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Showing posts with label illinois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label illinois. Show all posts

12 December 2014

Judy Baar Topinka, the Polka Queen of Illinois Politics Dies at 70

Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register
Illinois politics is a lot of things, but boring rarely is the word to describe it. That is until yesterday. In the wee morning of December 10, 2014, Illinois politics lost its Polka Queen, Judy Baar Topinka.

Since I am an unabashed feminist who normally votes Democratic, one might wonder why Topinka means enough for me to write this post. Well it is because she was freaking awesome to watch. As many people in the media have said over the past day, she was blunt. The only spin Topinka knew how to perform was on the dance floor. I really wanted to share a video of her spinning around during a polka but every single media outlet's videos seem to be tagged with "Topinka polka" at the moment. ARGH!

She seems to be best remembered for her Chicken Little moment of telling Illinois that former Governor Rod Blagojevich was under federal investigation. But Illinois reelected him anyway after he linked her to the previous Governor who was already convicted of corruption. I told ya Illinois politics ain't boring. I still believe if she had chosen almost anyone else other than Joe Birkett as her running mate she may have won. Birkett's strident anti-choice stance pushed a lot of women away from even considering Topinka. For me, I could not forget his role in the Rolando Cruz case. 2006 was the year that the Green Party topped 10% of the vote, meaning a lot more voters than just me had lost faith in Rod, but couldn't vote for Joe.

But what she should be remembered for is that she was one of the first politicians, Democrat or Republican, who marched in Chicago's Pride parade. She was also pro-choice. Hell, she even bragged about voting for the ERA! That was Topinka, a straight shooter.

Which reminds me that one of my friends on Facebook (can't recall!) said something about picturing Dawn Clark Netsch and Judy meeting up in Heaven over some drinks and just shaking their heads at the mess the rest of us are left with. I can see it. And I hope so, because we're gonna need all the divine help to get through the budget mess we are in and appear to be headed into the "even worse" category.

Topinka was beloved by not just Republicans (heck, during her race for Governor her male primary opponents were so vicious to her, Hillary must have send her a card.) but also a lot of us Democratic women who respected her ballsy ways, her feminist sensibilities and how much fun she made politics look.

Thanks, Judy. You inspired a generation of women to lead this state with a wink and a hearty laugh. We shall carry on.

30 December 2013

2014 brings hope to end parental rights for rapists

As we approach January 1st, the Tribune reminds us of new laws such as a statewide ban on tanning beds for those under 18, increased penalties for using social media to organize "flash mob attacks" and that sex education must include discussion of birth control (schools can still opt to not teach sex ed at all). But the new law I am excited to see is a law that better restricts rapists parental rights:
On January 1, 2014, IL Public Act 098-0476 becomes effective. This new law has many added benefits to victims of sexual abuse who give birth to a child conceived of that abuse. Public Act 098-0476 amends 750 ILCS 45/6.5 by broadening the restrictions to include “men who father through sexual assault or sexual abuse” rather than only “sex offenders.” This important amendment means that victims no longer have to have to wait for a conviction of their attacker, which may never come, in order to terminate parental rights of a rapist. To protect against false accusations in cases where there is no conviction, there is new language that provides for a fact-finding hearing to be held to establish if a person “is found by clear and convincing evidence to have committed an act of non-consensual sexual penetration or his conduct in fathering that child.”

Additional aspects of the new law allow mothers or guardians to deny maintenance or support from the father. The father is no longer allowed to inherit from the child without the mother’s or guardian’s consent. Further, notwithstanding the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, no other family member (parent, grandparent, great grandparent, or sibling of the father) will have standing to request custody or visitation with the child without the mother or guardian’s consent. The final addition in the law details how a child’s mother or guardian may file a petition as an affirmative defense in any proceeding regarding the child initiated by the sexual offender.

During the discussion about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, the issue of rapists having parental rights bubbled up. Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago lawyer, was the most visible voice around the issue. Now on January 1st, women who have survived and recovered from a rape and made the decision to carry their pregnancy to term will have more power to ensure that she is no longer tethered to her rapist.

I really hope that other states use our law as a model. I hope that anti-choice legislators around the country rally around it. I'm sure that when deciding to carry a pregnancy conceived by rape, weighing whether or not you want to see your rapist on a regular basis or allow them to be alone with your child, goes into that decision.

