Democrat Joyce Mason faces Democrat Sheri Jesiel in the 61st district Illinois House race.
On Oct. 10, Mason appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running.
The Sun-Times Editorial Board also 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. Mason submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Mason: My greatest priority is providing real representation to the residents of the 61st district in Springfield and serving as an independent commonsense voice who is willing to roll up her sleeves and work with anyone who will work with me for the good of my community.
Based on what I’ve learned talking with voters at their doors over the past year, my top priorities include: Cutting property taxes for middle class families; Addressing key economic issues such as job creation, supporting small business, ensuring fair wages, equal pay and the protection of workers’ rights; Providing full funding of our schools, equitable school funding across the district, and expansion of vocational training and affordable higher education opportunities.
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.
Mason:Property tax relief – Requiring the state to properly and fully fund our schools with legislation which would provide parents with more control and transparency over their children’s education while also providing property tax relief for middle class families. Also voting for legislation expanding the standard homeowners’ exemption, cutting property taxes for all homeowners and giving seniors and veterans additional relief.
Jobs – Prohibiting employers who outsource jobs from receiving taxpayer funded incentives, and requiring them to pay incentives back if they begin outsourcing. Expanding vocational training opportunities and careers in clean energy.
Affordable healthcare – Stopping huge health insurance premium increases by requiring insurance companies to submit their rates for review and justifying any price increases.
Who is Joyce Mason?
She’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 61st District Her political/civic background:
- Vice President, Board of Education – Woodland Consolidated Community School District 50
- May 1, 2017 – Present
- A Safe Place – Lake County, Illinois (Domestic violence organization)Board of Directors, 2014-Present
- Board Secretary, 2015-2016
- Volunteer Speaker/Advocate 2014-Present
- El Puente Latino – Waukegan, Illinois (Food pantry and healthcare organization)Board of Directors, 2014 – Present
- Lake County Honor Flight Guardian
- Deputy Registrar (Register new voters in local high schools)
- American Cancer Society – Gurnee/Wadsworth Relay For LifeEvent Chairperson, 2011
- Event planning committee, 2005-2011
- Recruitment Chairperson/Team Mentor 2007-2010
- Woodland School District 50 – Gurnee, IllinoisRoom Parent/Classroom Volunteer/Literacy tutor, 2005-2016
- Gurnee Park District – Gurnee, IllinoisVolunteer basketball and baseball coach 2009-2013
Her occupation: Human Resources Consultant Her education: Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Masters Degree in Business Administration Campaign website: VoteJoyceMason.com Twitter: @VoteJoyceMason
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Mason: I am running for office to provide real representation for the people of my district, and because I see that gridlock and failure to compromise in Springfield is hurting real families. There are a number of areas in which me and my opponent differ. Some of these include:
- I will be an independent voice and work across the isle in the best interest of the people of Illinois. My opponent has voted against compromise budgets in 2017 and 2018, choosing chaos over compromise, affecting our families, schools, and critical services for families, domestic violence survivors, veterans and seniors.
- My opponent voted against a compromise bill that provided additional funding for our schools and property tax relief for many families in our district (HB 1947). While this bill wasn’t exactly what I wanted for the district, we needed to compromise and come together to find a solution that would work for everyone.
- My opponent voted against HB 40, protecting a woman’s right to choose, against ratifying the ERA in Illinois, and against pay equity for women (HB 2462). I will support women’s reproductive rights and equality.
SUN-TIMES 2018 ILLINOIS VOTING GUIDE
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?
Mason: Legislators must do more to keep families in Illinois. Some examples of things we can do include providing property tax relief to the middle class, seniors and veterans so they can continue to afford their homes; Provide high quality public education to all students so families can feel good about the schools they are sending their children to; Create opportunities for affordable higher education so that college students do not have to leave the state to afford school and their talent is kept here in Illinois; Attract businesses to Illinois by providing them with a stable economy, a talented workforce, and good communities for their employees to thrive in; Supporting small businesses to help them succeed; Providing opportunities for affordable healthcare, protecting the rights and equality of women, and enacting commonsense gun safety legislation for safer communities.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Mason: Illinois’ pension crisis did not happen overnight. Mismanagement and neglect from both parties who failed to properly fund the retirement plans for years was further compounded by the impact of a major recession, which affected the investment returns expected to maintain the balances needed to pay out pensions for retirees. Unfortunately, this is not something that can easily be fixed overnight or with simple solutions. It is something we need to address and diligently work on to find a solution that decreases our unfunded debt and restores the solvency of the pension funds. We’ve got to learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past, and first and foremost make sure our full pension payments are made going forward. We cannot play political games with retirement plans. We must be fair to taxpayers and keep promises made to public sector employees. Any legislation that is considered must be very carefully designed and evaluated, and all stakeholders should be at the table and have a voice in decisions affecting these plans.
