Illinois House 47th District Republican nominee: Deanne Marie Mazzochi
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Republican Deanne Marie Mazzochi is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 47th district Illinois House race.
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.
Mazzochi submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Mazzochi: My priorities reflect those in our district.
- Control spending to start cleaning up the budget messes
- Property tax reform
- Government reforms to reduce corruption and insider power, and restore competency and local control
- Law enforcement
- Growth and innovation, including in the health care and manufacturing arenas
- Education and workforce development.
There are countless sub-issues that fall within the scope of the above categories. I will always listen to the voices of our district and determine what actions can be taken to solve or mitigate the problems and issues we are experiencing.
In Oak Brook, Hinsdale, and Western Springs, residents are concerned about Tollway expansion plans. Elmhurst has to deal with O’Hare noise pollution and the City of Chicago forcing flight patterns over residential areas. For the communities that border the county line to the east, public safety concerns are on the rise as a consequence of bail reform and lax enforcement of criminal prosecutions in Chicago and Cook County. Westmont is experiencing dynamic economic development and physical changes while trying to maintain the character of the Village.
Unfortunately, with this being Illinois, there are broad-based issues that seem to never go away and should be bipartisan goals. These issues include combatting corruption by elected officials, seeking fairly drawn electoral districts, terms limits, eliminating legislative pensions, and bringing about an economic revival here.
My predecessor, Patti Bellock, has left a legacy of advocating for the most vulnerable residents with disabilities and mental health issues. I plan to take up that mantle in as much as I can live up to the example she set for all. That being said, addressing mental health problems feeds into the opioid problem. So by working to advance one issue, we often times can address multiple fronts due to the interconnected nature of so many of the problems we face as a district and state.
I will continue to keep my ear to the ground and my finger on the pulse of the district. I have and always will make myself available to all constituents regardless of political affiliation. I encourage vigorous, logical debate on the policies before their enactment and will be a zealous advocate for whatever issue the residents of the district deem most pressing
Who is Deanne Marie Mazzochi?
She’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 47th District
Her political/civic background: Served on various boards for not for profit entities; served with or was a member of the Elmhurst Instrumental Music Boosters; Chamber of Commerce.
Her occupation: Patent Litigation Attorney/Founding Partner – Rakoczy Molino Mazzochi Siwik LLP (RMMS Legal), 6 W. Hubbard St., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60654.
- Boston University – Bachelor of Arts: Political Science. Bachelors of Arts: Chemistry with a Biology Minor.
- George Washington University Law School– Juris Doctorate with Honors
Campaign website: VoteMazzochi.com
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.
- Noise pollution from O’Hare in Elmhurst.
- Tollway expansion affecting Hinsdale, Oak Brook, and Western Springs.
- Opioid addiction among the young and most vulnerable.
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Mazzochi: I have a history of proven reform in an elected position, as Chairman of the College of DuPage Board of Trustees, where I turned around a public institution immersed in turmoil to get it back on track and responsive to its core mission of serving students and our community, not benefiting political insiders.
My opponent has no elected experience and presents himself as an activist and protester, not a problem solver with tangible experience.
During my time at the College of DuPage, we cut taxes; tuition; controlled our budgets; paid down debt; and figured out ways to do expand programs with less. We did this through implementing sound good government principles, and restoring competitive processes.
My opponent thinks he can solve our debt problem by promising to pay debt back over a longer period of time. That is the wrong move—that just kicks the can down the road yet again, and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more just to make the interest payments.
To show I am serious about getting spending under control, I rejected a state pension and health care benefits; and as a first step co-sponsored the Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter, HB 4229, which seeks to freeze discretionary spending until we have paid off our backload of overdue bills and pension obligations.
I also signed the People’s Pledge, which commits me to term limits. My opponent has flip flopped all over the place on this issue but has refused to sign the People’s Pledge.
I oppose moving to a punitive escalating income tax, want real property tax reform, and oppose any new auxiliary taxes that would strong arm our over taxed residents into handing over any more of their hard earned money to the state. My opponent supports an escalating income tax with brackets that would affect a supermajority of residents in the 47th District, wholly avoids the issue of property tax reform, and has refused to come out against a vehicle mileage tax or other auxiliary tax measures.
