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Robert F. Martwick, Illinois Senate 10th District Democratic nominee profile

His top priorities include an elected school board in Chicago, investment in higher education and the “Fair Tax.“

Robert F. Martwick, Illinois Senate 10th District Democratic nominee and incumbent, 2020 election, endorsement
Robert F. Martwick, Illinois Senate 10th District Democratic nominee and incumbent.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Robert Martwick

Running for: Illinois State Senate 10th District

Political party affiliation: Democrat

Political/civic background: Illinois State Senator, 10th District: June 2019 - Present
Chairman, General Assembly Retirement System Board: January 2019 - Present
Trustee, Illinois State Board of Investment: January 2019 - Present
Democratic Committeeperson, 38th Ward: January 2018 - Present
Illinois State Representative 19th District: January 2013 - June 2019
Trustee, Village of Norridge: May 1999 - April 2011
Trustee, Norwood Park Township: May 1993 - April 1997

Occupation: Attorney

Education: JD - The John Marshall Law School
BA (Economics) Boston College

Campaign website:

Facebook: @robertmartwick

Twitter: @robertmartwick

Instagram: @robmartwick

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for 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. Robert F. Martwick 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.

We must to continue to press the federal government for financial relief. This is not optional. They are the only level of government that has the ability to infuse cash into every state that has been decimated by the pandemic, providing for the best possible results. In order to return to some semblance of normalcy and regular economic activity, we simply must get to a widely available vaccine without having another massive surge in new cases that strains the ability of our healthcare system and shuts down our economy,...again. The most responsible way to get to that point is to ensure that people have the ability to stay home when possible in a secure home (IDES and housing assistance), and that the essential services they depend upon are uninterrupted. Failure of the federal government to act will result in people being forced to engage in activities that will promote the spread of the virus, causing more “starts and stops” to our economy, which is the worst option, as it creates unpredictability and instability. Failure of the federal government to provide adequate assistance will throw Illinois back into the turmoil and devastation of the Rauner years, with massive budget shortfalls met with an unwillingness and inability to make cuts to education, public safety, and essential services sufficient to offset the lost revenue, just like the Republicans and Rauner refused to do during his tenure. Instead, Illinois will make devastating cuts to MAP grants and higher ed, once again denying high performing students access to a college degree simply because they lack the financial means. We will cut back on our commitment to adequately fund K-12 education, services like child care assistance, homeless prevention, addiction counseling and mental health. Yet, despite all of these cuts, we will still fall woefully short of balancing our budget and will inevitably accumulate another massive backlog of unpaid bills which will both slow our ability to recover and burden future generations.

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?

A. His handling of this crisis has been thoughtful, measured, predictable and, most importantly, based on science. While the Republican Party dismissed the advice of scientific and medical experts and turned something as simple as the wearing of a mask into an ideological battle, Gov Pritzker kept a steady hand and has dramatically turned the tide on the virus’ effect on our state. The only thing I would have done differently (and this is with the admittedly unfair benefit of hindsight), is make a greater effort to resolve IDES claims sooner to help Illinoisans in need. Again, NO ONE could have adequately prepared for the onslaught of applications that came with the lock down, however in hindsight, I would have looked to increase hiring of front line caseworkers sooner and even considered contracting some of those services for a brief time in order to ensure that claimants were able to have their claims resolved in a more timely fashion.

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?

In 2014, Illinois passed one of the most comprehensive and progressive policing reform initiatives in the country. However, we should always be looking to improve everything that government does, especially in the areas of public safety and trust. The current situation is untenable, however I truly believe that we can achieve reforms that restore faith in government for communities of color, and at the very same time, improve the working conditions and outcomes for those who work as our police officers. Our goal must be to create a safe society for every resident with trust that law enforcement will conduct themselves according to policies that engender respect and trust. If they violate those policies, the public will know that there is a clear and transparent path to justice and that those bad actors will be held accountable. This means that in addition to creating greater accountability for police, we must also improve their working conditions and job performance by ensuring that they are not required to be the front-line responder for every single situation. Police officers are supposed to “protect and serve” by fighting crime. However, as Chicago has disinvested in education, mental health, and addiction counseling, officers find themselves become front line social workers. This is neither a role they are intended to perform, nor are they well equipped to do so. Additionally, as Chicago has grappled with financial resources, they have not hired the amount of police officers they need and instead rely on officers working overtime to fill the needs. Given the challenges and stresses associated with policing, it is not surprising that there are situations where officers make very bad decisions. As a person who has neither worked as a police officer nor had a negative interaction with police officers, I intend to approach the coming efforts at reform with an open mind and a willingness to learn from the experiences of my colleagues who represent those communities most affected. I will work to address their concerns in an open and honest way, while ensuring that any reforms include community investment into essential social services. I will also work to ensure that legislation is mindful of the needs of police officers to ensure that they have the resources necessary to do their job in a way that provides the safety and security we need and restores faith in their important role.

Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?

No. The obvious reason is that unless we completely change accepted policing strategy, it would be senseless to require plainclothes and undercover officers to wear body cameras. Additionally there are many police officers who are not on patrol, and so we should not force cash strapped departments to force administration to wear cameras. We should simply require all patrol officers to wear the cameras.

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?

Corruption is unacceptable. The current scandal involving ComEd is terrible. The actions of one corporations and a handful of lobbyists and elected officials serve to the erode trust in a system in which most of the participants are honorable. There are 177 legislators and countless lobbyists and legislative liaisons who serve very important functions in the operation of democracy in our state. Unfortunately the actions of a few cast a shadow on everyone and this is why we must continue to tighten the rules that apply to the operation of government. Passing new laws will not stop those who intentionally break those laws for their own benefit, however greater transparency and accountability will serve to restore trust by illuminating the legal and honorable actions of the vast majority of those working in Springfield. An ethics package will be forthcoming in short order. I am looking forward to reviewing the recommendation of my colleagues who have put so in so much work on this subject and will advocate for the inclusion of greater restrictions and transparency for lobbyists, and a truly independent inspector general with defined authority and power to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. The office of Speaker of the House is a leadership post that is decided by the members of the majority caucus in the House of Representatives, not the Senate. If Michael Madigan is indicted, I would hope that he would follow the unwritten rule that he has demanded of other members of the House and resign. Until he is indicted, the decision on him continuing in his leadership role is a decision that must be and will be made by those members of the House chamber where he serves.

Robert F. Martwick 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.

As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois State Senate, I have been involved in historic legislative progress over the course of the last two years. During the last year of the 100th General Assembly, under the Rauner administration, I was able to pass significant legislation. Under the first year of the 101st General Assembly, under Governor Pritzker, I played an integral role in a historic year. These initiatives are listed below:

101st General Assembly: HB 302 Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act. Passed over the veto of Gov. Rauner, this act is one of the most significant consumer protection initiatives passed. It requires insurance companies to search their files, identify policy holders who have passed and notify their beneficiaries. This act ended a longstanding practice that allowed insurance companies to deny paying policy proceeds to beneficiaries who were not aware they were named, even if the insurance company knew that the policy holder had passed. Since the initial filing and passage of this legislation, more than 3/4 of a billion dollars in life insurance proceeds have been turned over to beneficiaries who were entitled to this money long ago.

SB437 Property Tax Exemption Increase. This bill increased the Homeowner’s Exemption and Senior Citizen Exemption, and expanded access to the Senior Freeze Exemption, providing real property tax relief for every single property owner in Cook County. In response to rising property taxes and a realization that the burden of property taxation was disproportionately falling on the backs of middle-class, working-class and working poor taxpayers, the increase in property exemption provided both actual relief ($240 - $1000 per year, every year, for homeowners under 65 and twice that those over 65), and helped reduce the regressive burden of property taxes in Cook County.

HB 5137 Statewide Teacher’s Deferred Compensation. Creates a high performing, low cost supplemental retirement savings option for teachers. Deferred Compensation plans are offered to government employees so that they can supplement their pension benefits by investing regularly in a savings plan where neither contributions or earnings are taxed. With the adoption of Tier 2 pension reform, it is extremely important for employees to save their own money in a supplemental plan, as the pension benefits alone no longer provide sufficient retirement income. Prior to the passage of this legislation, Deferred Compensation programs were created at the local school district level. Many of the local plans offered were high cost plans that dramatically reduced the lifetime savings. In fact, the fees charged by some plans could literally cut the final balance in half over the course of a teacher’s career. This legislation ensures that every teacher has the opportunity to save their own money for retirement in a plan that is designed to ensure that they get they get the most possible out of their retirement savings and can care for themselves without having to rely on public benefits.

Legislation Co-sponsored in 100th GA:

HB 40: Preserves Access to reproductive health for women in Illinois

HB 3649:Debt Transparency Act. Requires state agencies to report all unpaid bills to the Comptroller, providing transparency to the true financial condition of the state.

