Running for: State Representative 49th District
Political party affiliation: Democrat
Political/civic background: Batavia Mothers’ Club Foundation (President), Moms Demand Action (Kane and Kendall County Founding Member, Legislative Lead, and Membership Lead)
Occupation: Former Elementary School Teacher; Current President of Batavia Mothers’ Club Foundation
Education: Colby College, BA in English; University of Colorado, Denver, Primary Education Certification
Campaign website: votemaura.com
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. Maura Hirschauer submitted the following responses:
1. 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 are in an unprecedented situation in our state and across the country. Nearly 8,000 Illinoisans have died and over 200,000 have contracted COVID-19. The pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but its rippling effects are felt throughout our economy and our daily lives. Over a million Illinoisans lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and subsequent economic recession. Small business owners have been severely impacted by these events and are facing difficult reopening challenges.
We must carefully address the problems suffered by small businesses, the unemployed, seniors, and students. Our unemployment system must be strengthened to provide resources for laid off and furloughed workers. Small businesses must have loans and grants available to keep them afloat during shutdowns. In addition, we cannot lose sight of our everyday priorities for our residents including funding for first responders, domestic violence shelters, and access to regular medical care like lifesaving cancer screenings and the ever-growing need to support mental health, especially during these times. We must guarantee that seniors will have access to in-home care options and programs such as Meals on Wheels.
I promise to analyze the budget and identify the services critical to our communities while cutting unnecessary expenses that keep taxes high. We need to make intelligent investments that will provide immediate tax relief for Illinois residents.
While Illinoisans were all in to stop the spread of the virus, Republicans were playing partisan games to divide our communities, worsening the pandemic. The Trump administration failed in their pandemic response: harming Illinoisans by failing to provide states with adequate funding for testing and treatment and hurting our small businesses by not providing enough resources to assist small business owners. Lack of leadership from the Republicans hurt our unemployed workforce, hindered our safe return to school, and has impeded the ability to rebuild our economy quickly. We must work together to overcome these deficiencies to build an Illinois that works for us all.
2. 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?
We are living through an unparalleled moment in our nation’s history. As we move forward and begin to reopen, we must remember the lives that were lost. We also must show our gratitude for our first responders, including doctors, nurses, and all healthcare support and essential workers who sacrificed their own health and well-being to help others and save lives.
The Trump administration’s response to COVID was partisan and caused needless suffering for many Americans by ignoring science and medical experts. Governor Pritzker led a response that was guided by scientists and medical experts. He heeded experts’ warnings and put public safety above partisanship. Republicans and the Trump administration used the pandemic as a political prop, more concerned with Trump’s reelection efforts than the lives of the American people. This bungled response included the failure to distribute the necessary PPE to our first responders, shortages of ventilators, and the absence of timely, accurate testing and treatment options.
The threat faced by COVID-19 is real, and it continues; we deal with its repercussions in our lives every day. Workers are still unemployed, small businesses are still hurting, and people are still getting sick and lives of loved ones continue to be lost. We need to focus on making intelligent decisions to guarantee families, seniors, and small businesses have the resources required to face the difficult challenges ahead.
3. 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?
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the disproportionate murder of Black men and women at the hands of police officers across the country is completely unacceptable. Listening with compassion has never been more critical than it is right at this moment. As a country, we must do better. We all must do more to listen to those outside of our ideological bubble and hear about other life experiences and perspectives. Fundamental changes to the current system are necessary. As state representative, I will meet with community leaders to determine the steps required to make those changes, and in the process, improve police-community relationships. Investing in community-based services is critical. We must do the work to enact actively anti-racist policies in housing, employment, healthcare, and education.
4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
I support legislation requiring law-enforcement officers to wear body cameras to increase police accountability. We must initiate a larger discussion about justice and equity that draws all stakeholders into the conversation. Fundamental changes to the current system are necessary, and in the process, we should not punish the majority of officers who serve with integrity. We must bring stakeholders together to create better relationships between police officers and the communities they serve, while also increasing our investments in community-based services, mental health services, and fair housing. Adequately funded community-based services help communities thrive.
5. 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?
The allegations against Speaker Madigan are serious, and if they are proven true, they should be condemned by all Illinois politicians. However, Springfield is not about one person or politician. Everyone in the General Assembly should push for greater reforms instead of playing cheap partisan games to score easy political points. We need to protect our middle-class families from being cheated by corrupt politicians on either side of the aisle. I look forward to enacting expansive reforms that will increase public trust in our politicians. This begins by codifying tough penalties on public leaders who betray taxpayers. I will fight to authorize stiffer fines for politicians who abuse taxpayers, remove pensions for public officials who are convicted of felonies, and dismantle corrupt schemes like the red light camera program that was used by a few crooked politicians and lobbyists to line their own pockets at taxpayers’ expense.
