SPRINGFIELD - December 4, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding the Senate's passage of legislation to issue every qualified Illinois resident a driver's license.

"I am pleased to see the Senate take this important step toward making our roads safer for all Illinois residents. Regardless of legal status, we need to make sure every eligible driver in our state has received the proper training and carries insurance - before they get behind the wheel. This is an important public safety measure that will do just that, and I hope the House will pass the bill quickly and send it to the Governor's desk," Simon said.

Simon joined the bipartisan coalition supporting Senate Bill 957 based on her experience as a Jackson County prosecutor who witnessed the damaging financial impacts of uninsured, unlicensed drivers on Illinois roadways. New licenses are also projected to generate much needed new revenue for the state, she said.


New disclosure forms to close loopholes, expose conflicts of interest

SPRINGFIELD - November 29, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) today to introduce ethics reform legislation that will overhaul the much-maligned financial disclosure forms filed by tens of thousands of public servants each year.

The bill proposes a new disclosure form - known as a Statement of Economic Interests - that would require filers to list outside sources of income, lobbyist relationships and loans made or accepted on terms not available to the general public, for the first time. It also closes loopholes that allowed filers to answer "not applicable" to almost all of the questions on the current version of the form introduced 40 years ago.

Simon said the goal of the new form is to help Illinois residents determine if elected officials, high-ranking employees and candidates hold any conflicts of interest. The new form will also be easier for filers to complete thanks to the plain-language questions, definitions of terms and obvious connections to information found on tax returns and investment statements.

"At over 40-years-old, it's time our financial disclosure forms get a facelift," Simon said. "This legislation is about making our Statement of Economic Interests more understandable for the people who fill them out, and making them more transparent for those who want to get information from them."

State Sen. Dan Kotowski will introduce the bill in the Senate today after working with Lt. Governor Simon's office, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and the Better Government Association to redesign the form over the past year.

Residents want more transparency and accountability in Springfield, Kotowski and Simon said, citing a recent Southern Illinois University poll in which 65 percent of respondents said they were "not very" or "not at all satisfied" with the information available on elected officials' finances.

"With this important change, taxpayers can easily search information regarding potential conflicts of interest, and hold public officials and candidates accountable," Kotowski said. "This reform adds needed transparency in my effort to end politics as usual in Springfield."

Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose office created an online Statement of Economic Interests database to improve transparency, applauded Lt. Governor Simon for spearheading the effort to overhaul the inadequate disclosure forms. Analysis of the 22,000 local government respondents that filed with his office in 2012 showed that 87 percent answered "not applicable" or "N/A" to every question on the disclosure form.

"For 40 years, these forms have revealed too little about elected officials' and public employees' financial profiles," Orr said. "I am so pleased to find a champion in Sheila Simon, whose commitment to expanding disclosure will help draw back the curtain on hidden conflicts of interest."

The Illinois Constitution and Illinois Governmental Ethics Act require elected officials, high-ranking government employees, and political candidates to complete a Statement of Economic Interests each May. State government workers file with the Secretary of State, while workers for local units of government file with their county clerk. The forms are supposed to expose existing or potential conflicts of interest, but the documents use such vague and cumbersome language that the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has called them "woefully inadequate" and "a waste of paper."

"Delegates writing the 1970 Constitution mandated the Statement of Economic Interest because the public has a right to know about public officials' conflicts of interest. It's high time the form caught up to modern economic practices," said David Morrison, Deputy Director of the ICPR.

Simon and Kotowski said they will work together to pass the legislation by January.

SPRINGFIELD - Longtime advocates of ethics and transparency in government, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and State Sen. Dan Kotowski will introduce legislation on Thursday that will overhaul the Statement of Economic Interests filed annually by tens of thousands of local and state government employees and officials.

The bill designs a disclosure form that asks clear questions on sources of income, lobbyist relationships and certain loans. It also closes loopholes that allowed filers to answer "not applicable" to almost all of the questions since the form was introduced 40 years ago.

Simon said the goal of the new form is to provide Illinois residents with information that allows them to determine if elected officials, high-ranking employees and candidates hold any conflicts of interest.

"Current disclosure forms are practically meaningless and haven't been revised since their inception 40 years ago," Simon said. "This bill protects the privacy of public servants while allowing taxpayers to better identify where a conflict of interest may exist."

Simon has released her personal tax return in an effort to demonstrate transparent leadership, and has asked her senior staff to file more detailed disclosure forms that allow citizens to better find any potential conflicts of interest.


