Illinois House 18th District Democratic nominee: Robyn Gabel

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Democrat Robyn Gabel is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 18th district race for the Illinois House. She faces Republican Julie Cho in the general election.

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts.

Gabel submitted the following responses, and watch the video above to find out why she’s running for re-election to the Illinois House 18th district.

Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.

Gabel: One of my top priorities is continuing to work on making government adhere to the principle of “One Person, One Vote.” I worked very hard to pass Automatic Voter Registration, which will register over a million people across the state to participate in the democratic process. My other priorities will be rebuilding our human services network that was severely damaged by Governor Rauner’s refusal to participate in the budget process in good faith; protecting our natural environment; continuing our progress in creating a clean energy economy; moving the ball forward in women’s rights; and addressing the grave inequities and suffering in our juvenile justice system.

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.

Gabel:The 18th district has had a long history of comprehensively funding its local schools and showing that investment can drive economic growth as people move to live in the 18th for our high-achieving public schools. We need to work on ensuring our schools are safe and that teaching continues to stay at world-class levels.

There are rising environmental concerns about the safety and accessibility of drinking water, and I have started to address new methods of testing with a pilot program passed into law this year to test what new techniques we should be using to ensure our water is as clean and healthy as possible.

Another issue in the western part of the district, is the concern that the Amtrak/Hiawatha expansion project that creates a holding station in Glenview will cause serious pollution issues. IDOT recently put the project on hold until concerns could be addressed.

Who is Robyn Gabel?

She’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 18th District Her political/civic background:

  • State Representative in the 18th district since April 2010
  • Worked for and ran advocacy groups for three decades
  • Worked for then-Alderman Luis Gutierrez as a Legislative Assistant
  • Worked for Harold Washington’s campaign for Mayor of Chicago in 1983

Her occupation: State representative, 18th Legislative District Her education:

  • B.A. from Beloit College
  • M.S.P.H from University of Illinois Chicago – School of Public Health
  • M.J. in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago

Campaign website: Twitter: @RobynGabel

What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?

Gabel: As a full-time legislator I am constantly out in the community, and I stay in touch with constituents. I haven’t heard that my opponent has been regularly visiting with neighbors and I have not seen her attending local community events.

In an article in the Immigrant Connect Chicago, my opponent discusses her support for President Trump and his stand on restricting immigration, the lack of support for the LGBTQ community and anti-union actions. This would be well out of step with the values of the district overall and the exact opposite of my personal views on the issues.


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?

Gabel: The number one action state government can do to keep people from leaving is to establish and maintain a financially stable state government. There needs to be long term fiscal planning that will ensure that our budget priorities of education, public safety and health and human services can be met. Fiscal planning must be in place so all communities can offer jobs, a good education and a safe community to all residents. The failure of the Governor to put forward a balanced budget or to pass a budget at all has resulted in deficits, unpaid bills, vendors and social service agencies closing their doors and a myriad of other negative consequences. Righting our fiscal ship and providing stability and predictability from state government is my top priority.

In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?

Gabel: Controlling pension costs is a critical step in putting Illinois back on financial stable ground and improving our bond rating. We have yet to see the effects of the Tier 2 reforms from 2011, so it is our responsibility to provide stability until the early 2030s when those reforms will clearly have an effect. One option for controlling pension costs would be to consolidate investments for police and fire pensions around the state. Many of these small pension funds are unable to achieve adequate returns because they cannot achieve economies of scale like the larger pension funds. I also support the bipartisan pension reforms that were passed in May, such as offering pension buyouts.

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?

Gabel: Governor Rauner’s budget impasse greatly affected the image and funding of higher education in Illinois and caused students to look elsewhere. This year, the General Assembly passed legislation to make the MAP program funding available for four years and created the AIM HIGH grant pilot program to make higher education more affordable. Our focus in the coming years should be on increasing funding to our higher education institutions to bring them back to their levels before the budget impasse.

What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?

Gabel: This past year, the Legislature passed a number of bills to address gun safety. Two of them were signed into law. One law will allow the police to receive an order from the courts to take away the guns of a person deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Families or the police can initiate this order of protection. Since a high number of gun deaths are suicides, this law will hopefully save lives. Another law extends the 72 hour waiting period to buy a gun ranging from handguns to assault style weapons. This cooling off period will also provide a measure of gun safety.

Additional gun safety legislation for next year, should include the banning of 3D printing of guns and restrictions on high capacity magazines that both protect law-abiding citizens and preserve their Second Amendment rights. The General Assembly should also pass the Gun Dealers Licensing bill that will reduce the problem of people buying guns for others and increase the ability of law enforcement to track guns used in criminal acts.

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?

Gabel: I believe in a “fair scheduling” law. A bill was introduced last session to address this issue which didn’t move forward. I would like to revisit the bill again next session. The people most affected by this scheduling issue are already working multiple jobs at minimum wages and they need advance notice of their schedule for planning purposes. The law might require that a work schedule must be posted within a minimum number of days prior to the beginning of the work week.

Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

Gabel: Medical marijuana is already legal in Illinois but we need to address the shocking impediments to care in our medical marijuana system. The General Assembly has implemented a new pilot program to help divert pain prescriptions from opioids to medical cannabis and has given instructions to school districts to allow properly treated juveniles the ability to access their medical cannabis, but that still isn’t enough. I have constituents who suffered during the final months of their lives and died waiting for a medical marijuana card that in other states takes days if not hours to clear with doctors. Our current system is unconscionably painful to our family members and neighbors.

I support the legalization of recreational marijuana. In March, voters in Cook County overwhelmingly voted in favor of a non binding referendum to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Current drug laws are enforced discriminatively in our state so by legalizing and regulating this industry, one of the most egregious racial injustices will be addressed. It is also shown that it could bring in $700 million to the state budget through taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana.

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?

Gabel: I have hosted a number of community forums on the opioid epidemic, and I have heard from many constituents whose families and friends have been affected. One of the main reasons for an increase in opioid addiction has been the increase in the prescription of opioids for pain management. This year, an important bill was signed into law that will allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients for pain management. This bill will help address the prescription problem. Our medical marijuana program is a start at addressing this problem but we also need to work on dealing with the mental health issues that are contributing to the epidemic and increase availability for treatment throughout the state.

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?

Gabel: As a sponsor of the Future Energy Jobs Act and the chair of the Illinois Legislative Green Caucus, I agree with the objective and substance of the Act, I am proud of the work that the Illinois legislature has done on the topic of clean energy jobs and new industrial support for solar and wind energy. I am also very proud of the efforts to bring new jobs and employment diversity into this growing and cutting-edge industry. Our future plans include achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050 and developing a jobs program in areas of the state where carbon based and non renewable energy sources are closing.

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?

Gabel: The state may not need to increase overall spending on the Medicaid program. We can solve most of its problems by better spending what we already allocate. Redistributing the money that we now spend on excessive days in hospitals, nursing homes, emergency rooms, ambulances, etc. will help us better fund enhanced primary care, home visiting, 24-hour urgent care centers, and, most perhaps importantly, greatly expanded mental health services delivered in primary care offices, community settings and small group homes.

Medicaid managed care has the potential to change the way providers are paid, but unfortunately, they pay providers fee for service with little interest and few incentives for improving overall health, reducing spending, measured by health outcomes. Changes to the current medicaid managed care program need to occur to accomplish our goal of containing costs, providing quality health care and improving health outcomes.

Along with more than 100 interested parties, stakeholders, providers and advocates, I participated in a process to transform Illinois’ health care delivery system, and along with it, the Medicaid program. The Health System Transformation process addressed fragmented care, dysfunctional payment systems, stakeholder dissatisfaction, unnecessary costs, and the perverse incentives of fee for service payments to providers without accountability for value and health outcomes. The workgroups addressed and recommended Integrated Delivery Systems that emphasize enhanced primary care as the preferred model of care, workforce enhancements to ensure an adequate supply of appropriate professional and paraprofessional staff, expansion of public health efforts to reduce incidence of preventable disease, additional supports for older adults and people with disabilities, and a more active leadership role for the state to attract additional federal funding and support efforts in the other four areas.

Unfortunately the Alliance for Health and Governor’s Office of Health Innovation and Transformation were dropped by the Rauner administration. I would work to reestablish the workgroup process, update their recommendations, and ensure access to high quality affordable health care based on the comprehensive approach described above.

Bottom line, Medicaid can not be addressed in a vacuum. Care coverage and payment structures for Medicaid must be considered and implemented as part of the overall environment for health care providers. Piecemeal approaches may temporarily save money at one end, only to see costs increase somewhere else.

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?

Gabel: I recently attended a tour and event at a state prison and came away with the impression that the Department of Corrections under this administration may not feel the need to invest in inmates and participate in the rehabilitation mission of our prisons. We are too often treating prisons like criminal warehouses and then expect people to better themselves without extending appropriate opportunity or resources. We need to make it a priority to treat prisoners for issues that brought them to prison in the first place and also provide job training and post prison support programs so we can reduce recidivism when they are released.

Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?

Gabel: Yes, I believe in sentencing reform in Illinois by restoring parole for people sentenced to long terms. Parole boards should take into consideration that people who commit crimes in their younger years are much less likely to be a threat to society in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and reinstating parole would ensure more racial equity when it comes to criminal adjudication. We would also be better off rehabilitating people and integrating them back into society if there were opportunities for early release based on good behavior.


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.


ENDORSEMENT: Robyn Gabel for Illinois House in the 18th District

Illinois House 18th District Republican nominee: Julie Cho

Endorsements for 16 Illinois House races in the Chicago area, Districts 15 through 50

Endorsements for 17 Illinois House races in the Chicago area, Districts 51 through 98

Illinois Senate endorsements for the Chicago area

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