Running for: Illinois Senate District 25
Political party affiliation: Republican
Political/civic background: I served for four years on the largest elected school board in Illinois (U-46). During my term, I fought for many of the issues for which my constituents elected me to represent them, such as opposing the deconstruction of biological differences between men and women in access to private spaces and sports participation, better curriculum that avoids the presentation of one side of an issue as opposed to a full discussion of ideas to promote critical thinking, and strongly opposing a fellow board member who stated that the American Flag was nothing more than toilet paper (who set a poor example of citizenship for our students). I also firmly opposed tax increases and voted no on every increasing budget and tax levy. I am also an elected Precinct Committeeman in Wayne Township.
Occupation: Product Manager for an International Chemical Company
Education: B.S. Environmental Resource Management, 1995, Pennsylvania State University.
M.S. Environmental Science and Health, Option Environmental Chemistry, 1997, University of Nevada - Reno.
M.B.A., 2003, Northern Illinois University
Campaign website: jeanette4senate.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the 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. Jeanette Ward submitted the following responses:
The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.
The governor was constitutionally outside his authority to continue to declare a disaster starting April 7. The legislature should have been called into session and should have partnered with businesses to form a plan to open safely. STOP shutting businesses down and implementing policies by fiat that destroy livelihoods, which also destroy tax revenue. Spending in non-essential areas has to be significantly curtailed during difficult revenue times. Federal CARES money toward essential government services has bridged some of the gap.
What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?
Without consulting the people’s legislature and giving taxpayers a voice in these decisions via local representation, Governor Pritzker has failed to be a consensus-building Leader. He has implemented rules by Executive Order that defy common sense and are not fairly applied across the board. Why could a large crowd converge on Home Depot but only 50 people attend a church service? Why could a family of four drive to the local lake, but only two of them get in the same boat? Why could you buy flowers from a crowded Wal-Mart, but your local florist is shuttered closed?
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?
Law enforcement does not need to be defunded; it needs to be defended. Union rules need to be reformed, so that rogue officers guilty of mistreating people, regardless of their color, are not prevented from being properly brought to justice.
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
Yes. Body cameras provide transparency to the public and protection to honest police. By having a complete record of all interactions with police, citizens and law enforcement are on equal footing. No system is perfect. Cameras can fail. But turning off a camera would not be allowed.
Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?
Karina Villa took approximately $1.44 million in campaign contributions from committees controlled by Michael Madigan. She should donate that money to charity, AND call for Michael Madigan’s resignation, and yes, he should resign. However, since the scandal broke, several weeks ago, she has remained silent.
Ethics reform should not allow an Illinois Speaker of the House to also serve as his state’s party chairman, legislators should not be voting in areas where they have a conflict of interest, and the Inspector General should not need permission from the Legislature to begin an investigation.
Jeanette Ward submitted the following responses before the March primary:
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
For the last four years, I represented the community as an unpaid School Board member for the largest elected school board in Illinois (U-46). As I stated above, during my term, I fought for many of the issues for which my constituents elected me to represent them, such as opposing the deconstruction of biological differences between men and women in access to private spaces and sports participation, better curriculum that avoids the presentation of one side of an issue as opposed to a full discussion of ideas to promote critical thinking, strongly opposing a fellow board member who stated that the American Flag was nothing more than toilet paper (who set a poor example of citizenship for our students), fiscal oversight of taxpayers’ money, and the first charter school in the district offering parents educational choice.
Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
1. Pension Reform: Illinois has anywhere from $137 billion to $250 billion, depending upon the rating agency, in unfunded pension liability. While we must keep our promises to those who are near retirement age, we must also change our defined benefit system to a defined contribution system and ensure that double and triple dipping is ended. This will require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to repeal the pension protection clause. It is the only way we can begin to pull our state back from the brink of financial insolvency.
2. Repeal the Reproductive Health Act: Illinois Senate District 25 residents do not support allowing abortion for all nine months of pregnancy – even those who support abortion want reasonable restrictions.