I don’t believe in career politicians enriching themselves through public service – that’s why I turned down the legislative pension and health care benefits when I became State Representative. I also signed the People’s Pledge to support term limits and vow to fight to bring such legislation to the floor. My opponent talks a big game about term limits and limiting politicians, yet he quit his job to pursue becoming a full-time, career legislator. It’s unlikely that someone who quit their job and put all their eggs into one basket is going to turn down a pension or health benefits from his only source of employment.
I have unequivocally stated that I will not cast a ballot for Mike Madigan for Speaker of the House. I will look for the most viable candidate, in or outside of my own Republican caucus, and work with members on both sides to advance their candidacy for Speaker. My opponent says that he will not vote for Madigan for Speaker, but when pressed on the issue, refuses to go on record as to whom he would vote for. This is a typical Democrat game leading up to the election – pretend to not support Mike Madigan leading up to November 6th (while taking donations from his insider friends) and once elected, vote present or vote for themself for Speaker, thus throwing a vote away. This tactic knowingly paves the way for yet another Speakership for Madigan.
I will spend my time in the District, working hard for each and every resident. This is accomplished through gathering stakeholders and having thoughtful and earnest conversations. I have hosted numerous constituent meetings in my Westmont office already and the feedback I am receiving is encouraging. My opponent has demonstrated that he would rather attend progressive rallies downtown, such as the Northside Democracy for America rally, or stand in front of a business with a megaphone shouting at the gates. That’s not how real reform is accomplished.
These stand as just a few of the major differences between Jim Caffrey and I. I believe these differences draw a clear line as to where each of us stands on making a real impact for the district and Illinois, versus continuing down the same path to more ruin and dysfunction than we have already experienced for the last 40+ years.
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?
Mazzochi: Not only have 33,703 people moved out, but nearly 40% of our high school graduates from DuPage County fled the state for other schools. They are far less likely to come back once they leave.
This outmigration is a major issue that cannot be overlooked or understated. As it stands now, Illinois may lose at least two, if not more, U.S. Congressional seats after the next census. This likely loss of seats weakens our standing on the national stage and lowers our leverage in the federal policy making process.
In order to make Illinois a destination state, the Legislature must reverse course on a number of policy issues. This includes reversing the Democrat’s 32% income tax increase that was rammed down the throats of taxpayers after their override of Governor Rauner’s veto last summer. The property tax system must be reformed so Mike Madigan and his friends in various assessor offices can’t hand out tax breaks to the folks who can afford to hire Madigan’s firm as legal representation while sandbagging everyone else. Property taxes should immediately be capped and then lowered. Government policy has to play to our strengths and encourage innovation. A multi-faceted approach is required to accomplish any meaningful reform.
We also need to understand why our longstanding residents flee—the reasons I hear most frequently at the door are (a) property taxes; (b) Madigan corruption and a state that can’t pay its bills; (c) more job opportunities in states like Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. We can control our destiny on all three, particularly if we commit to meaningful reforms that will allow Illinois to attract businesses and capitalize on its natural advantages in the areas of energy and transportation networks.
Looking at the glass half full, there is plenty of bad policy within arm’s length and every little bit of reform will bring us closer to returning Illinois to the right path.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Mazzochi: First, financing for the judges’ pensions should be severed from the state government’s process because that alone creates too much risk of the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Second, we need to recognize that in 1970 Madigan supported adding the Illinois constitution’s antiimpairment clause because even back then, the general assembly never made payments commensurate with pension promises. His approach hasn’t worked; has thrown the state into chaos; and now has made it even harder to apply creative solutions for the future. We need to empower individuals working for government institutions to have more control over their retirement funds; clearly giving the money to Springfield politicians doesn’t work; and hasn’t worked for over 50 years.
Third, we need to identify policies and practices put in place in states and even within Illinois where funding goals have been achieved. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund is, for example, in much better financial health relatively speaking.
