Jen’s First Term
As a first-term legislator, Jen fought the status quo and worked to pass new landmark legislation to secure Illinois women’s healthcare access, create humanitarian protections for immigrant children, and fight the flow of guns onto our streets. She worked across the aisle to pass a truly balanced budget that responsibly addresses Illinois’ fiscal problems while making smart investments, increasing transparency, and ensuring accountability to taxpayers.
Passing a Balanced Budget that Reflects Our Values
Jennifer believes that Illinois needs to spend responsibly in a way that reflects the shared values of our community. That’s why she worked towards and helped pass a responsible, balanced budget with bipartisan support to help stabilize Illinois’ finances; fund critical services like education, senior resources, and health care; make a full pension payment; and paying down $1B in backlogged bills accrued under the Rauner administration.
Cuts to education at the state level over the past two decades have led to higher property taxes and fewer opportunities for Illinois’ students. In particular, draconian cuts to higher education forced students to out-of-state colleges, where most of them will remain long after they graduate. This costs our state young college graduates, young families, and economic growth. In this budget, we increased education funding to invest in our future and prioritize our state’s most valuable asset – our children.
Jennifer played a key role in the House Appropriations-Human Services budget working group, where she successfully negotiated more investments toward critical programs like Meals on Wheels, autism funding, and addiction treatment. She believes that responsible financial leadership means funding programs that deliver services at lower cost like the Community Care Program, which enables seniors to stay in their homes and live with dignity while spending 80% less than traditional nursing home care.
Jennifer voted to send the question of a fair tax to a direct referendum because she believes Illinois voters should have a voice in our state’s tax structure. Jennifer also supported a task force to investigate innovative methods of property tax relief for families being hit hardest by recent increases.
Jennifer knows that the work to address Illinois’ structural deficit, grow our economy, and provide opportunities for all Illinoisans requires a long-term focus and commitment to making hard choices to build a stronger Illinois.
We must also address Illinois’ unfunded pension liability and not “kick the can down the road” for future generations to deal with. Jennifer supported consolidation of downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds to control administrative costs and take advantage of economies of scale with a larger investment pool. Jennifer supported legislation that consolidated roughly 650 police and fire pensions into two statewide funds, saving on administrative costs. She also supports the expansion of the early pension buyout program to cut long-term expenses.
Building a Green Economy
As a proud member of the Green Caucus, Jennifer understands that Illinois must prioritize clean energy and a green economy. It is vital to the health of our planet as well as our state economy. That’s why she is a co-sponsor for the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), which puts Illinois on track to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050. She also worked to pass legislation that places stricter regulations and enforcement on toxic coal ash disposal by coal power plants. This legislation will prevent the reckless disposal of waste in local water supplies and protect the safety of our drinking water.
Equal Rights for Women and the LGBTQ Community
Reducing the Wage Gap
For too long, the gender wage gap has been exacerbated by many employers’ practice of requiring applicants to submit salary history, which disproportionally locks women into lower-paying salaries. Jennifer co-sponsored legislation to reduce the gender wage gap, creating new guidelines that don’t require potential employees to submit their salary history.
Fighting Harassment & Discrimination
Jennifer co-sponsored the Workplace Transparency Act, which prohibits the kind of nondisclosure agreements that are used to silence victims of workplace harassment, retaliation, and discrimination. It also changes the structure of sexual harassment reporting and training requirements, creating avenues for victims to seek justice.
Jennifer co-sponsored the Inclusive Curriculum Law, which will add discussion of LGBTQ figures and events to public school curricula. An inclusive education system will create structural change that can reduce bullying and lead to better outcomes for young people.
Reproductive Health Act
Jennifer co-sponsored the Reproductive Health Act, which now codifies the legal framework under Roe v Wade into Illinois law, protecting Illinois women if federal courts overrule or nullify that decision. She stood up to leadership and the powerful anti-choice lobby on behalf of this legislation, joining a coalition of freshman women legislators who refused to end the session without passing this important legislation.
Keeping Our Families Safe from Gun Violence
As someone who has experienced the tragic loss of family members to gun violence, Jennifer has made fighting for commonsense gun safety laws a top priority.
