The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates running for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois.
Julie Morrison submitted the following answers to our questionnaire, and watch the video above to hear why she’s running for re-election.
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Morrison: Health and human services
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
Morrison: Flooding on Des Plaines river. My district has felt the effects of the flooding from the Des Plaines watershed. Senator Durbin and Duckworth are working on the federal level, but we also need to address this issue on a state level. This is an environmental issue, but it’s also an issue that affects my residents’ homes and businesses. We need to be lobbying for federal funds to help navigate the risk management and take precautions before flooding occurs and mandate plans of actions for those that are affected. Foxcon will most certainly exacerbate this condition. I have already begun the process of planning a public hearing of federal and state stakeholders to examine analysis and forecast of flooding from the Foxcon project.
Assault weapon bans: I have sponsored and co-sponsored several pieces of common sense gun legislation—three of which have been signed into law this year. The ability for municipalities to ban assault rifles did not pass. My district has shown that they strongly support this measure and I will continue to work on giving municipalities that freedom but this needs to be a statewide ban.
Property taxes: When I’m out at the doors, I hear over and over again about property taxes. I have always voted to freeze property taxes and I also recently passed a resolution that mandates municipalities to have an educational forum about what a freeze will look like for them. I also believe we need to find new sources of revenue to help fund our schools–the new education reform bill is a start but we should look at options such as extracting more federal funds and gaming, for example, as a way to broaden the base for school funding.
Who is Julie Morrison?
Her legislative District: State Senate 29th District Her political/civic background: Campaign Field Director for Congressman John Porter for 10 years; appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Children and Family Services in 1986 and served for about 10 years Elected West Deerfield Township Supervisor in 1997; elected State Senator in 2012 Her occupation: State Senator Her education: Beardstown High School, graduated in 1975 Knox College, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1978 Campaign website: https://www.juliemorrisonforstatesenate.com Twitter: @JulieForSenate
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Morrison: I have served as an elected local government official, responsible for setting a levy, balancing a budget, and I have been accountable to taxpayers for 20 years. I also know my district, I’ve lived here for 37 years, raised my kids here, and know the struggles the residents of the 29th Senate District face. Also, I work in a bipartisan manner and my bills reflect that. A lot of people can say they are bipartisan, but in the 100th General Assembly, I sponsored and passed 41 bills that have now been signed into law by a Republican governor. My opponent also says he is a moderate and bipartisan but then takes money from the same people who funded Roy Moore and Jeanne Ives’ campaigns.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Morrison: Employers in Illinois are looking for financial stability and a trained workforce. First and foremost, we need to pass a budget every year. We also need to continue making higher education a priority. This means funding MAP grants, it also means testing out new programs like AIM, which we passed this year. This helps universities match the scholarships students are offered from out of state schools to help keep them in Illinois.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Morrison: We need to work on the pension reform consideration model in correlation with the defined benefit model. We also need to work on legislation for new sources of revenue and continue to make sure the pension system has consistent contributions coming in. We worked this year on a tier three model, but moving forward, we need to look at ways to make sure the system is solvent for future generations.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Morrison: Students need to be able to afford college and to rely on the funding they are promised. I have always voted to fund MAP grants. I also think our university system needs to be one efficient system that educates students across the state. I think universities should also have a strong emphasis on opportunities for students with local businesses and companies to learn and experience their chosen field of study in various capacities.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Morrison: This is an issue I have been working hard on. I sponsored and helped to pass the firearm restraining order, the 72-hour waiting period bill, and a bill that mandates schools to do an active shooter drill within the first 90 days. This is not enough. We need a statewide ban on assault rifles, we need a ban on bump stocks, which I was a chief-sponsor on, and need mental health parity to address the gun violence problem. I was especially disappointed in the veto of the gun dealing licensing bill as well. I will continue to make common sense gun reform a priority.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Morrison: Illinois should follow states such as Oregon and California in passing fair scheduling laws in order to protect workers, especially working parents. Chicago proposed the Fair Workweek Ordinance which would require businesses to post schedules with adequate notice. We should use this model at a state-wide level, using accountability factors such as fair compensation for workers if last minute scheduling happens.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Morrison: Yes, but only if law enforcement has the tools to regulate people driving under the influence and the production and sale of it is regulated.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Morrison: We need to make access to treatment a priority. In addition, we need to continue advocating for medical marijuana as an alternative to prescribing prescription opioids. We also need to start looking at preventative measures for those who are at risk of becoming addicts. Studies continue to show that young children with adverse childhood experiences are more likely to become addicts—we need to make sure mental health and behavioral therapy is accessible and affordable.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Morrison: I agree with the Future Energy Jobs Act and also believe that this is only one of many steps that need to be taken for the environment. Illinois has the potential to be the manufacturing capital of solar energy—we can also do this by funding vocational programs and investing in companies that will commit to using sustainable energy.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Morrison: We need to utilize federal funds. Currently, we get 50/50 for Medicaid with federal funds while other states get more. In addition, managed care only makes sense if there is an adequate number of providers. The model provides an opportunity for long-term savings, but requires both care coordination and a network of providers including specialist to serve this at-risk community.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Morrison: Yes, we need to provide services for those who are incarcerated as well as those in post-release programs to help in the transition period. This has to include mental health and behavioral therapy. We need to work on vocational training as well within the department of corrections. Let’s provide tax credits to businesses who hire formerly incarcerated people.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Morrison: I would consider piloting projects for parole for non-violent offenders, however adequate funding for rehabilitation post-parole needs to be a factor in the pilot program.