DATE: Thursday, Nov. 29

TIME: 9:30 a.m.

PLACE: Senate Chamber entrance, Capitol Building, Springfield

SPRINGFIELD - November 28, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding legislation to allow every qualified Illinois resident to obtain a driver's license. Simon urged the legislature to take action on this item during veto session.

"This bill is a proactive step to help guarantee the safety and well-being of all Illinois residents. Our goal is to train, license and insure every eligible Illinois driver, regardless of legal status, to make our roads safer for all travelers. I am pleased to support this progressive bill and call on legislators to vote in favor of this public safety measure," Simon said.

Simon joined the bipartisan coalition supporting Senate Bill 957/House Bill 6228 based on her experience as a Jackson County prosecutor who witnessed the damaging financial impacts of uninsured, unlicensed drivers on Illinois roadways. New licenses are also projected to generate much needed new revenue for the state, she said.


Increased access to education would improve provider training


SPRINGFIELD - November 20, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon joined state Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson) and state Rep. Lisa Dugan (D-Bradley) today to issue recommendations that will help improve rural emergency medical services. The recommendations were generated after 17 hearings of the Illinois House of Representatives' Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Task Force were held last year.

"During an emergency, every second counts," Simon said. "Rural Illinois residents may travel up to 30 miles or more to reach the appropriate hospital. It is important that emergency medical technicians and paramedics who are treating patients during long transports are well-trained and have access to the best technology. I would like to thank the Task Force members for their hard work as we move forward with implementing some of these recommendations."

Lt. Governor Simon testified in Galesburg in favor of increasing the availability of high-quality online training for EMTs and paramedics to improve employee and volunteer retention. Emergency medical service providers are required to complete 120 hours of continuing education every four years to renew their license. Currently, only 25 percent of that can be completed online, but the Task Force agreed with Simon that the offering should be increased. The Task Force also recommended that evaluation of that training should be based on performance, rather than only the hours completed.

"While the work of this current Task Force has been completed, the job is not finished. As our communities continue to grow and change and technology continues to advance we must continue to reach out to local emergency responders to make sure they have the tools they need to keep local families safe," Moffitt said.

"It was an enlightening and enjoyable experience working with EMS personnel throughout the state of Illinois and Rep. Moffitt. I look with anticipation to the state moving forward to recognize and address the EMS needs throughout this state, so they can continue to provide a valuable service for the people of the state of Illinois," Dugan said.

The Task Force also discussed the implementation of new federal EMS educational standards so that emergency medical technicians who have obtained licenses in Illinois are able to use them in other states. Additionally, the recommendations included a proposal to simplify licensing for ambulances. Rather than renewing licenses annually, if implemented, providers could obtain licenses lasting two to four years contingent on annual state inspections.

Lt. Governor Simon is the chair of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council. Enhancing EMS is a part of the council's strategic plan for rural Illinois.

CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will address educators, administrators and leaders in the field at the 2012 Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

Simon will also welcome research professor of education at New York University and renowned education historian Diane Ravitch. Ravitch served as assistant secretary of education and counselor to U.S. Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander under President George H. W. Bush.

"This conference provides a great opportunity for our state's education experts to get together and exchange ideas that will help us make sure our students excel in and out of the classroom," said Simon. "This year we are so fortunate to have Diane Ravitch share her expertise in national education policy."

Simon serves as Governor Quinn's point person on education reform and is chair of the Joint Educational Leadership Committee for Illinois top educational advisory body, the P-20 Council. She also chaired the Classrooms First Commission, which is dedicated to improving education programs in schools around the state while streamlining district operations.

DATE: Saturday, Nov. 17

TIME: 8:30 a.m.

PLACE: Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand Ballroom, 151 East Wacker Drive, Chicago

PALATINE - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will challenge Harper College students on Thursday to sign an online pledge not to text and drive. Simon, the governor's point person on education reform, is visiting community colleges across the state this fall to urge commuter students to practice safe texting.

AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign aims to educate drivers on the dangers of texting while driving. Nationwide, drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident if they text while driving. In the first half of 2011 in Illinois, cell phone distractions were the cause of more than 500 crashes. Simon took the "It Can Wait" pledge in September.

"Texting is one of the leading causes of distracted driving, an epidemic that causes far too many accidents and deaths on our roadways," Simon said. "There is no text message important enough to risk your life - it can wait."

