Ann Gillespie: 2022 candidate for Illinois Senate 27th District
Office sought: Illinois Senate 27th District
City: Arlington Heights
Previous offices held: Current state senator
Q: What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
A: There are many aspects of the legislative process that function well. The committee structure helps reduce the thousands of proposed bills down to a manageable level of critical issues while providing an opportunity for participation by both parties, lobbyists, and the public. As a senate chair, I used this process, along with individual relationships, to pass 25 bills with mostly bipartisan support.
More important is addressing the practices which have the potential to corrupt the process. I passed improvements with the first comprehensive ethics bill in 10 years. It wasn't perfect, but it gave the IG more power, closed the "shadow lobbyist" loophole, and expanded economic disclosure requirements. I will continue pressing for improvements in the future.
The electoral process constitutes term limits for elected officials. I support term limits for legislative leaders and since being in office the State Senate has adopted them.
Q: Federal assistance has enabled the state to make important advances toward improving its budget. What will you do to ensure these advances continue when the federal aid is gone?
A: This legislature balanced the budget prior to COVID. Federal funds were used on nonrecurring expenses, which the finance community recognized when they gave Illinois 6 credit upgrades. But, property taxes are too high. Reducing property taxes, which are controlled by local government, requires the state to fully fund the evidence-based school funding formula. This is why I supported new sources of state revenue that provide minimum impact on working families. These include legalizing and taxing cannabis and expanding gambling. These changes were particularly important in light of the Fair Tax failing to pass. To help apply new revenue to reducing property taxes I sponsored: the Educational Property Relief Grant, bringing $1.3 million to my district; a change in the tax cap law that previously discouraged lowering taxes; the TIF Transparency Act; and a bill which eliminates the need for seniors to reapply each year for their exemption.
Q: To what extent are you happy or unhappy with the evidence-based model for education funding now in place in Illinois? How would you define "adequate" state funding for Illinois schools and what will you do to promote that?
A: It is too early to fully assess EBF's success. Reports outside of Chicago demonstrate that poorer districts are improving with the increased funding. However, Chicago is having difficulty achieving the intended goals because, while it receives the funds based on the state formula, it distributes the funds on a per capita basis, thereby denying the more impoverished schools with needed funds. Adequate state funding is the amount of funding a district needs from the state in excess of what it can raise through local sources to provide an adequate, equitable education for all students. The current formula is research based, evaluating best practices from around the country. It is tempting to redefine "adequate state funding" by manipulating the formula and thereby reducing allocated funds. But until there is research that demonstrates that the current formula is, in fact, wrong, I will continue to support the move toward adequate funding throughout the state.
Q: Do you believe elections in Illinois are free and fair? What changes, if any, are needed regarding election security and voter access?
A: I am proud that Illinois is a leader in practicing strategies that enhance voter access, and that its county clerks are successful in ending the era of stuffed ballot boxes. I was a co-sponsor of two bills which expanded election security and voter rights. These bills made voting by mail easier and more secure, instituted cybersecurity measures, and provided funding in support of these and other measures.
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, gay marriage and other social issues to be state, not federal, responsibilities? What if anything needs to be done in these areas and what would you do to make your vision come to pass?
A: I believe Illinois has been proactive in these matters, anticipating the shifting of positions on the Supreme Court. I am proud of that track record and was also proud to co-sponsor the Reproductive Health Act which codified the protections of Roe v. Wade 3 years before the Supreme Court reversal in the Dobbs decision. Illinois has also been a leader in protections for LGBTQ+ rights including same-sex marriage, again in advance of the Court's indication that it may reconsider all protections based on the right to privacy. One further protection I believe we should consider is to clarify in the Illinois state constitution that the right to privacy is a protected right. In addition, we are currently reviewing the broad impacts of the Dobbs decision on women's reproductive health to determine if there are other protections we may need to specifically address.