Illinois House 65th District Democratic nominee: Richard Johnson
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Democrat Richard Johnson is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 65th district Illinois House race. He faces Republican Dan Ugaste in the general election.
On Oct. 16, Johnson appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board also 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.
Johnson submitted the following responses, and watch the video above to find out why he’s running.
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. Richard Johnson submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Johnson: Historically, Springfield has imposed unfunded mandates on local communities, forcing property taxes to increase. I will oppose unfunded mandates. Moreover, I will work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to lower the collective tax burden on Illinois families. Specifically, I would work to fund our schools at levels that allow all students to receive a high-quality education while easing the property tax burden imposed on homeowners. I would concentrate my efforts on deepening the state’s responsibility for being the funder of first resort for local schools, which is called for in the Illinois Constitution. Local governments and homeowners can no longer endure property tax increases.
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.
Johnson: Opportunities for all of our children to receive high-quality education is the first priority. School districts in District 65 have long been underfunded by the State, though schools have still committed to educating every child that walks into their doors.
Secondly, we must focus reinvestment in infrastructure in Illinois. We need to have roads, railway, public transportation, bridges and waterway access to attract businesses and manufacturing to Illinois. We must ensure that businesses can secure loans, and are able to hire a qualified workforce in Illinois. Properly funding our public schools and our higher education institutions that will train that qualified workforce is a must.
Lastly, I want to ensure that our institutions of higher learning are affordable, and accessible to the best in brightest in Illinois. We can ill afford to lose talented and intelligent students to other state’s institutions.
Who is Richard Johnson?
He’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 65th District
His political/civic background: I have been involved with my community through volunteering, sponsoring clubs and coaching at schools in U-46. I have never been elected to public office before.
His occupation: Law and Psychology Teacher at Bartlett High School
- Juris Doctorate, John Marshall Law School
- Master’s, Olivet Nazarene University, Education – Curriculum and Instruction
- Bachelor’s, Roosevelt University, Social Sciences for Teacher Education
Campaign website: johnsonforillinois.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Johnson: I have spent my entire life as a public servant. I have been a teacher, community leader and coach in Elgin and in Kane County my whole life. I am committed to working for the people I represent, I will not be swayed by special interests and will fight for the working and middle class in District 65.
Unlike my opponent, I have fought to ensure that all people are allowed to marry who they love. My opponent has been an outspoken opponent of marriage equality, and he has been staunchly pro-life. He believes that lifting taxes on corporations and big business is the way to bring jobs to Illinois. By reducing taxes on those corporations working class families and the middle class are left with the bill.
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?
Johnson: There are an infinite number of reasons that residents have chosen to move out of Illinois. The taxes in the state are burdensome, but that alone is not the reason why people have left. Some leave for job opportunities, some leave for family reasons, still others leave for better weather, and some have lost hope and trust in the people who represent them in Springfield. I will work to restore that trust by making sure that we truly represent the will of the people and get work done in Springfield.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Johnson: The only answer that makes mathematical sense is reamoritzation the debt. The ramp up of payments will lead to a payment in 2045 of close to 23 billion dollars. That chunk of the overall budget will cause disruption to many services and will hurt the citizens of the state of Illinois immensely.
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?
Johnson: We must fund our higher education institutions and reduce the tuitions to our state universities. We must look to fund grants and scholarships so that our students stay in Illinois, graduate in Illinois and then participate as active citizens in Illinois.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Johnson: I am in favor of common sense gun laws. We must address gun show and private sale loopholes, and ban gun accessories that convert gun into weapons that are capable of mass shootings in a matter of moments.
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?
Johnson: I believe it is fair and it is essential that the Illinois Legislature adopt a fair scheduling law. Treating our employees with the dignity and respect they deserve, allowing them to schedule their lives along with their work week is just common sense. The law should require advance notice of scheduling (2 weeks in advance), extra pay for last changes to the schedule, a provision for “lost wages” due to a reduction in hours after a schedule is set, and offering of additional hours would be offered to current employees before hiring new employees.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Johnson: I am in support of marijuana legalization and the establishment of a system in which recreational cannabis can be regulated and taxed. The revenue created should be used to support various social programs including those that help those with substance abuse issues.
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?
Johnson: The state legislature must act with expedience and thoughtfulness. This is without a doubt a public health crisis and should be treated as such. Opioids, often, are unregulated in the sense that prescribers of the medication tend to give a fixed amount of dosage and do not follow up. This leads to over prescribing of the medication. The state legislature needs to monitor the doses of these opioids, who is prescribing them and who is receiving them. By having proper regulations, and proper treatment for those addicted to these opioids, we can end this crisis.
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?
Johnson: I do agree with the objectives and the substance of the act. The intention is to create jobs, lessen our environmental impact, and address climate change. This is the time where Illinois should be a leader in clean and renewable energy. Our federal government has been already rolled back many environmental regulations and this will have a lasting impact on future generations. Our goal should be to be on 100% clean and renewable energy within the next 50 years. Now is the time to start this movement in Illinois.
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?
Johnson: A significant factor in ensuring viability is the funding of the Medicaid program by securing funding for the program at the federal level. We must also do a better job at enrolling people in the program in Illinois.
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?
Johnson: Inmates failing to receive services or opportunities for work leads to a person that will return to the prison system. Recidivism is a huge issue in the Illinois system. If inmates continue to lack the opportunities for work, they will not be able to reintegrate into society and will end up back in the prison system. Many prisoners need help with mental health issues, or counseling, and fail to receive those services as well. This again leads to formerly incarcerated persons who cannot find work, cannot find a place to live, and then return to our prison system. Much of the failure is due to improper funding of these programs and the lack of support staff needed to help reintegrate these people into society.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Johnson: The state should restore parole for non-violent and non-sex offenders. These long sentences for nonviolent acts flies in the face of the rehabilitory nature of our prison system. This is especially the case of our offenders who were convicted of these crimes when they were juveniles. If we are to reduce the recidivism that we see in Illinois, we must ensure that these people recieve the supports, training and opportunities to return to society.
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.