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Illinois House 45th District Democratic nominee: Diane Pappas

Democrat Diane Pappas is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 45th district Illinois House race. She faces Republican incumbent Christine Winger in the general election.

On Oct. 8, Pappas appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to learn why she’s running for the Illinois House in the November 2018 general election.

The Chicago Sun-Times also sent the candidates seeking the Illinois House seat in the 45th district a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Pappas submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:

Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities

Pappas: My legislative priorities will be to pass a fiscally responsible budget, invest more resources in our schools to give our children a world-class education, and fund the maintenance of our state’s infrastructure. I believe these actions will return us to a state that attracts both residents and high paying employers. I will fight to reduce the tax burden on hard working families and ensure that corporations and billionaires pay their fair share. Families are struggling to pay increasing property taxes that make it difficult for seniors and middle-class families to stay in our area. I’ll fight to cut property taxes by increasing the value of exemptions for middle-class families, seniors and veterans. I also believe the state must do a better job funding public education, allowing local governments to meaningfully reduce property taxes while keeping our public schools strong.

I will champion women’s rights to make healthcare decisions about their bodies without government interference, and I will seek ways to ensure that all Illinoisans have access to affordable healthcare and vital preventative screenings, and that no one is denied care or health insurance because of preexisting conditions. I will also advocate for seniors, veterans, LGBTQ and other minority groups, and those among us who are most in need of vital services or state protections. My goal will always be to make Illinois a better place for us all, a state we can be proud of once again.

Who is Diane Pappas?

She is running for: State representative from Illinois’ 45th district

Her political/civic background in her own words:  Outside of being a Precinct Committeeman for Addison Township, I was involved in preserving the environmental integrity of the Village of Itasca by being an active member of ICARE (Itasca Citizens Against Road Expansion).

Her occupation: Attorney

Her education: Michigan State University, BA; Yale Law School, JD

Campaign website: http://www.dianeforstaterep.com

Twitter: @diane4staterep

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.

Pappas: Property taxes are the top issue I hear about as I go door-to-door. Suburban and particularly DuPage County residents pay extremely high property taxes that only go up each year. Many middle class families’ property taxes cost more than their mortgages, and it’s not sustainable. I would support greater investments in public education to reduce the over reliance on local property taxes and pave the way for meaningful property tax relief. I also support additional property tax cuts for middle-class homeowners, seniors and veterans.

The opioid crisis continues to hit the collar counties particularly hard and we would be doing a disservice to the magnitude of the problem simply by looking at death statistics. Opioid abuse affects every neighborhood and every community. Thankfully, more lives are being saved because of opioid reversal medication like Narcan. We need to continue investing in mental health and addiction prevention services, expanding access to and training on Narcan, and educating students, parents and patients.

Lastly, particularly in the eastern portion of my district, O’Hare airport noise is a constant problem that hasn’t been adequately addressed at any level of government. I support expansion of noise monitoring and abatement programs for homeowners, making “Fly Quiet” the official mandatory policy for O’Hare, and a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to be conducted by the FAA to verify the real environmental impacts from the new runway utilization plan.

What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?

Pappas: I never considered running for office before this year, but I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the inaction in Springfield and the failure of politicians to pass a budget for more than two years.

My priority as State Representative is to pass a balanced, responsible budget that cuts wasteful spending, funds vital services and our schools, and pays down the backlog of old bills so that the state can start paying its bills to providers on time. While working as an in-house counsel and negotiating business contracts between my clients and top US and international companies, I learned how to help opposing parties find common ground and make the compromises necessary to form lasting, successful agreements. I want to use these skills in Springfield to cut through partisan gridlock and get our state back on the right track.


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?

Pappas: We need to demonstrate to state vendors, residents, creditors and companies that do business in Illinois that our state is fiscally responsible and is a reliable business partner. This can help us enter into more favorable agreements (including credit facilities) and will attract both residents and employers back to our state.

Additionally, we need to ensure that middle-class families get meaningful tax relief, not just the wealthiest Illinoisans. That means properly funding schools at the state level to give middle-class homeowners relief and making sure that millionaires and billionaires are paying their fair share in taxes so we reduce taxes on working families.

I believe that education is the key to a strong state, and in addition to investments in PreK-12, we need to continue investing in our universities that attract the best and brightest to our state. Not only do state budgets need to be signed every single year, those budgets must contain meaningful investments in an education infrastructure that will attract students, faculty and businesses to Illinois.

