On Sept. 5, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board met with the candidates for Illinois Senate in the 9th district. We asked Democratic nominee Laura Fine why she’s running, and you can watch the video above for her response.
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. Laura Fine submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Fine: Health care reform on behalf of the consumer, affordable higher education, juvenile justice reform, common sense gun reforms and environmental protections.
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.
Fine: The Amtrak/Hiawatha expansion project through Glenview and other northern suburbs would be detrimental to the the environment and public safety.
Securing the future of the Great Lakes and protecting our freshwater supply especially the Great Lakes Compact which is in jeopardy due to the Foxconn project in Wisconsin.
Safety in schools and accessibility of mental health programs for youth.
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Fine: It is difficult to know what my opponent really stands for as her policy positions are quite vague and lacking in detail. I have a 6 year record of my accomplishments of which I am very proud. I have been consistent in my positions on issues which is evident by my voting record.
Who is Laura Fine?
She is running for: Illinois State Senate, 9th District
Her political/civic background:
- Illinois House of Representatives, 17th District, 2017
- Council of State Governments Toll Fellows, 2018
- Leadership training program Edgar Fellows, 2015
- The Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development, 2014
- Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, 2008
Her occupation: Illinois State Representative, 17th District
- Northeastern Illinois University, M.A. Political Science
- Indiana University, B.A. Telecommunications
Her campaign website: lauraforillinois.com
Her Twitter handle: @Laura4Illinois
Recent news: Laura Fine
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?
Fine: The legislature must work to stabilize the economy and bring consistency and predictability to our tax system. We need to pay down our debt. We need access to affordable housing, quality education, dependable infrastructure and good public transit. We also need to invest in the jobs of the future in technology and other innovative fields. This can be achieved through changing our tax structure to a less regressive system which will strengthen and stabilize our economy and encourage job growth.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Fine: The Illinois Supreme Court has determined that Article 13 of the Illinois constitution prohibits decreasing or diminishing promised pension benefits. With that ruling by the court, we need to continue to work to find constitutional changes to the system that we can incorporate in order to control our pension costs. This began prior to the ruling, in 2011 with Tier II, and was followed by more recent updates, including Tier III (which has yet to be enacted) and early buyouts. I will continue to work with stakeholders to craft constitutionally-appropriate solutions. We must look at solutions from every angle, including re-amortization.
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?
Fine: Many students left because Illinois was not funding higher education. Many colleges were on the brink of closing and the uncertainty was driving students away. This year, the General Assembly took steps to reverse this trend. The changes to the MAP Program and the addition of the AIM HIGH grant pilot program will make higher education more attainable. We need to continue to fully fund higher education and restore confidences in our states colleges and universities.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Fine: We need to focus on common-sense legislation, including banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines and blueprints for printing 3D guns. We also need to re-introduce and enact gun dealer licensing legislation, which was vetoed by the governor. In addition, we must fund mental health and violence interventions programs.
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?
Fine: Yes, I support ‘fair scheduling’. This bill was introduced in the 100th General Assembly, and we need to reintroduce it next year. It is important for workers to have advance notice of their schedules and provide new employees with a good-faith estimate of the hours they will be scheduled to work. This will provide workers with more stability to plan their schedules for their life-responsibilities, including childcare, school and second jobs.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Fine: I would like to see how our medical cannabis pilot program is progressing over the next few years. I believe we should carefully study the impact of marijuana legalization in other states before we legalize recreational marijuana use in Illinois. We need to examine the economic, health and social impacts of marijuana legalization on society before legalizing adult use 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?
Fine: The General Assembly passed a bill to allow medical cannabis use for pain management which should help with the opioid addiction. Additionally, the tele-psychiatry bill and mental health parity bill that we passed should also help address the opioid crisis. We need to make sure that access to addiction treatment is equally available and accessible to everyone in the state as there is a lack of resources downstate.
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?
Fine: I agree with The Future Energy Jobs Act and supported it in 2016. I believe it is still one of the most comprehensive and significant pieces of clean energy legislation. We need to continue to support renewable energy as clean energy is the future and here to stay. In the legislature we need to remain vigilant and protect our environmental priorities and goals from attacks by the federal government. I’d also like to see us retrain our workers in less clean energy sectors and transition them to 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?
Fine: The current state of managed care in Illinois is concerning because MCOs aren’t adopting sufficiently transparent monitoring procedures. Billions of dollars per year go to these organizations with the intent of saving taxpayer dollars while providing quality healthcare. However, I hear from constituents who are having many issues getting the services they need for which they should be covered. If Illinois Medicaid patients aren’t getting quality care, taxpayers deserve to know where the money is going. Springfield needs to be a strong steward of taxpayer dollars, particularly dollars that go to care for our state’s most vulnerable people. We need more transparency and accountability as to how these dollars are being spent.
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?
Fine: Yes, this is a legitimate concern. Ideally I’d like us to be able to fund educational and job training programs for the prison population. I believe this training will make it easier for incarcerated men and women to transition to normal productive life once outside the prison and it will reduce recidivism. In my capacity as a member of the Emerging Adult Justice Learning Community through Harvard and Columbia Universities, I have learned about the German criminal justice system and its success with retraining prisoners to re-enter society.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Fine: Yes, I believe everyone deserves a second chance. There are people in prison now in their 40s and 50s for being an accessory to a crime when they were 17 years old. Under minimum sentencing laws, these individuals have received life sentences with no chance of parole, even if they are determined not to be a threat to society. We are better off having these men and women become successful taxpaying members of society, than to house them in the expensive correctional system for the remainder of their lives.
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.