Laura Ellman: 2022 candidate for Illinois Senate District 21
Office sought: Illinois Senate District 21
Occupation: Independent Assessor, Department of Energy -- Argonne National Laboratory
Previous offices held: Current state senator since 2019
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: When I first ran for state senator, term limits and ethics were core tenets of my campaign -- I believed then and still believe that we need to make Springfield work for the people, not the special interests.
As a state senator, I voted to toughen ethics laws so politicians in Springfield are banned from lobbying their colleagues right after they leave office. I also support getting dark money out of politics, and I'm proud to have voted in support of setting term limits for House and Senate leaders.
Term limits are a good first step, but on their own they don't adequately address the issue of money in our elections. Robust campaign finance reform would level the playing field for all candidates and prevent special interest groups from dominating our elections; would make it possible for good candidates to run effectively.
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: Federal funding did help our state address the impacts of COVID and respond to the pandemic, but we also created a fiscally responsible budget and stuck to it to ensure we avoided long-term debt and that our community programs could be sustained beyond the pandemic.
You don't have to take my word for it -- the bond agencies and their independent analysts accessed our financials and gave Illinois not one, not two, but six credit upgrades. These bond agency analysts take into account temporary influxes of federal income in their assessment.
I'm proud of the work we've done these last four years, particularly to strengthen and diversify our economy and add manufacturing jobs to our state -- both of which help make Illinois more resilient to economic downturns and play a big role in ensuring we can withstand recessions and maintain a stable budget.
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: I'm happy with the evidence based funding model we created because it takes more than student performance into account, it also looks at a communities ability to fund education by factoring in equalized accessed values, so when community within a school district is unable to support adequate school funding, the state can supplement the discrepancy and make sure schools have what they need to provide our young people with high quality education.
Adequacy is part of the formula as well, and it's measured through standardized testing. I do think we should access how adequacy is determined, but because the standardized testing we have collected so far has come over the course of the pandemic, we need to accumulate a few more cycles of data before we can determine a baseline to more effectively access adequacy. I'm also proud to be endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and the Illinois Association of Retired Teachers.
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'm proud that we have expanded people's ability to vote safely and securely across the state by passing voting laws that increase access to early voting, curbside voting, ballot drop boxes, absentee ballots, required universal voting centers in every county, made Election Day a state holiday, and have required election authorities to strengthen cybersecurity measures.
Everything we have done make it easier for people to cast their ballot and trust the integrity of our elections, and I look forward to finding even better ways to make sure we continue to expand access to the ballot box.
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, same-sex 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: The repercussions of the far-right Supreme Court's choice to overturn Roe v. Wade are already being felt in our community, and they will continue to have far-reaching consequences for people who give birth in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. In Illinois, we have already done much to enshrine abortion as a fundamental right, particularly with the 2019 passage of the Reproductive Healthcare Act which codified a women's right to choose and also established that a fertilized egg/embryo/fetus does not have personhood rights.
We've learned again and again over the course of our history that letting states decide means individuals rights -- human rights, will vary and be rolled back. Unfortunately throwing things back to the states means we must work even harder to elect candidates up and down the ballot who view reproductive rights, an individuals right to marry who they want, as human rights.