6. 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 been a community leader for the past seven years with the Batavia Mothers’ Club Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting the needs of children and families throughout the Fox Valley: serving as both President and a member of the Executive Board.
In 2018, I co-founded the Kane and Kendall County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, where I previously held the positions of Membership and Legislative Lead. Together with a group of strong women, we grew our grassroots group to over 1,000 members in a little over a month.
Finally, I am an active member of our community as a mother of three. I have been a Girl Scout Troop leader for my daughters for the past six years. My most memorable accomplishment with my scouts was guiding them through the process of building a play structure for our elementary school. They did it all themselves from presenting at a PTO meeting, fundraising, ordering supplies, and ultimately building the structure by hand. It was rewarding to guide our girls as they broadened their leadership skills and provided our school community with a fun resource that will last many years.
7. 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.
I believe that healthcare is a human right. My son was born with an acute pre-existing medical condition, and I understand the challenges that families face when seeking adequate medical care. I will fight for Illinoisans’ health care as hard as I fought for my own child. I will take on the insurance industry and hold them accountable for skyrocketing premiums and the high cost of prescription drugs. I will take on the insurance industry to protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and fight for all of us to have access to high quality healthcare. I am committed to fixing our broken healthcare system to ensure that it works for everyone.
I will put middle-class families first by passing a balanced budget that protects critical services. In my community, residents have seen their tax bills rise every year with no end in sight. We need to analyze ways to preserve our crucial local services while allowing middle-class homeowners to claim rebates through the Property Tax Relief Fund and broaden the exemptions that provide tax relief for middle-class homeowners and seniors.
In addition, protecting and supporting the economic health of our community is another one of my top priorities. I will work to foster and maintain an economy that serves the hard working people in my district who feel the heavy burden of property taxes. I will work on providing tax relief for our residents by cutting unnecessary expenses that keep taxes high. I will fight to cut taxes on the middle-class and invest in local schools while keeping costs manageable on local taxpayers.
8. What are your other top legislative priorities?
I support common sense gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people like convicted criminals and domestic abusers. As a founding member and former Legislative Lead of the Kane and Kendall County’s chapter of Moms Demand Action, I support evidence based common sense gun reforms like red flag laws that have been proven to keep our communities safe. As a volunteer, I have met with federal officials to pass universal background checks and traveled to Springfield to advocate for closing loopholes in the Illinois FOID system. Also, I’ve met with stakeholders including mayors, city council members, and members of Congress to advocate for these common sense reforms.
As the mother of three kids in the public school system, I will advocate for high quality education programs. These programs include early interventions to help our youngest children succeed and affordable higher education that prepares students for life after graduation. Every child should have access to a high quality education. I will work to expand Early Childhood Education services so that all children receive the critical head start that will set them on the path to educational and professional success.
9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
As I speak to members of my community, residents make one thing clear: the current tax system is not working. The current system places too much strain on middle-class families. The Fair Tax amendment will ultimately be decided by the taxpayers on the November ballot. Regardless of the result of the vote, we must find ways to provide income and property tax relief for working families.
10. Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. 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?
As the leader of a household, I understand the importance of creating a budget and making a dollar stretch. As a former elementary school, I worked with a highly constrained budget to provide supplies for the classroom. As the President of the Batavia Mothers’ Club non-profit fundraising arm, I worked through the disbursement of all proceeds to area not-for-profit organizations and schools.
As a state representative, I will apply my previous experience in reviewing disbursements of large sums of money to analyzing the budget line-by-line to understand where each taxpayer dollar goes. I will support services that are critical to our communities like health care, breast cancer screenings, and senior care programs and slash unnecessary spending.
11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
I do not support a tax on retirement income.
12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
As we reopen the economy and prepare for the school year, the educational system and parents are facing extraordinary challenges. I believe that every parent and school district wants to facilitate children’s education in the safest environment possible.
However, extreme politicians in Springfield and Washington have downplayed and misunderstood the challenges parents face. They have failed to lead when it comes to helping parents understand whether it’s safe to send their children back to school, and they have neglected to provide adequate funding for our schools to cope with recent challenges. I have three young children, and I am confronted with the strain of these challenges every day.
As we begin to reopen schools, we need to make the educational environment as safe as possible for teachers, staff, and students. We need to guarantee that children learning from home have access to affordable high-speed internet services to assure their educational success. Finally, families need access to high-quality, affordable childcare so parents can continue to work while their children are learning at home.
