this budget proposal seems to be the best opportunity to prevent deeper and more harmful cuts to these programs. Unfortunately, the poor and underserved will still suffer as a result of this budget proposal. When additional monies become available in the next year, I will continue to campaign for that funding to go towards the human services programs necessary to the well being of our state.”

--State Senator Mattie Hunter


Category: Front Page

This month marks the 58th anniversary of an event that transformed our nation: the Supreme Court decision on Brown vs. Board of Education. Before the court decision, schools across America were unjustly segregated. In Topeka, Kansas, black children were forced to attend one of the four blacks-only schools a mile or more from their home every day.  In 1951, for every $150 spent on white children at the “white schools,” there was only $50 spent for every black child at their schools which led to limited and outdated resources.   

Under the circumstances of segregated schools, the parents believed that their children were being taught to think themselves inferior to whites. Thirteen parents, including Oliver Brown, tried to enroll their children in white-only schools in the Topeka School District in 1951.  Oliver’s daughter, Linda, was forced to travel miles, each way, to attend her black school, when a white school was only six blocks from her home.  Her daily trek involved walking through a dangerous railroad switching station.  


The children were denied admittance to the “whites only” schools and so the parents decided to sue.  A Kansas state court ruled in favor of the Board of Education citing a previous court case that allowed for the segregation of schools across America. 


The court also stated that they believed the children would be better accustomed to the harsher segregation they will face as adults if they stayed in their black schools.  The court had now confirmed the parents’ belief that their children would always be taught to deem themselves inferior to whites. 


The case was then brought before the Supreme Court.  After three years of testimony and deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled the state court’s decision.  Schools across America would now be desegregated and children of all races would have access to the same education.

In 2004, I co-chaired the Illinois Commission on the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. Through this commission, data was compiled into a reference website created by Chicago State University. The Commission created a reenactment of the court decision by building a set mimicking the Supreme Court and the justices of the Illinois Supreme Court acted as the judges who made this historic decision in 1954.  Comcast broadcasted this event live to every class room in the state allowing the children to interact by submitting questions through the internet for us to answer. To see visit the website and to see a recording of the live reenactment, please visit

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