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Harris, Steans talk legislative session over coffee
by Joshua Irvine
2019-08-22

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Two General Assembly members met with their constituents at Andersonville's First Slice Pie Cafe to discuss this year's legislative session.

State Rep. Greg Harris and state Sen. Heather Steans addressed about 15 area residents in the back room of the Andersonville eatery for an Aug. 20 "Coffee and Conversation." The two Democrats discussed a variety of achievements from what Harris called a "historic" legislative session as well as continuing issues.

Harris—the House majority leader since his January appointment by Speaker Michael Madigan—devoted much of his time to the state's new budget, praising what he called a "balanced," "on-time" budget that did not raise taxes..

Harris framed the new budget as the result of the transition from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to Democrat Pritzker, and touted increased spending on primary and secondary education and health-service agencies.

He also discussed tax credits for manufacturing and data centers, the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers and the capital improvement plan meant to repair much of Illinois' public infrastructure.

Steans talked more about her personal efforts—most notably, a bill ensuring that LGBTQ persons would be included in public school history curriculum. She said similar changes to curriculum in other states had improved LGBTQ students' sense of safety at school.

"People feel much less bullied and much more included," Steans said.

Implementation of LGBTQ history into curriculum will fall upon individual school districts, Steans said, adding that the state will not require districts to purchase new textbooks but will require any subsequent textbook purchases to include LGBTQ history.

Steans discussed new laws expanding gambling in the state, noting concerns by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and saying she and Harris would continue to examine the legislation's implementation.

Steans also discussed the gas tax linked to the capital improvement plan, using Medicaid funding for housing the homeless, a variety of state legislation protecting immigrant populations and Illinois' new abortion protections, characterizing the state as a "beacon."

Like Harris, she emphasized the new governor's role in the passage of legislation this session.

"A governor makes a huge difference," Steans said.


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