CHAMPAIGN - As Asian carp continue to pose a threat to Illinois waterways, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will convene the Wabash and Ohio Rivers Coordinating Council on Wednesday to discuss new ideas to control the invasive species. Leading the discussion will be James Garvey, director of the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIU Carbondale.

Simon, who chairs the state's river coordinating councils, has worked with state agencies, researchers and private organizations to identify possible solutions to controlling the Asian carp population. Garvey's preliminary research shows that Asian carp are marketable and can be harvested and sold for consumption here and abroad. This alternative would not only protect the fish within the river, but it would also create new jobs in Illinois.

"Asian carp are an invasive species threatening the natural state of Illinois' waterways," Simon said. "We can use this invasion as an opportunity, though, to research productive uses of the fish, and create jobs to eradicate it from our ecosystem."

DATE: Wednesday, Nov. 7

TIME: 1:15 p.m.

PLACE: Champaign Public Library, Robeson Pavilion Rooms A&B, 200 W. Green St., Champaign

NOTE: Simon will hold a brief media availability at 1:15 p.m.; the River Council meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m.

COLLINSVILLE - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will address 113 new licensed Illinois attorneys on Thursday at the swearing-in ceremony conducted by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier of the Fifth Judicial District.


Simon, a former professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Law, taught many of the new lawyers and looks forward to welcoming them into the profession. The oath will be administered to 2,125 men and women across the state's five Supreme Court judicial districts. All of the new lawyers passed the Illinois State Bar Examination in July as well as a mandatory ethics examination. They have also been certified by the Committee on Character and Fitness.


"I'm honored to participate in such an important moment for my former students and future colleagues," said Simon, who was sworn in as a licensed Illinois attorney in 1987.


The Fifth Judicial District includes the following counties: Alexander, Bond, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, St. Clair, Saline, Shelby, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White and Williamson.


There are now approximately 91,600 licensed attorneys throughout Illinois, including those to be sworn in Thursday.


DATE: Thursday, November 1

TIME: 2 p.m.

PLACE: Gateway Convention Center Ballroom C-D, One Gateway Drive, Collinsville



Will support domestic violence services in rural Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - October 22, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon presented a $10,000 check to domestic violence advocates in the State Capitol today, after her office collected more than 1,000 used cell phones during a Domestic Violence Awareness Month phone drive.

This is the second year Simon's office partnered with Verizon Wireless for the HopeLine phone drive. The phones, donated by the public and the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, were collected at Simon's Chicago and Capitol offices as well as by the Illinois State Bar Association and The Chicago Bar Association.

For each phone collected Verizon donated $10 to the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which will use the money to expand its Virtual Legal Clinic consultation program. Piloted by Simon's office, the Virtual Legal Clinic connects domestic violence survivors in underserved rural areas with an experienced family law attorney for free legal counseling using webcam technology.

"It is critical that domestic violence survivors, regardless of where they live, can have access to basic legal services," said Simon, a former Jackson county prosecutor and founder of a domestic violence legal clinic at Southern Illinois University School of Law. "By providing funding to expand the Virtual Legal Clinic, this phone drive will help further that goal."

The Virtual Legal Clinic began at The Center for Prevention of Abuse and has expanded to the Crisis Center Foundation in Jacksonville. The project was developed in-house by the Lt. Governor's office with materials funded by ICADV. Participating attorneys may be able receive free continuing legal education credits.

"The clinic gives survivors another tool to increase their options for safety," said Vickie Smith, executive director of ICADV. "We are so pleased with this private-public-corporate partnership."

The collected phones will be erased, refurbished and sold, with the proceeds going to support local domestic violence shelters and programs. The HopeLine program also provides domestic violence agencies with wireless phones and airtime for use by domestic violence victims. If a phone can't be refurbished, it will be recycled in an environmentally sound way.

"Verizon is dedicated to supporting organizations like the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence," said T.J. Fox, region president, Verizon Wireless. "We applaud their important contribution to our community to help victims and raise awareness of this pervasive problem and to end domestic violence."

Since its recycling program was launched in 2001, HopeLine has collected more than 9 million wireless phones and has awarded more than $14.2 million in cash grants to domestic violence organizations throughout the country. More than 123,000 HopeLine phones with the equivalent of more than 406 million minutes of airtime have been provided to victims, survivors and domestic violence organizations since the program's inception.

This is not the only creative funding solution to come from Simon's office. This past spring Lt. Governor Simon advocated for a new fee on strip clubs that serve alcohol to generate revenue for sexual assault prevention. It goes into effect January 1.