Democrat Mica Freeman is opposing Republican Mark Batinick in the 97th district Illinois House race 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.
Mica Freeman submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Freeman: As an independent voice, my priorities lie with my constituents that I talk to as I walk door-to-door. Our families can not afford any more taxes, which is why I am committed to fighting for the middle-class families to ensure that property taxes are reduced. As a mother of a child with a disability, it remains a top priority of mine to protect healthcare, ensuring that those with preexisting conditions are still covered by their insurance. I also am committed to helping build an economy that works for the middle class by fighting for fairer wages, equal pay, and protecting the rights of workers.
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.
Freeman: My priorities are reflective of what I discuss with people at the doors. As a mother and stay-at-home mom, I know that our families can not afford to pay more in taxes. My current state representative chose not to vote or vote NO on important legislation such as property tax freezes, health insurance coverage, equal pay for women, and the Equal Rights Amendment. This did not set well with me and the more I researched, the more I decided I had to do something about it. This is why I am running.
Who is Mica Freeman?
Her legislative district: 97
Her political/civic background: I am a volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Her occupation: Stay at home mom
Her education: Bachelors from Eastern Illinois University, Masters from Concordia
Campaign website: www.freemanforillinois.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Freeman: As previously mentioned, my opponent refused to take important votes to people in the 97th district. He refused to protect a woman’s right to choose, would not work across the aisle to fund critical services like breast cancer screenings, domestic violence, and medical care for seniors and veterans. Additionally, he did not support a property tax relief, and did not protect healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions.
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?
Freeman: Elected officials should do everything possible to keep people in Illinois. Our legislature can accomplish this by cutting property tax relief for middle-class homeowners, seniors and veterans. The legislature should also cut taxes on middle-class and struggling families, requiring billionaires to pay their fair share to ensure that we can invest in our schools and grow the economy without burdening the middle-class anymore.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Freeman: As a former teacher, I understand the gravity of our current pension system in Illinois. Because of decades of neglect in which previous governors and General Assemblies failed to make sufficient contributions, we are now faced with the current unfunded pension liability. While there is no easy, quick fix to this, I am eager to working towards a solution that puts the pension funds on a path to solvency and reduces our unfunded liability.
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?
Freeman: Moving forward, Illinois simply cannot continue to slash funding for financial aid and block billions of dollars in education funding like Bruce Rauner did for a majority of his term, while expecting students to stay. As students migrate out of Illinois, it costs the state of Illinois not only in tax revenue, but also economic opportunities that occur when young people create new businesses in other states.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Freeman: There are numerous commonsense proposals that would help address the problem of gun violence that even gun supporters can get behind. Banning the sale and purchase of military-style assault rifles, strengthening background checks, and banning bump stocks are just a handful of items that the Legislature can pass to address gun violence.
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?
Freeman: I would support legislation like House Bill 5046, which would establish fair scheduling policies in Illinois by requiring employers to notify shift workers at least 72 hours in advance. Employees whose shifts are canceled or shortened would be entitled to receive at least half of their expected wages for that shift. This legislation would provide needed stability to low and middle-income workers.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Freeman: The state of Illinois has taken good steps on medical marijuana. Regarding recreational use, I would need to study the final language of any proposal closely and discuss it with local law enforcement, educators and families to ensure we would not be putting families and children at risk by legalizing it.
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?
Freeman: Because of Governor Rauner’s budget crisis, it resulting in funding for mental health treatment, addiction treatment, and law enforcement resources to be in jeopardy for over 700 days. There is a need to work with local police, educators and medical professionals to do more, including investing in treatment, education, job training and other resources proven to reduce opioid abuse.
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?
Freeman: I will work to promote green energy jobs, but will need to see specifics of the legislation to make sure they do not add to the burden of the middle-class families through higher taxes, fees or utility rates. I have been endorsed by the Sierra Club and AFL-CIO, who have been instrumental in promoting green 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?
Freeman: Ideally, managed care ensures more patients are able to receive high-quality care, reducing expensive emergency room visits. Bruce Rauner, however, has made unilateral changes to the Medicaid system which has had the opposite effect. These changes have resulted in nothing other than a bailout to multi-billion dollar insurance companies. This failure on behalf of the Rauner administration shows why lawmakers need to take the opposite approach, working together to ensure full transparency and oversight, and to make smart decisions that strengthen the Medicaid system, putting patient care ahead of insurance company profits.
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?
Freeman: These programs can play a role in reducing recidivism and the problems with the Department of Corrections are another consequence of the Rauner budget crisis. My first priority as a legislator it to pass a bipartisan budget.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Freeman: I will consider changes to our criminal justice in consultation with law enforcement and victims’ advocates, but as I walk door-to-door talking with people about what matters most to them I hear that Springfield’s focus needs to be on property tax relief for middle-class families, funding healthcare services, and ensuring we provide our students with a quality education. That will be my primary focus as an elected official.
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.