Tragic mass shootings like those in Las Vegas, Parkland and Sandy Hook were carried out by using deadly, military-style assault rifles. Jennifer opposes the NRA and their extreme agenda. She introduced legislation to fight the flow of guns onto our streets and was proud to co-sponsor the “Fix the FOID Act,” which expands background checks to all firearm purchases and strengthens the background checks for FOID card applicants by requiring fingerprint submissions. It also requires coordination between the Illinois State Police and local law enforcement to ensure that individuals who have lost their FOID card privileges surrender their guns when necessary.
Jennifer also sponsored legislation that would require firearm owners to carry liability insurance, creating a path to compensation for loss in the event someone is accidentally injured or killed. As with automobile liability insurance, firearm liability insurance shifts the burden of cost and responsibility away from victims. The same legislation also explicitly bans insurance from covering deliberate criminal acts and/or costs associated with criminal prosecution.
Protecting Immigrant Children and Families
Jennifer authored, sponsored, and passed three new pieces of legislation to create humanitarian protections for immigrant families. As the only immigration attorney in the Illinois General Assembly, Jennifer is deeply concerned about federal immigration policy hurting Illinois families.
Legal Guardianship for Children of Immigrant Parents
Jennifer wrote this legislation enabling parents to designate a short-term legal guardian for their children if they are detained or deported. This prevents children from being swept into the system and ensures children are placed in the care of someone who is known and trusted by their family, rather than ICE or other immigration authorities.
Protections for Abused, Abandoned, and Neglected Immigrant Children
Too often, abused, abandoned, and neglected immigrant children fall through the cracks in our system. That’s why Jennifer authored and sponsored legislation that changes Illinois immigration law to require state courts to handle issues of abuse, abandonment, and neglect, ensuring that minors can apply for special immigrant juvenile visas.
Access to Justice for Immigrants
Immigrants can be frightened to come forward as victims for fear that their immigrant status will be used to hold them hostage. Predatory individuals and organizations often target immigrants specifically for this reason and threaten deportation if the victims report them. Jennifer wrote and passed legislation to protect immigrants in court, deeming immigration status inadmissible unless relevant to the case, protecting immigrants who come forward.
Lower the Cost of Health Care
Jennifer understands how rising healthcare costs hurt our community. Too many families and small businesses are struggling to pay the rising costs of healthcare.
Cracking Down on Predatory Insurance Company Practices
Jennifer took on big insurance companies, voting to crack down on double-digit premium increases. She co-sponsored legislation to establish rate review, creating more accountability for and oversight of health insurance companies.
Lowering Prescription Drug Costs
She also voted to rein in prescription drug prices, which have skyrocketed in recent years. Prescription drugs costs are overwhelming, especially for seniors on a fixed income and young families dealing with childhood illnesses.
Fighting for World-Class Schools
Jennifer knows that access to higher education is key to economic opportunity and success. That’s why Jennifer supported a 5% increase in funding for Illinois’ colleges and universities, enabling the University of Illinois system to freeze tuition for in-state freshman. It also provides additional funding for grants which allow up to 15,000 additional students to attend Illinois postsecondary institutions. She helped secure:
- 5% increase in higher ed funding
- $375 million more for local schools
- Increased college affordability by expanding in-state college scholarships to 15,000 more students
- 40% increase in merit scholarships for high achieving college-bound students
Responsible Guidelines for Cannabis & E-Cigarettes (Vaping)
Jennifer supported the legalization of adult use of cannabis products, but understands that the industry needs strict guidelines to prevent marketing to children and must take precautions to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors. She will continue to advocate for a responsible regulatory system that addresses the specific concerns arising from the industry, including its impact on local neighborhoods.
She is also deeply concerned about the dramatic increase of young people using electronic cigarettes, also known as “vapes.” A new generation of young people are becoming addicted to nicotine with the misconception that these new devices are safe or healthy. I support a full ban on flavored electronic cigarettes—including flavors like wild cherry, mango, and bubble gum—to stem this public health crisis.