DkLHLAZXsAAC FrThree years ago, a young woman sat at the witness table in a Senate budget hearing, telling lawmakers what the Department of Children and Family Services scholarship program meant to her.

It meant that a former foster child, taken into state care and custody after being neglected and abandoned, had been able to attend college. It had given her a chance to strive for a brighter future otherwise foreign. She was committed to not being another foster care statistic. The DCFS scholarship empowered her commitment.

Lauretta Schaefer told her story to lawmakers in 2015 because Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to cancel her scholarship and dozens of others. She would have had to drop out. Kids like her would never get the chance to enroll. It was part of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda designed to wipeout programs the new governor deemed unworthy or unaffordable.

I’ve always found this early moment in the Rauner administration particularly offensive.

Here you had a governor saying the state should be competitive but compassionate. Yet, one of his first moves was to bring the budget ax down on a competitively awarded scholarship program that benefits wards of the state, who have suffered through all kinds of personal turmoil only to emerge academically successful and eager to take the next step toward improving their lives.

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Organ DonorWith nearly 5,000 people on the organ donor waiting list, families may soon see a second chance at life for their loved ones thanks to legislation passed by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register for the state’s First Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry when they receive their driver’s license or identification card.

“Choosing to give life to another is a wonderful gift,” Hunter said. “Opening the donor registry will broaden the number of overall donations and save countless lives. For donors, their decision to register can turn a troubling time into a source of comfort for families and individuals in need. The campaign has not only been designed to increase the donor registry list, but to also celebrate those that have helped save lives through the gift of donation.”

Under current law, an individual must be at least 18 to join the registry. While this legislation leaves the decision up to teenagers, Senator Hunter encourages youth to discuss their decision with their parents.

By joining the First Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry, 16- and 17-year-olds can give consent to donate their organs and tissue at the time of their death. However, the procurement organizations, Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Network and Mid-America Transplant, are required to contact a parent or guardian to ensure approval of the donation. Ultimately, the parent or guardian will have the opportunity to overturn the child’s decision.

The legislation becomes effective immediately.

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Clean Breastfeeding for studentsMany mothers often worry about finding a safe place to nurse or breastfeed. Thanks to a new law sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago), public and charter schools will now be authorized to provide reasonable breastfeeding accommodations to students.

“Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants, “said Hunter. “It’s important that we provide our youth, especially, with a private, clean and safe place to produce milk for their young. This bill will also keep many of our young mothers in school who often times miss out because of the restrictions of the campus environment.”

House Bill 2369 requires public and charter schools to provide reasonable breastfeeding accommodations to pupils. Furthermore, a school campus shall provide reasonable accommodations for a lactating student to provide breast milk, breastfeed an infant child or address other needs related to breastfeeding.

Reasonable accommodations can be defined as:
•    Access to a private and secure room other than a restroom to express breast milk or breastfeed an infant child;
•    Access a power source for a breast pump or any other equipment used to express breast milk; and
•    Access to a place to store expressed breast milk safely.

The legislation was signed into law and takes effect Jan. 1, 2018.

 

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Budget passes the Illinois SenateState Senator Mattie Hunter (D- Chicago) issued the following statement after today’s budget legislation votes:

We’ve been working to reach a bipartisan budget agreement for months. The plan we passed today is a solution that gives us certainty and stability.

The budget package will fully fund the next fiscal year which includes funds to education, MAP grants, breast and cervical cancer screening, addiction treatment and funding for programs like Teen Reach. All of these programs are essential and work to restore and improve the quality of life for our constituents.         

The state of Illinois has been longing for fiscal certainty for almost two years. Because of this, many statewide businesses operated on hope. I’m glad, on this day, we were
able to provide them with more. We were able to come together despite our political differences to change the status quo.
            
It is my hope that the Governor will join us in signing the budget plan. The people of this state have suffered long enough. They shouldn’t have to wait any longer because the time is now.

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