Fourth, we need to be transparent on costs; and make clear that benefits promised cannot expand beyond amounts actually paid in any given years. That will help to hold everyone involved more accountable for the scope of spending and promises. Whether a given group decides that their preferred approach with their fund allocation is to have higher payments or salaries and defined-benefit plans; or lower salaries and lower annuity benefits; or a mixed approach with payments into Social Security and other options–everything should be on the table.
Fifth, we need to get serious about crafting a workout plan, because at some point, the math will not lie; and our available funds will be beyond the point of further promises and debt financing. We must work across the aisle while including all of the stakeholders affected by this issue, specifically the pensioners who are counting on their benefits in retirement. Everyone will have different expectations and risk tolerance, and we need to be mindful of that.
Ultimately, while the Illinois Supreme Court ruling may seem like a victory for benefits, in reality it was a short-sighted one when it comes to maintaining a government able to adequately function day-today. The ruling identified no pathway to real-world sustainability; no method of adding revenue to catch pension funds up; no guarantees for the liquidity of assets within the funds; and no answer to the funds’ impending insolvency. A dissent from U.S. Supreme Court’s Terminello v. City of Chicago decision observed that “[t]here is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitution into a suicide pact.” We don’t want our state headed for a death spiral.
All sides of this problem need to be presented with the facts and strike a bargain to provide security for everyone’s interests. All parties are vested in reaching a positive outcome, and there will need to be give and take to get there. We are on the clock and it is fundamentally irresponsible to keep kicking this can down the road.
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?
Mazzochi: We have seen this firsthand at the College of DuPage. Students are leaving because they can get more attractive financial aid packages out of state; because our state accrediting bodies’ standards have the effect of encouraging high schools to rely on out-of-state providers for awarding dual credit; and because of a belief that there are better long-term job opportunities outside of Illinois. Moreover, students who have matriculated at U of I have informed me that they believe that the university is more interested in taking care of the needs of foreign students (who pay higher tuition) over Illinois residents. That is perverse; our publicly-funded institutions should be serving local residents first and foremost.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Mazzochi: There is nothing more important to any of us than our loved ones’ safety. Every time our nation hears the tragic news of a school or workplace shooting our hearts break. It is an emotional issue and we all share the pain of seeing any American killed by a senseless act of violence.
As with so many issues that our society grapples with, this is a multi-level problem that will only be resolved through multi-level solutions. What I don’t want to see are proposals that have the long-term effect of actually increasing the number of illegal weapons on the street.
So we have to ask–what is the goal we want to achieve? I want to see less crime, no unlawful weapon use and safe schools and workplaces.
And I certainly don’t want to punish or take away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
One area that needs reform is that we need to have better ways to ensure that our prosecutors are actually enforcing the laws that are on the books. In Chicago, the state and federal prosecutors don’t really go after people who buy guns and then transfer them to other people involved in criminal activity. These are straw purchasers. This is frightening.
An ATF study performed with the Giffords Law Center found that 46% of the gun trafficking cases they looked at involved straw purchasers, and those people were associated with 26,000 illegally trafficked firearms.
A recent study involving the University of Chicago crime lab found that in 95% of the cases where the Chicago police could positively identify the person who fired a weapon while committing a crime, that person was not the original gun buyer! These were stolen guns, or guns purchased on the black market.
If we don’t get serious about making Chicago prosecutors enforce those existing gun laws, and others, like seizing guns under the clear and present danger doctrine–putting new laws on the books won’t make a dent in crime statistics.
We can solve major problems by actually enforcing the laws on the books already, which will make it harder for predators to be armed and dangerous.
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?
Mazzochi: One of the reasons why companies are so rigidly pursuing these scheduling regimes is because we have made it so onerous to hire employees in the first instance; and created a tremendous liability risk/reward mismatch. A better solution is to focus on what it is about employee regulations that make these types of approaches attractive to employers and work backwards to remove obstacles so that sane scheduling can take place; and make it more attractive to have employees on fixed salary versus on hourly wages.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Mazzochi: This is a question that merits further exploration. I will not say that I outright oppose legalization, nor will I unequivocally state I am for it. While many point to the potential revenue stream that legalization would create through licensing and sales tax, there also needs to be an examination of the societal costs that accompany such a decision.
