Yesterday marked my 2-year anniversary representing the 20th District as your State Senator in the Illinois General Assembly. I can’t help but reflect proudly on all accomplished during this time, and look ahead to what we will continue to in Springfield and across the district advancing the people’s agenda of the 20th District.

When I was sworn in on December 21, 2020, our community was in the midst of the first year of a global pandemic that deepened economic hardship, weakened our health care system, disrupted in-person learning for schools, and resulted in many lives lost and traumatized. Because I had been involved in mutual aid work with The Puerto Rican Agenda and Illinois Unidos, I was clear that my charge would grow in both crisis response and long-term solution development. However, I was very clear that that work would lean into the wisdom of the community because those closest to the problems often have the best solutions.

In January 2021, I launched the first arm of a co-governance model that would be a mechanism or accountability to constituents and aid in demystifying government with community members through monthly virtual town hall meetings. Each month we shared information on development of the state response to the pandemic, any economic relief we were able to provide, and a report back on progress made with legislative proposals in Springfield. Despite the stress and deep personal loss many of us were experiencing, I look back on memories of the start of my term with a sense of gratitude because I was able to establish bidirectional channel of communication between government and folks in my district. At the onset of my term, I set a standard of direct and open communication between my office and community members, and I am proud to uphold this standard in my service today.

In the statehouse, I hit the ground running with a progressive agenda focused on early childhood care and interventions, empowering local school governance, housing stabilization, and supporting the early childhood workforce. I addressed a critical shortage in early childhood educators by sponsoring legislation, House Bill 2878, to provide streamlined pathways to college degrees for those already working in the field with a $200 million investment in scholarships and supports to upskill more than 5,000 professionals across the state. I also led an initiative to waive spring testing requirements for Illinois students in acknowledgment of the historically difficult year young people in particular have had during the pandemic, which has upended day-to-day life in schools. We celebrated the passage of Senate Bill 101 that empowered the local school councils of Chicago Public Schools by expanding student representation and restoring powers to ensure that site-based management teams can truly function as democratic mechanism to ensure local accountability. We also passed my bill, Senate Bill 1833, which created the first in nation the state designated cultural districts in Illinois, which will affirm the unique cultural identity of Illinois communities and preserve their distinct legacies by spurring economic development without displacement.

During 2021, I was proud to uplift the legislative agenda set by the Illinois Black Caucus, who embarked on an ambitious plan to dismantle systemic racism in the state of Illinois. I supported legislation that aimed to reform four key pillars of Illinois of government: criminal legal system; education and workforce development; economic access, equity, and opportunity; and health care and human services. One of these laws was the Pretrial Fairness Act that abolishes the cash bail system and prohibits individuals accused of crimes from being detained before their trial simply because they can’t afford bail. This legislation is one of the most monumental laws to come from the statehouse, and addresses the ways Black and Latine Illinoisians have disproportionately suffered under the criminal legal system.  I am proud that we were able to uphold the initial intent of the Pretrial Fairness Act through Veto session, and that I was a part of the immense effort from people from all sectors to get this legislation passed and stand for justice in our state. It is the first of many steps towards ending systemic racism and classism in the criminal legal system, and I look forward to continue the work addressing these issues when we return to Springfield.

In 2022, I spearheaded the Too Young to Test Act, Senate Bill 3986, to prohibit the Illinois State Board of Education from developing or administering standardized tests for the state’s youngest children from Pre-K through second grade. Additionally, I advanced measures to provide students with more options after high school graduation and help the state address the ongoing teacher vacancy issue. Senate Bill 3990 requires school counseling services to include Career and Technical Education to help students consider secondary education plans following high school, while Senate Bill 3988 lowers the age for paraprofessionals in Pre-K through eighth grade classrooms to 18 years old, rather than 19.

Building on last year’s legislation to allow for the designation of cultural districts throughout the state, I spearheaded House Bill 5581, which designates a section of Milwaukee Avenue from Sangamon Street in Chicago to Greenwood Road in Niles as the Milwaukee Avenue Polish Heritage Corridor. I also championed Senate Bill 3991 to allow the state treasurer’s office to supplement CSAs for financially insecure households with additional funds and secured $2.5 million in the budget to make $50 seed deposits for every newborn starting January 2023.

Beyond my work in Springfield, I am proud of the district office team that has provided a variety of services to constituents. Through our district health navigator, we partnered with local health clinics to use my district office on the northwest side of Chicago as a near-weekly vaccination clinic, getting over 2,200 vaccines into the arms of residents in the area, as well as collecting and distributing N95 and KN95 masks to children during the height of the Omicron surge. I also launched the first-ever Early Childhood Resource Fair with neighboring Senator Omar Aquino to help direct members of the community to the resources that are available to them – setting their kids up for academic and personal success. I have loved the opportunity to connect members of the community to vital resources around them through our Back to School and Fall Health Fairs, District Office Open Houses, and Blood Drives, and look forward to continuing this practice with more events in 2023!

I am also proud to have watch the evolution of our second arm of operationalizing our co-governance model by inviting members of my constituency into the policy making process and ensure their ideas are heard and translated into action in Springfield. Our Policy Roundtable program focuses on recruiting stakeholders who live or work in the 20th District to lend their expertise and lived experience on the issue areas of small business and the workforce, health, housing, violence prevention, environment, and education. These roundtables met throughout the 102nd General Assembly and gave community members the opportunity to define priorities, raise issues, and discuss solutions that are most impacting them and their loved ones. I left these meetings invigorated and proud that I can champion these issues with a collective group of constituents rooted in problem solving, community wisdom, and active engagement.

Additionally, I am thrilled that the third arm of our co-governance model is anchored in offering space for young activists in our community to get involved in the legislative process. In 2022, I started the 20th District Youth Advisory Council to encourage young people to get involved in the policymaking process. Aside from collecting feedback from their peers, researching policy solutions, and translating it into proposals for me to advance in Springfield, they have represented our office at various community events and literally brought services and resources to neighbors’ doors by canvassing throughout the district.

As your State Senator, I am deeply committed to deepen our shared governance model and seek your partnership to ensure that your perspective is included in policymaking. I cannot wait to see what we are going to accomplish together in the next year serving you as your state Senator. Wishing you and our loved ones a safe, healthy, and warm holiday season.

Category: News

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Office Information

Springfield Office:

Stratton Office Building
Section F, Room H
Springfield, IL 62706

 

District Office:
3140 W. Montrose
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 278-2020