SB 337: Gun Dealer Licensing Act. Requires retail gun establishments to obtain licensing for the state and upgrade security measures in order to curtail the use of straw purchasers

SB 1933: Automatic Voter Registration

Other Measures during the 100th GA:

Pension buyouts. Co-authored (with Rep. Mark Batinick) a measure to legally reduce future pension obligations by offering discounted present cash value buyouts of pension benefits to retirees. Measure was adopted in the budget and is expected to produce nearly $500 million in savings to the state.

FRIENDLY ACT. Drafted, filed and advocated for legislation that would allow for the adoption of a graduated rate income tax structure, allowing the state to properly fund education, pay down pension debts, lower property taxes and improve the state’s business climate. The structure of this legislation became much of Gov. Pritzker’s FAIR tax initiative.

Chicago Veteran’s Home. Fiercely advocated for and helped restore funding for the Chicago Veteran’s home, after construction was stopped by Gov. Rauner and used as a bargaining chip for his political agenda. Construction has resumed, is nearing completion, and the home will soon open, providing long term living and care to hundreds of veterans.

Equal Rights Amendment. Supported and helped secure passage of Illinois’ long overdue adoption and endorsement of the ERA.

Elected Representative School Board for CPS. Lead sponsor and author of a bill to provide true representative democracy to the state’s largest school district.

101st General Assembly:

SJRCA1 Fair Tax Resolution. Lead sponsor of the resolution to place a constitutional question on the November 2020 ballot that would allow the implementation of a graduated income tax rate structure in Illinois. The FAIR tax would allow for lower rates on everyone making $250,000 per year or less and would raise the revenue needed to ensure the state properly funds education, stabilizes our budget process, and pays back the debts owed to our pension systems.

HB3606 Student Data Privacy. Created rules and regulation about how student data is used by school districts and technology providers. Creates transparency for parents by informing them who is collecting data, what data is being collected, and provides them with the option of correcting and/or deleting data collected from their children. Ensures school districts inform parents when student data is breached.

HB3082. Deferred Compensation Auto Enrollment. Automatically enrolls new state employees in the states Deferred Compensation savings program. As Tier 2 benefits will not provide sufficient income in retirement, automatically enrolling them in a program that helps them save their own money for retirement in the state’s low cost, high performance system will allow them to ensure they are prepared for retirement and will prevent them from relying on public assistance in retirement.

Legislation Co-Sponsored in the 101st GA:

HB 345 (Tobacco 21): Raises the legal age for purchasing Tobacco products from 18 to 21.

HB 1438 (Recreational Cannabis): Historic legislation, drafted with the goal of providing criminal justice reform and economic equity, that creates a series of laws that will permit the retail sale of cannabis.

SB 25 (Reproductive Health Act): Ensures that in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned, that women in Illinois will always have access to reproductive healthcare, making that access a right. Preserves the law as it exists today by eliminating outdated and unenforceable provisions from the law.

Other important work:

Balanced budget. Served on the House budget team and helped craft and pass the first truly balanced and bi-partisan budget in decades.

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. An Elected Representative School Board for Chicago Public Schools. The 10th Senate District is home to some of Chicago’s finest and most overcrowded public schools. CPS continues to struggle with financial problems that were caused by decades of mismanagement under the Mayor controlled school board. With a lack of necessary funds, CPS is constantly making choices that affect students, parents, and neighborhoods. Neighborhood schools suffer tremendously from a lack of resources and deferred maintenance on their facilities. CPS has shorted special education students and turned a blind eye toward sexual misconduct. An elected school board will not solve the financial problems, but it will give the residents of Chicago exactly what they are entitled to: a voice in the direction and operation of their schools, transparency in the decision making process, and accountability, through the process of representative democracy.

2. Fair Taxation. The majority of residents in the 10th district are middle class, working class and working poor. Like most people in Illinois they suffer from a broken and outdated tax system that puts too much of the burden of funding government on the backs of those least able to afford it. This burden, which comes in the manner of high property taxes, high sales taxes and high fees, eats away at the income of working families until they can no longer afford the simple life they try to lead. People are fleeing Illinois, however it is not the rich. In fact, they have benefitted greatly from a tax system that is the 8th most regressive in the country. The people that are leaving Illinois are those who have seen their wages remain flat (or even decline) during the last decade, while their share of taxes has risen exponentially. If Illinois hopes to rebound from this crisis we must reinvest in the middle class, working class and working poor and we can do that by creating a tax system that is less regressive and gives the backbone of our state a break. We must raise the revenue we need to pay down our debts, provide quality educational opportunities for our children, and provide care for our seniors and vulnerable neighbors, but we must do that in a way that balances the scales and creates a more fair system of taxation. I was the chief sponsor of the Fair Tax resolution and I worked on this initiative for years before Gov. Pritzker ran for office. We must pass this ballot initiative and couple it with real measures to contain and relieve rising property taxes.

