Democrat Nancy Zettler is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 33rd district race in the Illinois Senate. She is challenging Republican incumbent Donald DeWitte.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts.
Democrat Nancy Zettler submitted the following answers to our questionnaire, and watch the video above to hear why she’s running to represent the 33rd district in the Illinois Senate.
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Zettler: Too many huge, profitable corporations pay little or no taxes here and still expect tax incentives and subsidies from Illinois taxpayers that put a burden on local taxing bodies and, by extension, the homeowners paying those taxes. I will work to reduce these corporate handouts and find other ways to reduce property taxes, allocate more funding to strengthen public schools , institute insurance premium regulation in areas like workers compensation and medical malpractice, common sense gun control, making healthcare available and affordable for all in Illinois and restoring various social services that were decimated by Rauner’s budget cuts.
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.
Zettler: People in Senate district 33 are concerned with out of control property taxes, having strong schools and affordable higher education, and access to good paying jobs.
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Zettler: I have spent my career fighting for and alongside working people and I am running to be the voice for the people in my district. I was chosen by the voters to run as the Democratic nominee for the office of State Senator.
My opponent has spent his political career serving special interests and would likely continue doing that as the state senator.
The people in the 33rd Senate District were not given a say in who should be serving them, rather it was determined by a single member of the Kane County Republican Party, who doesn’t even live in the district. The people in this district have lacked a voice in Springfield for several years, and this year we have a real opportunity to elect someone will put working people first, not political insiders and powerful special interests. That’s the kind of state senator I will be when elected.
Who is Nancy Zettler?
She’s running for: Illinois Senate, 33rd District
Her political/civic background:
- I have spent the past two decades advocating for public education and area property taxpayers.
- In 2006 I chaired (with Doug Sibery), Advance 300, a community group tasked with passing two referenda in support of CUSD 300; an ed fund rate increase and a reissue of construction bonds. We passed both.
- In 2011, as sole Chair of Advance 300, I led a community group that worked with district officials to stop the renewal of the Sears EDA in Hoffman Estates. While we weren’t able to completely prevent the renewal, we were able to get a seat at the table and retained millions in property tax dollars that otherwise would have gone to Sears against our wishes.
- I ran for State Representative for the 66th District in 2016.
Her occupation: Retired attorney
- BS in Art from Illinois State University, 1980
- JD, Chicago-Kent College of Law, 1990
- Associates degree in Horticulture and Landscape Design, College of DuPage, 2009
Campaign website: NancyZettler.com
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?
Zettler: There is no single reason that people are leaving Illinois–and no single way to address it. Sometimes people leave because of the weather (which will only get worse if we don’t do more to address the effects of climate change). Other times people leave because they get a better job offer. Still others, like my two daughters, leave because they find that the cost of in-state tuition here is way too high. Then, they find jobs in other states and their parents no longer have a reason to stay. And some people leave because of the excessive amount property taxes that we pay.
But in my district, Kane and McHenry counties have seen growth in the number of people living there, as well as a growing glut of jobs. We need to fully fund our system of higher education and make it one of the best in the nation. We need to address the out of control property taxes and I believe there are ways that property taxes can be lowered significantly if the political will is there. I have that will–we need to stop diverting tax dollars to special interests from funds allocated for schools, good roads and first responders. We can’t just give these dollars away because politicians in Springfield want to hold onto power and cater to the special interests that fund their campaigns. We’ve got to fix the mess in Springfield and bring stability to our state by implementing term limits for leadership and get our state working for the people.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Zettler: The Illinois State legislature must fund pensions appropriately each year in addition to working to reamortize the debt. I do not believe the General Assembly should shift the burden towards local governments because it would increase the property tax burden on working class families or force cuts in essential local services.
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?
Zettler: Both of my children attend college outside of Illinois. It is simply too expensive to go to many of the state schools here. We need to fund our colleges and universities in a way that allows them to thrive and attract the talented students we have across our great state.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Zettler: I am for common sense gun control like meaningful background checks, closing gun show loopholes, licensing gun dealers, banning the sale of military style weapons and prohibiting gun accessories that are meant to convert these weapons into devices capable of mass shootings.
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?
Zettler: I agree with what New York City has done in passing laws that requires that employers provide workers with two weeks of advance notice on their schedules, and providing compensation for any last-minute scheduling changes. It also requires that employers provide sufficient rest between shifts (protection from so-called “clopenings,” when employees work consecutive closing and opening shifts), and access to full-time hours. I would like to see a similar law adopted in Illinois, that treats workers with the respect and dignity they deserve, and justly compensates them for their work.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Zettler: I would support legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois so long as it is regulated like alcohol and so the tax revenue generated by marijuana sales is used to fund more social service programs, like addiction treatment
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?
Zettler: The opioid epidemic is a major issue in district 33. The legislature needs to regulate the prescription of opioids. All too often physicians over prescribe opioids. My sister was an addict and would travel from doctor to doctor to get prescriptions from more than one doctor. Opioid prescriptions should be monitored like over the counter analgesics like Allegra-D and pharmacists should be required to check records to see when the last time the patient filled an opioid prescription. We need to provide our regional facilities with much-needed resources to handle overdoses and opioid addiction with competence and humanity. We need to treat drug addiction as a public health crisis.
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?
Zettler: I wholly agree with the objectives of the Future Energy Jobs Act, which aims to create It jobs across the state and while addressing climate change. Clean energy is a true 21st century industry and one that will continue to grow across the globe, despite attempts in Washington D.C. to curtail it.. We need to expand the program and move Illinois towards 100% renewable energy over the next 30-40 years. At a time when the federal government is pulling back protections to our environment, Illinois needs to stand up and lead the charge in addressing one of our nation’s most critical economic and security issues.
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?
Zettler: The state needs to do more to enroll people into the medicaid program and we need to secure more funding at the federal level. With respect to those on managed care, it is essential that providers continue to take medicaid clients and implement truly preventative care practices such as smoking cessations or pre-diabetic interventions.
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?
Zettler: Inmates not receiving services or opportunities for work while incarcerated is absolutely a legitimate problem. It is a primary contributor to the high re-offending rates and it directly inhibits an offenders ability to reintegrate into society and find employment. Underfunding has only perpetuated this vicious cycle. We need to implement in-custody vocational training programs and provide adequate mental health services to rehabilitate and prevent recidivism. We need to work on skills-to-jobs connections allowing incarcerated individuals to find local employment opportunities upon release–encouraging re-entry into society over returning to a life of crime.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Zettler: I believe that Illinois should restore the practice of parole for those serving life or extremely long sentences for nonviolent/non-sex offenses, especially those committed as a juvenile. It would reduce the financial burden on the state’s penal system and address the growing science of mental/neurological development that occurs later in life (by 25) and other factors that contributed to the offense in the first place. But it is more than a financial issue–it’s a moral issue. Additionally, the purpose of correctional facilities is to correct harmful or criminal behavior — we need to improve programming the reduces recidivism. Denying non-violent offenders the opportunity and the necessary skills to re-enter society only adds to overcrowding and higher long-term costs to the state.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.