Shauna...Thank you for your courage and outrage.


05 March 2013

Dawn Clark Netsch Dies at 86

The grand dame of Illinois politics has died. Dawn Clark Netsch was 86. I had the honor of meeting her on several occasions, usually at fundraisers and luncheons, and each time I would introduce myself to her, she was always gracious. Sometimes I wouldn't say anything, just stand back and watch her as she greeted fans, old friends in her friendly way. For me, she still has one of the best political ads ever -- the straight shooter. Sadly, I couldn't find it in a quick YouTube search, so let me describe it. When she ran for Governor of Illinois in 1994, she ended an ad with her playing pool and making a great shot while someone said "Dawn Clark Netsch, a straight shooter." You can see her holding a cue stick in the photo as she claimed victory after the Democratic primary.  Somehow I'm sure the ad will find its way to the internets today.

I did find that the Chicago History Museum has a 9-part oral history series on her.



She was an inspiration and while I didn't know her personally, I feel a great loss today. Especially as I am headed to a fancy luncheon where a lot of Chicago's power women will be in attendance. It's an event where the chances would had been high Dawn would have appeared. In a state filled with politicians who have broken so many promises and fallen from their pedestals, Dawn would always get a standing ovation anytime she was pointed out in a crowd.

Thanks, Dawn Clark Netsch. May we all serve as graciously as you did.

15 February 2012

Tweet & Rally against attacks on women's health in Illinois

Attention Illinois readers!

Did you know that Illinois Republicans think that women are livestock? That must be the only reason why they continue to submit bills impacting women's health to the Agriculture Committee.

Want to learn more?


Hands Off Women’s Health Twitter Chat

Lorie Chaiten, ACLU of Illinois, Director of Reproductive Rights, is hosting a twitter chat on Thursday, February 16th from 1-2 pm discussing the Health and Human Services Plan B decision, the Mississippi personhood amendment, the Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy, the birth control coverage compromise, the attacks on reproductive health care here in Illinois and everything in between. Please follow the hashtag #HOWH (Hands Off Women’s Health) and join in the discussion.

Women Are Still Not Livestock Rally and Lobby Day

Yet again, extremists are trying to close down access to reproductive health care under the guise of protecting women’s health – by ramming measures though the Agriculture Committee (a noted authority on the subject).

Please join Illinois Reproductive Rights Activists next week on Tuesday the 21st for a rally and lobby day in opposition to treating women like livestock. The t-shirts are will be even more awesome this year, and you will definitely want to get one.

Things will get started at 10:30 am in Springfield, and transportation is available. 
Please RSVP: http://action.aclu.org/cows2012.

Can't wait until next week? TAKE ACTION NOW:

Today, HB 4085, the so-called Ultrasound Opportunity Act, was sent to the Agriculture Committee. It could be heard during their Tuesday, February 21 hearing scheduled for 2:00 p.m.

Like last year’s bill, HB 4085 would require that prior to an abortion, the provider must offer the woman to have and view an ultrasound. The woman’s decision must be recorded in her medical record and reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The bill contains some vague and non-medical terminology that would be problematic for physicians who try to comply with its requirements. Unlike last year’s version, HB 4085 has no waiting period between the ultrasound and the abortion.

Write/call you state representative and tell him/her to “vote NO on HB 4085”.
Contact information for House members is available at: http://www.ilga.gov/house/default.asp

Next...pass this on! 

05 May 2011

Legislative Update

Earlier this month, I asked my Illinois readers to contact their state representatives and ask them to support a bill to unshackle women who were in active labor. A partial victory today because the bill passed!

Sadly the bill passed in an amended state, which limits the unshackling to just Cook County.

I'm hoping to get an interview with Gail Smith, executive director of Chicago Legal Aid for Incarcerated Women, to discuss what this victory means, what percentage of women this will cover and what's next.

CLAIM blogged a bit about the politics that went into getting the bill as far as it has come. Next up the Senate!

04 May 2011

URGENT: Call your IL State Senate on Wednesday!

Yes, another plea for my Illinois readers to please call your elected official! This is super urgent folks!

The Illinois Senate  voted on SB 1619 (Comprehensive Sex Ed). Unfortunately, we fell one short with a vote of 29 YES – 26 NO – 1 PRESENT.