13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Gun violence is a public health crisis. We can protect our communities from gun violence while still protecting the Second Amendment. I support common sense gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and domestic abusers. I support evidence-based common sense gun reforms like red flag laws, which have been proven to keep our communities safer. I will push for funding to support community violence prevention programs and mental health services that will help communities in need. I will also advocate for safe storage programs and will push for opportunities to share firearm safety guidelines. The first, critical step in curbing unintentional gun deaths is following proper safety protocols.
14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I am not a career politician. I am a mother, a former elementary school teacher, and an invested member of my community. I believe we have term limits, and they come every two years when voters go to the polls to decide if their state representatives have been working for them. As I walk throughout my community and meet voters, I listen to their concerns and keep an open line of communication. Through my civic work in the community, I have developed great relationships with many different community leaders, residents, and stakeholders. If I am elected state representative, I will maintain my strong connection to my community and put resident’s concerns at the forefront of my agenda.
15. 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?
It is not a fair system if Republicans and the Trump administration are actively attempting to decrease voter access to the polls. The fairness of the system is also threatened by the Trump administration’s shortening of the duration of Census collection, which will lead to a significant undercount of communities throughout Illinois and lead to unfair representation in Congress.
Republican-led states have committed the most heinous abuses of partisan gerrymandering. There must be changes at the federal level to ensure that all states abide by the same rules and stop the egregious power grabs that we have seen in Republican-led states. We can improve the electoral system in Illinois by providing the public with more transparency in the electoral process. The General Assembly should enact expansive reforms to provide voters with increased access to the polls and early voting.
16. 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?
The creation of the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform by the Illinois General Assembly will have a substantial positive impact on holding politicians accountable. While the Commission has faced recent challenges during the COVID pandemic, the Commission members worked in a bipartisan way to improve government transparency and reform laws for lobbyists and elected officials.
The residents of my community are skeptical of Illinois politicians. We need to rebuild the public trust in our government. The process of rebuilding trust starts with enacting meaningful reforms and not playing partisan games for political points. The Commission has had early successes, however there is still a lot of work to be done. This includes protecting middle-class families from being cheated by bad actors, passing tough reforms that force politicians to pay back money they received from taxpayers, stiffer fines on politicians who abuse taxpayers, and expansive restrictions on lobbyists including universal lobbyist registration.
17. 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?
Protections for consumers are vital to helping middle-class families. We must find a way to enforce regulations for corporations that profit from our personal private data and hold them accountable if our personal information is stolen in a data breach. Too many middle-class consumers are hurt by exposure of private information in these breaches.
18. 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?
The legislature needs to find solutions to slow the exodus of college students from our state. Illinois loses $776 million in lifetime tax revenue from college students leaving the state. College student outmigration hit its peak during the administration of Bruce Rauner when the former governor joined the Republican party to prevent billions of dollars in aid from going to students and universities.
When we pass a budget in the General Assembly, we need to make intelligent investments in community colleges. Their place in higher education is critical, and their role is expanding during the COVID pandemic by assisting students who cannot attend in-person learning at a university due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. I will work hard to provide more funding for higher education, MAP grants, and expanded access to financial aid. We need to decrease the overall costs of a college education and increase access to vocational education and trade schools.
19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
My top environmental legislative priority is to protect our suburban communities from the devastating effects of ethylene oxide emissions. I will fight to make sure that regulators clamp down on reckless clean air violators who pump this carcinogen into our communities.
We must recognize the intersectionality of environmental and social justice. It is critical that we take steps to solve the climate crisis while providing support for the communities in the Fox Valley that are disproportionately affected by climate change. Advocating for policies that protect the environment while improving the quality of life for those living in the 49th district is paramount. Together we can make the changes needed to protect our planet for future generations.
20. 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.
Illinois has a rich history of excellence in leadership, but one person I particularly admire is Jane Addams. Ms. Addams is often referred to as the “mother of social work,” but her contributions to the world go much farther than that. She was a fierce fighter for the underprivileged. She helped institute child welfare programs, joined in the movement for women’s suffrage, and fought for workers’ rights. Jane Addams was a woman of great empathy and strong conviction. Like her, I strive to put people first and believe in the vision of an Illinois in which all people can thrive.
21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
As a parent, I am always on the lookout for quality TV shows that I can watch with my tween and teen. This summer we hit the jackpot when we found the new Baby-Sitters Club series on Netflix. I was a huge fan of the book series as a child, and my daughters have rediscovered the books in graphic novel format. The TV show hits the perfect note of nostalgia while bringing the characters into the present day. The show delves openly and honestly in to current-day issues and the characters are smart, kind, funny, and wonderfully feminist. The characters are brilliant role models for my girls, and we thoroughly enjoy watching the show together.