In principle, what people do in their own homes is their business. The problem is when private use has the practical effect of imposing costs on others entirely uninvolved with that use.
For example, in Colorado, where legalization took effect in 2014, accident rates have increased dramatically. Not only have accidents gone up; per the statistical reporting of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes with potent levels of cannabis in their system has exploded. Since 2013, the number of drivers in cannabis impaired fatal crashes has risen 145%. For perspective, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes involving alcohol went up 17% over that same time period. This is shocking statistical evidence that suggests a grave public safety problem with smoking and driving. What has exacerbated our ability to estimate impacts in Illinois is that since 2016 when Illinois changed its cannabis impairment laws related to driving under the influence from the previous standard of a qualitative analysis to a quantitative analysis of an alleged offender’s bodily fluid, the crime labs run by the Illinois State Police have not been able to secure the equipment and/or training to perform the requisite quantitative sample testing.
As another example, I have frequently heard complaints from employers that they have jobs going unfulfilled in the trucking, heavy equipment operator and other industries because candidates cannot pass a drug test. From a liability perspective, these employers cannot take the risk of hiring candidates with a drug history; yet that takes middle class jobs off the table for many. Who should bear the cost of that?
As another example, the Journal of Addiction Medicine [5(1):1-8, March 2011] reviewed the scientific literature associated with both acute and chronic marijuana use, and its adverse impact on executive functioning. Are we prepared to say that no-one who has voluntarily used marijuana recreationally is eligible for disability or other medical benefits as a consequence of such use?
As with anything, we need to make judgments relating to risk/reward benefits based on quality data and historical experience. To date, we lack that; and thus the Legislature is not in a good position to confirm that the private benefits will outweigh the increased risks and costs that the public will bear from this discretionary use.
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?
Mazzochi: The legislature has already taken some positive steps in this arena. This includes the recently signed SB0336, dubbed the Alternatives to Opioids Act. This new law allows patients prescribed opioids for pain relief the option to request medical cannabis as a substitute. The law will expand access to the state’s medical cannabis program and give patients in pain an alternative to highly addictive opioid drugs. We should expand this to permit patients to change their pain medications at any time to a non-opioid alternative without need for a new doctor’s prescription.
Securing funding for mental health services is also essential to solving this crisis. I’ve heard from numerous hospital personnel and first responders that the underlying mental health issues of many opioid addicts is what prevents them from breaking from their addiction. We have to treat the root of the problem and not just the symptoms. Making sure mental health services are accessible for those in need is one of the biggest ways to accomplish this.
Ensuring that first responders have access to naloxone to treat overdoses at the scene is another crucial function that the legislature must satisfy. Naloxone is a lifesaving drug that gives us the opportunity to help individuals get a chance to receive the treatment and services they need before it is too late.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded Illinois an additional $43.5 million in grant money to support combatting opioid addiction and support treatment programs and facilities. The legislature should take an active role in the administration of these funds to ensure that local stakeholders, closest to the ground and frontlines of this battle, are able to access them. First responders, hospital staff, and mental health professionals are the folks dealing with this crisis day in and day out and their voices need to be listened to when allocating resources of this magnitude.
The General Assembly needs to continue to remain open to new and innovative ways to combat the opioid crisis, and negotiate in good faith to find bipartisan solutions where they exist. Lives are at stake and any means of solving the crisis merit thoughtful and thorough consideration.
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?
Mazzochi: The Future Energy Jobs Act is a law that has had mixed results and was passed with mostly good intentions. I agree with many of the bill’s objectives, but that does not mean all methods used to achieve them have reflected the highest and best uses of our energy dollars. While the law has facilitated clean energy production in Illinois, it has been enormously expensive. One of the advantages Illinois has for industry is strong energy sources. We shouldn’t squander that position. We need to be open and transparent with residents about how much their utility bills can increase by enforcing “green” requirements—because our lower-income and seniors on fixed incomes are often the ones hardest hit through energy rate hikes. We also need to be respectful of the fact that some “green” sources have their own costs that are not environmentally friendly, such as birds and wildlife killed through windmills; or noise pollution.