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?
Mason: We cannot cut funding for financial aid and block funds for educational grants from students, and expect them to stay in Illinois and pay considerably more in tuition or go into deep debt. As the mother of a college freshman, I understand all too well the challenges that Illinois students face – and I understand why they are leaving. It’s a tragedy for Illinois – because when college students leave the state for their higher education, Illinois loses up to $776 million in lost lifetime tax revenue – not to mention the missed opportunities from the contributions they would have made to Illinois employers or by starting their own businesses in Illinois. I was pleased to see a bipartisan group of legislators working towards higher education funding, MAP Grant funding, and expanded access to financial aid. Unfortunately, my opponent was not one of them. By providing additional opportunities for affordable higher education and vocational training our state will retain a highly talented workforce, attract businesses who are seeking a pool of talented candidates, and benefit from the tax revenue of a population that remains in the state.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Mason: Gun violence is an issue that must be addressed. As a FOID card holder myself, I know that there are commonsense things we can do to keep our families, schools and communities safer while preserving the second amendment rights of responsible gun owners. These include things like banning the manufacture and sale of bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to work like automatic weapons; strengthening background checks by requiring gun dealer licenses; and banning the sale and purchase of military style assault rifles.
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?
Mason: I would be supportive of legislation such as House Bill 5046, which would make scheduling practices more fair for employees. Under this legislation, shift workers would receive their schedules at least 72 hours in advance, and would be entitled to receive fifty percent of their pay if their shift was canceled or shortened. This would provide much more stability for low and middle income workers. It also would allow those working more than one job time to make adjustments and coordinate with both jobs. Most importantly, it helps to alleviate safety concerns for parents of children needing care when they are at work.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Mason: I am still evaluating and researching the pros and cons of this, and plan to spend more time speaking with law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, and families about this topic. I am supportive of de-criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. I am also supportive of providing patients with certain illnesses and chronic pain the opportunity to use regulated medical marijuana. I believe that in that capacity, it can also be effective in the fight against opioid addiction. However, before I commit to supporting full legalization, I need further time to research and evaluate any potential safety risks to our children and families.
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?
Mason: I was saddened by the fact that our extended budget crisis put critical funding related to this problem in jeopardy. This included funding for mental health treatment, addiction treatment, community resources, and even law enforcement. When a compromise budget restoring funding for these critical resources was finally agreed upon, my opponent voted against it. We must continue to invest in research, treatment, education and job training, and other programs that have been proven to reduce opioid abuse. Legislators should also continue programs like drug take-back programs so unused prescription drugs can be safely taken out of our communities.
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?
Mason: I agree with the objectives in this Act. Illinois can become a leader in clean energy, which will not only create healthier communities for our families and future generations, it has the potential to create opportunities for education and training, employment, career paths, and business opportunities. I am proud to be endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the AFL-CIO, two organizations who have been instrumental in supporting the expansion of clean energy jobs.
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?
Mason: I believe that first and foremost, we must put quality patient care first. That being said, my experience in Human Resources has taught me that managed healthcare can help us provide high quality, coordinated care for patients at reduced costs if administered correctly. Unfortunately, this has not been one of these cases. We have watched Bruce Rauner give out-of-state insurance companies huge bailouts, boosting their multi-million dollar profits while denying care to those in great need. Furthermore, a recent audit showed that $7 billion in payments to these organizations were never properly monitored. Insurance companies are making record profits without necessary transparency or oversight while patients are not receiving care that they need. Insurance companies must be held accountable for their rates and proper oversight of the system before determining whether managed care is an appropriate option.
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?
Mason: Many types of programs like these have been shown to play a role in reducing recidivism and should be supported when possible. Unfortunately, this is another result of Bruce Rauner’s budget crisis. Our first priority must be to pass bipartisan budgets that invest first in our families, schools, seniors, lifesaving cancer screenings, and domestic violence shelters.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
I would consider future changes in our criminal justice system after carefully reviewing the proposed changes with victims’ advocates and law enforcement officials. However, my first priorities are the urgent issues I’ve been hearing about talking with community members including property tax relief, high quality education in our public schools, and critical services.
• ENDORSEMENT: Sheri Jesiel for Illinois House in the 61st District
• All Sun-Times Editorial Board endorsements in Nov. 8 election
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.