The good news is that one of the YES votes was not at the capitol today. Therefore, the sponsor Senator Steans requested that SB 1619 be put on the Order of Postponed Consideration which allows bills that only fall a few votes short to have another chance for a vote.

La Raza ran a story on Latinas and sex ed. 

We are making progress on SB 1619!

Please keep generating calls into state senators asking them to vote YES on SB 1619! Capitol switchboard is 217-782-2000. A list of senators is available here: http://www.ilga.gov/senate/default.asp

12 April 2011

URGENT: Call your IL State Representative on Wednesday!

HB 1958 - The Anti-Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners bill's amendment number 2 will be voted upon and we need this amendment to pass in order for the bill to continue to move forward.
Call state representatives and urge them to vote YES on HB 1958. http://www.ilga.gov/house/ Capitol switchboard 217-782-2000.

In 2000, Illinois became the first state in the nation to ban shackling pregnant women during labor, in legislation that passed unanimously. Corrections officials are violating the ban. Women charged with nonviolent crimes have been placed in leg irons, with their hands cuffed to chain belts, when brought to the hospital. They have been shackled by one wrist and the opposite ankle to their hospital beds, impeding labor. HB 1958 clarifies and strengthens the law to protect the lives and health of mothers and infants.
  • 81% of women in Illinois prisons are mothers.
  • 6% to 10% of women prisoners are pregnant while incarcerated.
  • About 67% of women prisoners in Illinois are convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, property crimes such as retail theft or forgery, and prostitution.
No pregnant women have escaped in the ten years since Illinois banned the use of shackles on pregnant women in labor, according to sworn testimony from the Superintendent of the Cook County Jail’s women’s division and information from state corrections officials.

House Bill 1958 fixes gaps in the 1999 legislation banning the shackling of women in labor. Amendment 2 reflects major compromises to balance the safety of pregnant women with correctional security needs.

1. It removes the changes to the Unified Code of Corrections. Advocates will work with the Illinois Department of Corrections in the coming year to address recent violations of the 1999 act and to extend the ban on belly chains and leg irons to women in pregnancy-related medical distress and pre-term labor.

2. It allows sheriffs to handcuff pregnant women in front during transport, unless the woman is in labor or pregnancy-related medical distress. This is a compromise to prevent the use of belly chains and leg irons on pregnant women while allowing sheriff departments with small staffs to use cuffs when transporting a group of pretrial detainees to court hearings.

3. It removes the reference to the Tort Immunity Act. The section referenced is:
Neither a local public entity nor a public employee is liable for injury proximately caused by the failure of the employee to furnish or obtain medical care for a prisoner in his custody; but this Section shall not apply where the employee, acting within the scope of his employment, knows from his observation of conditions that the prisoner is in need of immediate medical care and, through willful and wanton conduct, fails to take reasonable action to summon medical care. Nothing in this Section requires the periodic inspection of prisoners.

Its inclusion or exclusion should not change how the Act applies – inmates still may not sue for denial of medical care unless wanton and willful – and it prevents the redundant reference which the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association found objectionable.

4. A simple annual reporting requirement remains in place to track instances of restraints used under the extraordinary circumstances exception. This is vitally important for transparency. It will provide the necessary information to determine whether the new framework is effective and to point the way for any future fine-tuning.

5. At the urging of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, a simple provision mandating training of correctional staff on the law has been added.

The proposed legislation:
  • Protects the mother and fetus from chain belts and leg irons throughout pregnancy.
  • Provides clear definitions to guide corrections officials.
  • Provides exceptions for imminent risk of escape or harm, and for psychiatric restraints when medically necessary.
  • Provides a simple reporting requirement for government transparency.
  • Prevents trauma, violations of privacy and HIPPA violations by having officers posted outside the delivery room unless medical staff request their presence.
  • Benefits from the lessons learned by ten other states and the U.S. Marshals in banning the use of shackles on pregnant prisoners.
Nationwide, lawmakers are taking a stand against this dangerous practice. Eleven states and the federal marshals have recently banned shackling and nine more states have legislation pending at present.

Thanks to CLAIM for being a leader on this issue!

Call state representatives and urge them to vote YES on HB 1958. http://www.ilga.gov/house/ Capitol switchboard 217-782-2000.

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This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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