Running for: Illinois House District 9
Political/civic background: I have spent my adult life caring for and fighting for others. Working in nursing homes that were understaffed, I know the impacts of low staffing levels and heavy workloads have on both workers and patients. That’s why I became involved in my union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois. I worked to pass a groundbreaking nursing home reform bill in 2010 that raised standards and became a model for the rest of the country to follow, and just this year, worked to help pass the Fair Tax legislation and the $15 minimum wage.
Occupation: Union Organizer
Education: Proviso East High School -Diploma
Samland Institute- Certified Nursing Assistant certificate
Campaign website: lakesia4rep.com
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates 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. Lakesia Collins submitted the following responses:
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.
I have spent my adult life caring for and fighting for others. Working in nursing homes that were understaffed, I know the impacts of low staffing levels and heavy workloads have on both workers and patients. That’s why I became involved in my union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois. I worked to pass a groundbreaking nursing home reform bill in 2010 that raised standards and became a model for the rest of the country to follow, and just this year, worked to help pass the Fair Tax legislation and the $15 minimum wage.
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.
Economic inequality -- we must invest in working families by passing the Fair Tax, protect and build on our minimum wage victories, and ensure that all jobs are good jobs through paid sick leave and family leave policies and access to affordable health insurance.
Jobs -- we need equitable investment in our communities, where we are making sure that state funded projects are hiring people from ALL communities.
Gun violence -- I will work to make sure that we have safe neighborhoods. We must keep guns off of our streets, but we must also provide opportunities for our community members with good jobs, good schools, and other services.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
I will focus on issues that most impact working families. I have spent years fighting for a higher minimum wage, a Fair Tax system, and safe staffing levels in nursing homes, and I am committed to continuing to fight for those issues inside the legislature. I will fight for to protect collective bargaining rights and pensions, mandate paid sick and family leave, and expand access to quality affordable healthcare. But I will also work to make sure that we have equitable investment in our communities across the city, that we will work to provide safe neighborhoods for our children and families, and that will keep dangerous guns off of our streets.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I strongly support a graduated state income tax. I have advocated on behalf of this in Springfield for years as a member and organizer with SEIU, and will continue to do so as a candidate. We simply cannot continue to operate as a state without making sure that the wealthy pay more.
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 (and the City of Chicago) have balanced their budget for years by cutting public services, and it has had a impact on how public services are delivered in this state. Budget cutting policies have never been an effective way to balance a budget or deliver quality services, yet our governments have continually used it as their primary method of budgeting, rather than pursuing a more progressive tax structure that would include a progressive income tax, closing corporate loopholes, and a financial transactions tax. We must stop cutting services for the people who need them most, and rebuild and re-invest in our public services - from public schools to mental health services to home care for seniors. I have fought this fight in Springfield as an advocate and lobbyist, and I am committed to fighting this fight as a Representative.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
I support taxing the retirement incomes of the very wealthiest residents. We must find adequate ways to fund the necessary services for our state’s residents, and these funding streams must be done in the most progressive ways possible, where the richest among us finally pay their fair share.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
We must continue the new school funding formula and continue to increase the amount of money needed to fully fund it. And we also need to stop our reliance on standardized testing and get back to letting our teachers teach.
In addition, we need to allow CPS to have an elected representative school board. We need community members to have a true voice in how their schools are run with an added layer of accountability. Lastly, we must have a moratorium on any new charter schools AND a moratorium on school closures.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Our society’s problem with gun violence does not have one simple solution. It is a combination of many problems. The gun lobby has too much power in this country. We have dis-invested from mental health, education and after school programs. We also have a massive unemployment problem in low-income communities.
In order to address the problem of gun violence we must address each of these problems. We need to strengthen our gun laws to keep guns off of our streets. We need to expand our investment in mental health services. We need to expand our investment in our schools, and wrap around services. We must create opportunities for people to have good jobs that pay well and allow them not just survive, but to thrive.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I do not support term limits for elected officials. We have term limits - they are enforced every two or four years through the electoral process. Further, term limits simply shift power from voters and elected officials to lobbyists and unelected staff members.
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?
We must get to a place where voters are choosing their elected officials, not the other way around. I support an independent commission drawing legislative maps so that we have balanced districts that make sense geographically, but we also must make sure that we are preserving minority representation across the state.
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?
We must do more than what has been done. We need to have strong ethics laws in place that prohibit elected officials from lobbying and address the state’s lack of a revolving door policy. We also must take a look at campaign finance laws - including whether or not fundraising during session or from lobbyists should be allowed.
Lastly, we must find ways to remove big money from our political process. I strongly support publicly financed elections that create balance between candidates, but also reduces the reliance on raising money from special interests.
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?
The legislature must put in place strong policies in place that protects our data and limits what companies can collect and track.
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?
It is simple - we must invest in our students and our universities. Our students have gone elsewhere because of the uncertainty of Illinois’ financial situation and the fact that we have made college more and more expensive. I support strong investment in higher education, and would push for free college for all Illinois residents.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
We must pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, investing in our future and our children’s future. Investing in clean energy that is sustainable would provide for hundreds if not thousands of jobs, we have a responsibility to make sure that those jobs pay well also.
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.
Michelle Obama. As a fellow Black woman who grew up working-class in Chicago, I admire how she always fought for her dreams and encouraged others to believe that they belonged in the room. She has handled the racist and sexist attacks on herself and her family with dignity and courage, and she has shown women of color like me that it is possible to be a devoted mother and a public servant at the same time.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Pose. It highlights the challenges of an oppressed community while also displaying their joy and humanity. I appreciate that it shows the close relationships between Black and Latinx members of the LGTBQ and gender-nonconforming communities. I have also been a part of building close community with people like myself who were overlooked or exploited by mainstream society—for example, when I was in foster care as a teenager, when I was organizing my fellow workers in the nursing home, and with a family member who went through some very difficult challenges when they came out. This is part of what motivates me to keep fighting for equality and inclusion. I think the humanity, victories, and struggles of poor and working-class queer people of color are not often displayed on TV, so I appreciate that Pose brings that to light.