Dear Neighbor,

The last two weeks have been highly productive. I secured passage of several equity-focused bills that will lead to better health outcomes and well-being for many underserved people. 

Legislative Updates

             Sen. Simmons during Senate floor debate on HB4430

House Bill 4430: Empowering pharmacists to provide HIV testing, PrEP and PEP medications

Last Friday I was proud to pass HB4430 in the Senate, which is groundbreaking legislation that will enable those at high risk for HIV infection to obtain PrEP and PEP medications from a local pharmacy. This is a major step forward in removing a systemic barrier to much needed, lifesaving medication that will help us reduce new HIV infections significantly over the next decade. I was proud to partner with Rep. Kelly Cassidy, as well as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, in getting this bill through negotiations and through both chambers. The bill would allow pharmacists to dispense and administer drugs, order laboratory tests, and consult individuals related to HIV pre-exposure drugs (PrEP) and post-exposure drugs (PEP). Pharmacists would first have to complete an educational training course on the administration of tests and medications prior to being permitted to assist patients. We are working to cut down on wait times and eliminate a well-documented systemic barrier to health care for people to get the potentially life-saving medication they need. Doing so will especially help reduce new HIV infections among cisgender Black women, LGBTQ+ people, Latinos, and those who lack health insurance. This step is also likely to help connect these populations to consistent medical care, another important step forward. As I’ve said in past newsletters, one of my top priorities as your senator is passing legislation that facilitates access to health care so we see better health outcomes for all. Passage of HB4430 is a key component of this work.

House Bill 4369: Strengthening Lead Mitigation Procedures

I also secured passage of HB4389, legislation I sponsored with Rep. Lakesia Collins that will require the Department of Public Health (IDPH) to follow up on lead mitigation to ensure work has been completed. The current law merely permits an inspection, while this legislation will require and enforce lead mitigation efforts. Virtually every community across the state is affected by lead in our water supply. This bill provides a systemic response to a problem that is systemic in nature, is decades in the making, and often does the most injury to Black and Brown communities. Removing lead from all housing and facilities where people, including children, are present is pressing work that is urgently overdue. This bill will give the law teeth so mitigation efforts are seen to completion. 

 

Sen. Simmons presenting a bill before the Senate Executive Committee

House Bill 4589: Creating a Men’s Health Division in IDPH

I also passed HB4589 out of the Senate which will create a Division of Men’s Health within IDPH to focus on prevention of major diseases that affect men. Life expectancy for men remains more than five years less than women, and men lead in nine of the top ten causes of death in the United States. This new division will raise awareness of health issues particular to men that are not currently or adequately addressed by IDPH, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, smoking cessation, heart disease, and mental health. I envision this agency working closely with the Office of Women’s Health and Family Services within IDPH to reduce instances of chronic disease across Illinois. I will continue to work with Assistant Majority Leader Marcus Evans to ensure this agency is promptly set up and reports on its progress.

House Bill 5016: Providing students in IDOC custody a chance to further educational attainment 

Lastly, I passed two more bills that will affect justice-involved communities. HB5016 will enable youth in custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections to participate in remote learning so they can complete high school and further their education. I am proud of this legislation, which came to me from a 7th District resident of Budlong Woods. The measure will roll out as a pilot at the Consuella York Alternative High School at Cook County Jail, and if successful, can be expanded to other alternative schools across the state. Research from the Cal Matters Organization indicates similar programs in California have contributed to lowered recidivism rates there.

House Bill 5525: Improving policy and programs for children of incarcerated parents 

I was proud to partner with Rep. Delia Ramirez and Cabrini Green Legal Aid to secure passage of HB5525, which will create the Commission on Children of Incarcerated Parents. Likely the most horrific feature of the carceral system is how it separates parents from their children. Forty-one out of ninety-two jails in Illinois, for example, do not permit child visits while the parent is incarcerated. It behooves us to revamp policies and programs to ensure parents can maintain relationships with their children while incarcerated. Today in Illinois, nearly 200,000 children – or one in every 20 – have had a parent in jail or prison. These children are more likely to become housing unstable, suffer from depression and anxiety, struggle in school, and themselves become involved with the carceral system later in life. This commission will be placed within the Department of Human Services and will be tasked with implementing policies that create more humane outcomes for these families.

All 5 of these bills have now cleared both the Senate and House, and will go for what is called “concurrence” to iron out any changes made before going to the Governor for his signature.

Fiscal Year 23 Budget 

 

Sen. Simmons flanked by colleagues from the House and Senate in calling for targeted tax relief for low-income households in the Fiscal Year 23 budget

 

SB2132 and SB3774: Targeted tax relief for low and low-to-moderate income households

I am fighting for inclusion of a state-level child tax credit in Illinois, and for an expansion of the earned-income tax credit. Both would provide significant relief for low and low to moderate income parents, struggling families, young adults, seniors, and essential workers. Each of these policy tools are proven to reduce poverty and provide an economic stimulus to the local economy. We have built a large coalition of advocacy groups around these proposals, including Economic Security for Illinois. We are pushing very hard for targeted tax relief in the FY23 budget for lower-income households. Working people have waited for a generation for systemic economic relief, and a child tax credit, which I have introduced and is included in both SB 2132 and SB3774, is the least we can do for them. It’s time to lift 1.2 million Illinois children out of poverty and give working parents a break.