3. Investment in Higher Education. Over the course of the last decade, Illinois has undertaken a massive austerity program, with deep and across the board cuts at nearly every state agency. Until this most recent budget, Illinois was spending less on funding for state universities, community colleges and MAP grants than we did a decade ago. This decade of cuts has resulted in the highest rate of tuition increases in the country, forcing more and more Illinois students to leave the state in order to obtain a college degree. At best, this means a college degree is more expensive and at worst, the high tuition and insufficient MAP grants have prevented many students from getting a degree altogether. Students who leave Illinois for college often do not return. This creates a “brain drain” from our state and makes Illinois less attractive to businesses. We must reinvest in our system of higher education, tearing down the barriers to a college degree so that our best and brightest students can thrive in Illinois. This reinvestment will help our economy in the long run by ensuring an educated and accessible workforce, paying dividends for generations.

What are your other top legislative priorities?

1. Pensions. Name a problem in Illinois and I will show you how Illinois’ inability to manage its debt is directly causing or contributing to that problem. Our inability to properly fund every level of education, invest in early childhood intervention, provide healthy and constructive alternatives to crime, address homelessness, invest in world class public transit, invest in green energy, and provide sufficient care for our most sensitive neighbors is all due to the fact that the service on the debts we carry prevents us from funding programs that would address the problems we have in our state. Over the course of the last 7 years I have worked on creating solutions that will help us manage the repayment of the debt we owe to our pension systems while helping us to live up to the promises we made to our employees and retirees. We must continue to find constitutionally permissible reforms (like the pension buyout program that I authored and the pension consolidation program that was recently passed), and couple them with a mathematically based and financially sound debt restructuring that will ensure that we can continue to both pay our debts and afford to provide a base level of government service to those who rely on it.

2. Retirement Security. The biggest financial crisis that we will face is when a large swath of our society reaches retirement age without the resources to provide for themselves. With the loss of private sector pensions and the pitfalls of 401k plans, the vast majority of Americans do not have enough saved for retirement. I have worked on a number of measures to ensure that both public and private sector workers have access to quality retirement savings vehicles and that we use every tool at our disposal to get them to begin saving early, so that they can save what they need over time. I have been a sponsor of a number of Secure Choice bills, which is the private sector retirement savings plan for employees who are not offered a retirement savings plan through their employer. I have also sponsored and passed a number of bills to get public sector employees saving their own money by creating high quality, low cost deferred compensation plans and auto enrolling state employees into them.

3. Common Sense Gun Reform.

4. Preserving our environment by transitioning to clean and green energy sources

5. Protecting access to reproductive health care

What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.

I was the chief sponsor of the Fair tax resolution and have worked for years to help achieve its passage. Prior to Governor Pritzker’s Fair Tax proposal, I personally authored a graduated income tax structure called the Friendly Act. Many aspects of my initiative were incorporated in the Fair Tax proposal. Illinois is on an unsustainable long term financial path. Our commitments to pay back the debt to our pension systems and to increase funding to K-12 education are growing faster than our revenues. Our current flat tax is outdated. The only growth in our economy over the course of the last decade has been at the very top of the income scale. Our regressive tax system continues to try to make ends meet by increasing taxes on the people that can least afford to pay them. This cannot continue. We will run out of the ability to meet our financial obligations and once again be forced to increase taxes to the people who cannot afford to pay them, and at the very same time cut the services that provide opportunities that they need so badly. The Fair Tax will help our revenues grow with our obligations so that we not only can avoid devastating cuts, but also so we can avoid future tax increases. All the while, we will be utilizing a tax system that is more fair, is used in 37 other states and the federal government, and provides real income tax relief for everyone making $250,000 per year or less.