In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?

Pappas: Illinois’ pension debt took decades to accumulate, and it will take cooperation and time to find a viable permanent fix. Responsible solutions can be found if all stakeholders work together and if we as a state get serious about paying down debts and stabilizing the pension system. We must start by passing responsible budgets on time every year that prioritize making the state’s obligatory pension payments on time and in full.

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?

Pappas: The way the budget crisis impacted higher education in Illinois is particularly disheartening to me. Education at all levels is the key to the economic health and future of our state. It is our responsibility to give students an affordable, quality option of attending college in Illinois. It’s equally important that students have good job prospects in Illinois after they graduate.

Once again, passing a responsible budget in a timely fashion will not only provide adequate funding to colleges and universities, it will also create a level of stability they must have to make long-term investment decisions in their faculty, students and facilities. Forcing universities to make additional cuts, raise tuition and fees, and deny MAP grants is fiscally and morally irresponsible. I support full funding of the MAP grant program to relieve some of the student’s financial burdens. I also support expanding dual credit programs and college readiness programs to ensure that high school students are better prepared for college.

What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?

Pappas: There are many ways to take steps to reduce gun violence and increase gun safety without infringing on Constitutional rights. I support universal background checks, requiring background checks and licensing of all gun dealers, and closing the gun show loophole. I also support legislation banning bump stocks or other trigger modification devices that turn semi automatic weapons into fully automatic weapons.

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?

Pappas: I support fair scheduling laws. In my experience as an in-house counsel for many companies, I understand the need of businesses to have flexibility. However, that need does not outweigh the rights of workers. Oftentimes, the workers most impacted by last minute shift scheduling or changes are the ones who can least afford to adjust their lives at the last minute – single parents, those juggling more than one job, or minimum or near-minimum wage workers who struggle to afford safe childcare. I would support legislation similar to House Bill 5046 to require advanced scheduling notice and require compensation if the worker’s shift is canceled or shortened. There is really no excuse to not afford workers these very basic rights.

Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

Pappas: Illinois has taken several steps to legalize or decriminalize marijuana both for medical and non-medical purposes. In terms of medical marijuana, I’m very open to continued research and pilot programs to reduce patients’ dependency on opioids. As far as full legalization of recreational marijuana, I think this is an ongoing discussion that needs to be had with advocates and law enforcement at the table to come up with a plan that makes sense from a criminal justice perspective while prioritizing public safety first.

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?

Pappas: The opioid crisis was only made more difficult to solve with the more than 700 day budget impasse that jeopardized funding for mental health, addiction and treatment services. First and foremost, I would support budgets that fund these services, which are deeply intertwined with employment, recidivism, healthcare, education, and public safety.

DuPage County – as well as other areas in the state – has some unique resources and programs that could be looked to as models for other areas. We need to continue a dialogue with mental health professionals, medical professionals, law enforcement and educators to find innovative ways to reduce opioid abuse, address the over-prescription of painkillers, promote education and prevention programs at a local level including in our schools, and equip parents with knowledge and resources. Narcan has been a lifesaving, invaluable tool in the fight to prevent overdoses, but we really need to be going a step further to prevent addicts from using for the first time by increasing education and addressing the underlying issues that often lead to addiction.

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?

Pappas: I support green job creation and will work to promote good-paying jobs and careers in the growing green sector. As always, I want to be sure that we’re holding the line on higher taxes and rates on middle-class families and those who can least afford it, but I think we have a responsibility to shift our resources towards renewable energy and 21st Century jobs.

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?

Pappas: Governor Rauner’s changes to the Medicaid system have only reduced the quality of care, padded the profits of insurance companies and out of state managed care organizations, and hurt the patients who need care the most. When executed right, managed care protects the quality of care patients receive while reducing expensive emergency room visits. I would be very eager to work with all parties together to increase transparency and oversight of a managed care system to put patients over profits.

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?

Pappas: This is just another result of the over two year budget impasse and another reason why as State Representative I will work with all sides to pass bipartisan, responsible budgets on time every year. These programs can reduce recidivism and should be a part of a comprehensive plan to fund the Department of Corrections to protect public safety in the short and long-term.

Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?

Pappas: I’m always open to discussions and learning more about issues. I would want to discuss any changes in partnership with law enforcement and victims’ advocates.

PolitiFact is an exclusive partnership between Chicago Sun-Times and BGA to fact-check politicians

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.