SB4030:  Wage parity for homecare workers who care for our seniors

I also am fighting for a wage rate increase in the FY23 budget for our home care workers who take care of our seniors and enable seniors to remain living a dignified life in their communities. I’ve introduced SB4030 which would bring these workers up to the minimum wage beginning July 1, 2022 so they are compensated fairly for the difficult work they do each day. Nursing homes can cost up to four times as much as it costs to provide care to seniors in their own communities, so this is not only the right thing to do but it also will save the State money in future fiscal years. As of 2022, Illinois currently has approximately 100,000 seniors that require homecare assistance from a professional. And we expect the number of Illinoisans over 65 to increase by a third by 2025.

SB3012: Economic Relief for Properties in Flood Zones

I also introduced SB3012, which would provide a reduction in the assessed value of a property located in a flood zone for households up to 100 percent of the area median income. This is intended to provide relief to residential buildings in our district that are at a high risk of flooding, which can stabilize housing options for both long-time homeowners and renters in multi-family buildings. The bill received a hearing in the Senate Revenue Committee. The Metropolitan Planning Council also presented in support of the bill.

 

The House and Senate will be in negotiations this week as we work toward crafting a final budget. 

 

Sen. Simmons in the news: 

Trans Day of Visibility at the Capitol

Thursday, March 31st was the 13th annual Day of Trans Visibility. We held a historic press conference at the State Capitol that morning in honor of this day. My colleagues and I welcomed LaSaia Wade, Founder and Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance. You can watch my remarks here

Later that same day in the Senate chamber, I welcomed LaSaia Wade to the Senate and rose and made a floor statement honoring and recognizing Brave Space Alliance as the first Black-led and Trans-led LGBTQ+ community center in Illinois, and for its services and activism for transgender visibility and well-being. Senators rose and gave LaSaia a standing ovation. It was a beautiful and historic moment to witness! It likely was the first time a Black transgender woman was introduced and given such recognition in the body. 

Sen. Simmons with LaSaia Wade, Founder of Brave Space Alliance (center), with Senate Majority Leader Kim Lightford, State Sen. Robert Peters, and State Rep. Lamont Robinson (in blue and the first openly gay and black person elected to the Illinois House)

 

A Tribute to Elise Malary 

 

Elise Malary was a beloved presence in many northside communities and a pillar of Evanston’s LGBTQ+ community. She fought tirelessly for equality, inclusion, BIPOC communities, and Black trans lives. Elise was a founding member of Andersonville-based Chicago Therapy Collective, which aims to alleviate LGBTQ+ health disparities through education, therapy, advocacy, and the arts. Tragically, Elise was found dead on March 19th, and we all are collectively grieving this beautiful life that was taken from our community too soon.

When Black trans women are reported missing, these cases are often left unsolved, marginalized, and ignored by law enforcement and the media – family and friends are left with debilitating questions unanswered. I am so touched that in this instance hundreds of community members stepped up to amplify news of Elise’s disappearance. Thank you to everyone for recognizing the humanity of Black trans women. It was simply unprecedented and set a new example for how we can collectively activate to identify our missing siblings.

Sen. Simmons’ Community Event

 

Vaccine Clinic Recap

My office co-sponsored a booster COVID-19 vaccine clinic with Heartland Health at Loyola Park on March 30th. 

 

Single Parents Town Hall RECAP

Thank you to all who joined our innovative Single Parents Town Hall discussion with Jenny Leflore of Mama Fresh Chi, Ariel Rainey of Hustle Mommies, and Ida Nelson! We discussed the legislation contained in the “Single Parents Bills of Rights,” two bills that would establish 5 days of unpaid leave for single parents and a $600 child tax credit for Illinois families. Ariel mentioned 5 extra days away from a job could be a supportive factor if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, Ida added this could alleviate some of the mama guilt of not being available for your children's needs, and Jenny imagined the time off as an opportunity to take her sons to the museum to learn about dinosaurs. We all left feeling empowered and ready to continue advocating for single parents. 

 

7th District Candid Photo!

 

Last weekend, I took a break from reviewing nearly 200 pieces of legislation on the docket for the following week, and took a walk around the district and stopped at this mural at Peirce Elementary School of International Studies in Edgewater for a candid!

This mural is fitting since residents of Edgewater come from every corner of the world!




Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff if you have questions or would like to voice your opinion about legislative or budget issues. I would like to reiterate that our office is here to help. We are a non-judgment, welcoming place where 7th district residents are encouraged to contact us to request constituent services. 

 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 if we can help you with anything.

 

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Sincerely,

Mike Simmons

State Senator | 7th District  

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Office Info

District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 769-1717

Springfield Office:
Senator 7th District
M115 Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8492

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