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’ debt and pension obligations are the cause of much concern, and rightly so. The size and nature of our debt and the obligations to pay it back have led to massive cuts to critical services. Those cuts have taken many forms over the years and have led to problems that are, in fact, perhaps even bigger than the debt that causes them. Cuts to higher education have led to the highest tuition increases in the country, the biggest enrollment declines in the country, and have left thousands of students either leaving Illinois or giving up on a college degree altogether. “Across the board” cuts have been applied year after year, leaving nearly every single state agency understaffed and overworked, even sensitive agencies like DCFS, where children die because caseworkers have too big of a workload and not enough support. Our infrastructure is crumbling. We must pass the Fair Tax in order to stabilize our finances and allow our revenues to grow at a pace that will match the growth of our commitments to education funding and the repayment of our debt. If we do not pass the Fair Tax, the state will be forced to raise the flat income tax, which will lead to another income tax increase on everyone including those that cannot afford it. If this is our only option, we must seek to minimize the regressive effect by adding measures the increase progressivity. This could include increasing personal exemptions and exploring an expansion of the sales tax to services coupled with a decrease in the sales tax rate. Finally, we must find a way to responsibly restructure the payment on the debts that both ensures timely repayment while preventing draconian cuts to essential services.

Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?

Illinois needs a complete overhaul of our system of taxation. We currently own the 8th most regressive tax system in the country, placing far to much of the burden of funding government services on the backs of the people least able to afford it: middle class, working class and poor. As we begin to reform our tax system we should do so in a way that raises revenue that is sufficient to pay back our debts and more fairly spreading the burden. No senior citizen who is struggling to make ends meet on a fixed retirement income should ever have to fear that our state will begin taxing their social security, pensions or modest 401k savings. However, our lack of any kind of tax on retirement savings creates another real problem. There are scores of seniors who must keep working because they cannot afford to retire. Their income is taxed because it is earned, yet some of the wealthiest of our citizens are able to withdraw enormous amounts of “retirement” income and pay no taxes on it. This is patently unfair. I would consider taxing retirement income if, and only if, we are able to effectively limit this tax to those who are drawing substantial income in retirement and do not add a burden to middle class and low income seniors who are struggling to get by. One possibility is exempting all retirement income below a certain level ($100,000), and all earned income below that level after a certain age (65). This would not only ensure that middle class and low income seniors are not taxed on their retirement savings, but it would also ensure that those senior who are forced to work past retirement age are not taxed on modest levels of income. For example, a senior citizen making $15 per hour working as a cashier at a grocery store would pay no taxes on her income. However, a wealthy financier withdrawing $400,000 per year in passive retirement income would not pay taxes on the first $100,000 of income, but would pay income taxes on the last $300,000.

What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?

In order to improve K-12 education, Illinois must meet and exceed our commitment to properly fund education through the evidenced based model. According to the bi-partisan passage of school funding reform, Illinois has committed to adding $3.5 billion dollars in new state funding to education over the course of a decade (at $350 million more per year). If we live up to this promise, we will improve state funding for every school district in this state, and ensure that this new funding is distributed in a manner that creates equity, ensuring that every child in the state has access to a quality education and every school district has the resourced to provide the educational environment and tools that students need to achieve. Additionally, this funding will reduce the burden on local property taxes, giving relief to homeowners, renters, and businesses alike. We have met the first three years of that commitment, however growing budget pressures make the final 7 years more challenging. In order to ensure that we can live up to this commitment, we must, first and foremost, pass the Fair Tax. This will provide the revenue we need while lowering the income tax burden on the middle class, working class and poor. We must also stop the process of divesting in public education through the failure that is “school choice.” We will never live up to our promise of providing every child quality educational opportunities if we strip resources away from their schools in order to fund profit minded, privatized charter schools.

Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?

Illinois must continue to seek passage of common sense gun reforms, like the Gun Dealer Licensing Act. Additionally we must work to stem the flow of Illegal guns into Chicago, and provide adequate mental health and addiction treatment for those in need.

Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.

The greatest right afforded to citizens in a democracy is the ability to choose their government. Term limits strip that power away from the citizens by eliminating their ability to vote for someone, even if they believe that person is the best person for the job. No voter should be forced to accept someone who they judge unqualified simply because the more qualified candidate has served too long. Of course, the narrative of those who support term limits is that it is the only way to remove someone who is ineffective. The truth is that every voter has the ability to remove and replace an ineffective elected official. It’s called Election Day. Despite assertions to the contrary, long tenured elected officials are removed by voters on a regular basis, every single election cycle. Term limits come with another pitfall. Money already plays a dangerous role in our elections and term limits worsens that. When two unknown candidates are running for same office, the one with the most money almost always wins. We should be seeking measures to limit the influence of money on elections and not make that situation worse. Finally, term limits are unnecessary. The average length of service in the Illinois House of Representatives is less than 5 years. Every election cycle sees large turnover in the General Assembly which proves that we do not need to artificially limit service to a term that is longer than they typical member of the GA serves already. While I do not support term limits for the legislative branch of our government I am open to considering term limits for the executive branch. Offices such as Mayor and Governor come with an overwhelming amount of power over governmental agencies, including the majority of hiring and spending decisions. Obviously we acknowledge the danger in this since we have limited our President to two terms, and so I think it would be appropriate to consider limits for other state and local executive office holders.