3. Ethics Reform: Effective ethics reform in Illinois should include restrictions on state legislators or former state legislators becoming lobbyists, expansion of the Economic Interest statement to disclose theirs and their family member’s financial involvements, allowing the Inspector General to act independently from the panel of state legislators from whom it must currently seek approval to open investigations, and requirements that legislators recuse themselves from votes for which they have a conflict of interest.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
Term limits, fair maps, 2nd Amendment Protections, Parental Freedom (School Choice); and promoting a culture of life.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
The “fair tax” is anything but “fair” and gives the legislature a blank check to raise taxes on families who are already leaving Illinois in record numbers. Illinois doesn’t have a revenue problem. Illinois has a spending problem.
Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $6 billion. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?
Illinois does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. Pension reform is the number one fiscal necessity as it currently consumes a quarter of the budget. Medicaid reform is the next largest financial component and it also must be reformed in accordance with the recommendations of past task forces. Making Illinois business and family-friendly by reducing the tax burden and decreasing onerous regulation will bring jobs and growth to our economy and doing so will result in increased revenue since more businesses and families will be able to afford to live here.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
No. If Illinois cannot reform the pension system, additional taxes on all residents will only grow. Bear in mind that the “wealthiest residents” are not bolted to the ground and can easily move out of Illinois. It wouldn’t take many of them moving away to deepen the financial crisis in our state.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
Implement school choice. Competition will improve outcomes and engage parents in decision-making. Additionally, consolidation of some school districts can improve costs, particularly districts containing separate High School and Elementary Districts that cover the same area. Legislation requiring that at least 60% of every state-supplied education dollar go directly to teachers, classroom supplies, books and technology and not to middle and upper management should be implemented.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Illinois already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country which need more enforcement. Obviously, gun control is not working since Chicago has some of the highest gun violence in the country and the most restrictive gun laws. Punishing law abiding citizens with more laws that infringe on their natural right to defend themselves and their 2nd Amendment Constitutional right is wrong. We must look at this issue from a different perspective. We must strengthen families, promote a culture of life, bring vibrancy to our economy for people to find purpose in work, and so much more.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I favor term limits. There should also be term limits for how long any given official can serve as Speaker or Senate Leader. Eight years might be a good place to start.
Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?
The Fair Maps initiative which gathered over 800,000 signatures, twice, in Illinois only to be struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court was a tragic injustice. As the minority opinion alluded to, it isn’t right for the people to be denied an amendment to their own Constitution. The people have a right to choose their representatives, not the other way around. Fair Maps should be implemented.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?
Although SB 1639 requires additional disclosure from lobbyists and makes it publicly available, it doesn’t go far enough. As I stated above, effective ethics reform in Illinois should include restrictions on state legislators or former state legislators becoming lobbyists, expansion of the Economic Interest statement to disclose theirs and their family member’s financial involvements, allowing the Inspector General to act independently from the panel of state legislators from whom it must currently seek approval to open investigations, and requirements that legislators recuse themselves from votes for which they have a conflict of interest.
When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?
While this issue needs to be addressed at the Federal Level, since it impacts inter-state commerce, Illinois should grant protections to its citizens like the European General Data Protection regulations (GDPR). We must expand our thinking regarding 4th Amendment protections of being secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, to our personal digital data.
The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?
Reform the exorbitant pay and retirement benefits in the UI system to reduce tuition costs. Prioritize enrollment slots for Illinois residents first. Reduce the overall tax burden on our residents, young and old, so they won’t be in such a hurry to leave Illinois.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
4th Generation Nuclear power is the one of the cleanest, safest energy sources available. Expanding nuclear power would reduce emissions and increase affordable energy, far more than wind farms, which cost more to build and maintain than the energy they produce. However, in light of the potential corruption issues at Exelon and ComEd, a more competitive environment for providing nuclear power with smaller reactors must be implemented.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
Henry Hyde, who served as Illinois’ Representative in Congress in the 6th district, from 1975-2007, because he introduced legislation prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
I enjoy “Call the Midwife” (BBC) because of my background as a doula, assisting laboring women in the birthing process and defending parental freedom (with respect to newborn procedures and vaccines) for parents of newborns.