I am a strong believer in market forces and its ability to create timely innovation. I also strongly believe in investing in infrastructure; and that large-scale capital investments may require state support. But I don’t believe the taxpayers of our state should be responsible for trial and error programs or technology. We are all familiar with the example of Solyndra at the federal level, and the $500 million loss taxpayers experienced as a result of the bad investment. We can’t afford for the State of Illinois to make such a mistake given the already precarious budgetary position we occupy
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?
Mazzochi: First, we need to be transparent on real-world pricing and costs associated with securing medical care; and identify areas where we can educate and empower patients to act on their care. Second, we need to reduce Medicaid fraud by assessing not just income, but assets, when determining program eligibility.
Third, when doctors must incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical school debt before they treat their first patient, we cannot be surprised by the fact that they seek to turn away Medicaid patients when the reimbursement rates are abysmal. We cannot expect a doctor to “lose” every time he or she sees those patients. Fourth, we also need to consider that a Medicaid approach that might work for a dense region like Chicago could be entirely inefficient for a downstate locality. We need to partner with regional health authorities to be responsive to real-world conditions on the ground.
Fifth, we need to rethink how we handle and pay for emergent care issues. Sixth, we need to identify creative ways to make it worth the while for doctors to provide advice to more Medicaid patients, and remove obstacles to reimbursement that nullify the use of those cost-effective methods.
Seventh, as new medicines, e.g., in the areas of oncology, become more targeted and personalized, we need to innovate with our local manufacturers and university researchers to find ways to expedite getting life-saving drugs to our patients with lower direct overhead and cost—one estimate places the regulatory cost of getting a new drug to market at over one billion dollars.
As for the managed care industry, there again transparency is an issue; my experience in the health care industry with regard to reimbursement rates; formulary and tier status; rebate structures; copay structures; and how this drives overall costs will allow me to take thoughtful proactive approaches in this regard. For example, we should permit pharmacists to inform patients that they may be able to pay less money for a generic drug product if they purchase it outside their managed care program.
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?
Mazzochi: The underfunding of the Illinois Department of Corrections has become a highly politicized topic. Certainly we want to focus on the rehabilitation of inmates in our penal institutions, but we also must be mindful of our spending priorities as a state. There is only so much money to go around, and so long as our legislature continues to pursue wasteful spending initiatives while driving out productive individuals and businesses through incessant tax increases, we must work with what we have. In a perfect world, inmates would have every opportunity to work while in prison and be justly compensated for such work.
There are consequences for our actions and unfortunately incarceration at the Department of Corrections is one of those consequences when you are convicted of a felony in our state. I will support policies that can provide inmates with the ability to rehabilitate themselves and lift themselves out of the criminal justice system; however I cannot justify blindly promising that those programs and policies will be my priority when there are other residents of the district in need of services that are competing for the same tax dollars as the Department of Corrections. We need to support programs that can demonstrate their real-world efficacy.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Mazzochi: I don’t believe the state should restore the practice of parole for those individuals serving long terms. While I do believe in second, third, or even fourth chances for people who make mistakes, there are some acts that are so intolerable that they must never be even tacitly condoned.
The point of such lengthy sentences includes: 1) to punish the offender for the crime they have committed; 2) to deter other members of society from engaging in that activity; and 3) to keep lawabiding neighborhoods safer and free from predators over the long term. Individuals who are chronic offenders and have committed horrendous crimes – homicides, rapes, home invasions, offenses against the elderly – have rights, but what about the rights of those who are law abiding? Parole can send a message that we actually do not take these crimes seriously. That is not a message that I want to send.
I believe in supporting law enforcement as they go to battle day in and day out to protect our communities. I believe that they do good work as a whole and that dedication to preserving the public safety should not be diminished by allowing the worst offenders to be free at an unspecified future point in time.
We also need to consider where we are culturally. We need to be in a place where Illinois residents believe they have more and better opportunities if they are law-abiding citizens, saving and investing for their future; so that the cost-benefit analysis of engaging in pursuits that lead to crimes resulting in long term incarceration is overwhelmingly in favor of the lawful choice.
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.