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?

I support the concept of independent map making for elected districts. However, I would demand that there be strict rules for the drafters to follow to ensure that the districts that they draw promote diversity and inclusion in accordance with the goals and mandates of the voting rights act.

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?

In a citizen democracy, EVERYONE has a conflict of interest. Teachers, police officers, nurses and farmers all have the right to run for and be elected to office. When they win, they will vote on bills that involve education, criminal justice, health care and agriculture policy. As we address conflicts of interest, we must be diligent in removing those conflicts that corrupt the process. At the same time we must be careful to not limit the ability of everyday citizens to bring their expertise and life experience to elected office for the benefit of the process. No elected official should be allowed to derive income from lobbying other elected officials. The potential for corruption and influence buying is too great in these circumstances and therefore an outright ban should be adopted. Additionally, we must implement greater transparency regarding potential conflicts of interest and how they are handled by the elected official in question. Our current economic disclosures are confusing and do not provide enough disclosure by the elected official. Elected officials should be required to disclose all sources of income. Additionally we should provide disclosure to the public for any measure taken or voted on by the elected official that is related to any of those sources of income so that the public can judge the extent and severity of the conflict.

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?

Last year, I worked with data privacy advocates to pass the most comprehensive and sweeping data protection measure for school children. The Student Data Privacy Act (HB3606) ensures that parents know what companies are collecting data from their children, how that data is being used, and gives them the right to inspect and/or delete that data. Furthermore it ensures that parents are notified if that data is breached. This measure was necessary because tech providers were mining data from children and the potential existed for that data to be used against those children for decades, all in the name of profit. It made complete sense to give parents the rights and tools to protect their children who we know cannot protect themselves. However, while that legislation made sense, it was an enormously laborious and contentious process. Data collection companies are making millions off of our information and they are resistant to any measure that would limit their ability to profit. Unfortunately the price that is now charged for access to technology and information often involves handing our information over to those who would use it for their own purposes. Government should regulate this process and I intend to continue my work on data privacy protection by ensuring that people have the right to know what is being collected, and the right to opt out of collection without sacrificing access to information. Additionally, companies that collect and sell this data for profit should be held accountable when that data is breached and personal information is compromised.

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?

Until last year, Illinois had been funding Higher Education at a lower level than we were a decade prior. Draconian cuts to higher education led to massive tuition increases and enrollment declines. Tier 2 pension legislation dramatically reduced compensation for top notch professors and university researchers, hampering the ability of our universities to attract and retain the best educators. In order to improve the standing of our public universities, we must increase enrollment and give them the tools to attract and retain talent. The first step should be a continuation of the reinvestment into higher education that was started with last years budget. This will help contain rising tuition costs. Additionally, we must fully fund MAP grants to ensure that every student who wishes to obtain a college degree has the means to do so. We should also seek to give Universities the ability to attract and retain the best educators by giving them more flexibility in the retirement options they offer.

What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?

Passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The last decade has made it abundantly clear that climate change is global issue that can only be contained and solved with universal participation. While it is important to continue conservation and recycling efforts, the most important thing we can do as a state is to move away from fossil fuels and toward clean and renewable energy sources. This will allow us to do our part as a state to reduce our emissions so that we can be a part of preserving our planet for future generations.

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.

Mike Holewinski was an unapologetic progressive who rose to lead the most conservative business group in our state, the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association. Mike was the embodiment of bi-partisanship. He had strong left leaning opinions on the best path forward for our state and yet he showed respect to people who disagree with them and worked to find compromise in order to bring about real progress for our state. He fought for honest, open and transparent government, protection and opportunity for our most vulnerable neighbors, and policies that encouraged businesses to thrive.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

Battlestar Galactica used the the sci-fi genre to explore many of the challenges our society faces. Set in a futuristic, yet prehistoric science fictional time, the human race is facing extinction. Each episode explored the challenges we face in our world today is we deal with the rising tide of nationalism, climate change, violence, addiction, racism and equity.