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PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
6:49pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Chicago City Council Roundup: Ridesharing, Guns, Sweatshops, SROs & $15 Minimum Wage

Progress Illinois provides highlights from Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:32pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Report: $15 Chicago Minimum Wage Would Lift Up Struggling Workers, City's Economy

A proposal to hike Chicago's minimum wage to $15 an hour would not only be a boon for many low-wage workers but also the city's economy, according to a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy.

"Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would promote economic stability among Chicago workers, economic vitality in their neighborhoods and economic growth throughout this city," said Connie Razza, director of strategic research at the center, which works both locally and nationally to build "the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda."

The new report comes ahead of Wednesday's Chicago City Council meeting, during which aldermen with the Progressive Reform Caucus plan to introduce an ordinance for a citywide hourly minimum wage of $15 an hour. The ordinance was developed with members of Raise Chicago, a coalition of community and labor groups advocating for a higher hourly wage floor in the city. Chicago's current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, the same as the base hourly wage in Illinois and $1 more than the federal level. 

Quick Hit
by Anthony Burke Boylan
5:51pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Chicago Neighborhoods, Businesses Look To Encourage Increased Bike Riding With Deals

Leaders in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood are hoping to encourage more bike traffic by having local businesses attract riders with discounts. Anyone interested in learning about the program or offering input can come to a workshop meeting this Tuesday evening.

The program is a continuation of the Lakeview Area Master Plan, a product of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area 27, a body that uses local property taxes for projects beneficial to the neighborhood. The plan, which was launched three years ago, aims to make Lakeview more appealing to shoppers, visitors and residents by making it greener, more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, and adding public art and green spaces.

A bike friendly business district will incorporate discounts at local businesses for riders and improved infrastructure from bike lanes and racks to stations where riders can make minor bike repairs, put air in their tires and fill up water bottles. Businesses that sign up for the program will get branded logo decals to place in their windows informing people of their eligibilty for discounts if they patronize the store and show their bike helmet.

“Biking is good for business,’’ said Heather Way-Kitzes, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. “People stay closer to home, they spend more time in the area, they move at slower speeds and have a greater awareness of the businesses around them.

“The faster they pass by, the less likely they are to end up at your cash register.’’

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:18am
Tue May 13, 2014

Illinois Bill Looks To Ban Criminal History Questions From Private Employer Job Applications

Illinois could soon become the fifth U.S. state to "ban the box" that inquires about criminal history on initial applications for most private sector jobs.

The state House recently voted 63-53 to approve the "Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act," which would require private employers or employment agencies in Illinois with 15 or more employees to evaluate an applicant's skills and qualifications before asking about criminal history. Under the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), employers would be allowed to conduct background checks and request conviction information from applicants, but not until later in the interviewing process. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:39pm
Tue Apr 22, 2014

Congresswoman Kelly Committed To Renewing Push For Federal Gun Control Legislation

Although gun-control legislation has stalled in Congress, "common-sense gun reform" remains one of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly's top priorities, the Democratic congresswoman said at a Monday night event in East Hazel Crest to review her first year in the House.

Kelly, a former state representative, was elected last April to fill the 2nd congressional district seat left vacant by disgraced former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. after he resigned in 2012. The district covers Chicago’s far Southeast Side and a large swath of the southern suburbs.

While in Congress, Kelly introduced gun-control legislation meant to place stricter safety standards on guns and keep "violent, dangerous people" from being able to purchase firearms. But supporters of gun curbs simply cannot get gun-control legislation to the House floor for a vote, Kelly said. 

"There is gun legislation dealing with background checks, and there is about 180 to 190 bipartisan signatures, Democrats and Republicans," the congresswoman said. "But we cannot get it called to the floor, so what I tell people when people come and see me about the gun issue [is], 'I'm your choir.' So we need to call other people across the United States and call Speaker [John] Boehner [to] at least [bring] the bill to committee and to the floor and let it be voted up or down." 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
9:24pm
Mon Apr 14, 2014

Durbin Joins Congressmen In Unveiling Report On E-Cigarette Marketing Practices, Presses FDA For Regulatory Action

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) hopes a report issued Monday detailing the marketing tactics used by electronic cigarette companies will coerce the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take regulatory action on the products.

E-cigarettes are currently free from numerous sales, marketing and product regulations at the federal level that apply to traditional cigarettes.

Durbin and 11 other Democratic lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate launched a joint investigation into the marketing practices of nine companies that make commonly sold e-cigarette brands including MarkTen, Vuse, NJOY King, Eonsmoke, LOGIC, V2 Cigs, VaporCouture, Blu, Green Smoke and White Cloud. The investigation's findings were revealed Monday. The report shows a recent uptick in e-cigarette marketing, including tactics that Durbin says appeal to minors.

"E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction, which is dangerous to our young people across America," the senator said on a press call Monday morning about the new report. "It is growing in popularity among children and sadly poses serious public health threats."

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
7:13pm
Tue Apr 1, 2014

Race For Illinois Treasurer Heats Up

The General Election is not for another seven months, but the nominees for Illinois treasurer are wasting no time in taking jabs at each other. Progress Illinois takes a look at the race for treasurer that pits State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) against State Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego). 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:34pm
Tue Mar 25, 2014

Debate Over Chicago's Proposed Plastic Bag Ban Heats Up

Chicagoans are up in arms over a proposal to crackdown on plastic carryout bags in the city.

The Chicago City Council's Committee on Health and Environmental Protection held a two-hour subject matter hearing on Ald. Joe Moreno's (1st) long-stalled plastic bag reduction ordinance Tuesday and debate over the proposal was fierce.

Moreno's ban-the-bag measure, which failed to move forward last year, originally looked to outlaw plastic bags in stores with more than 5,000 square-feet of retail space. But the new ordinance, introduced in the city council earlier this month, would apply to retailers of all sizes. Adding small stores to the mix was seen as a way to garner more support for the measure. 

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who co-sponsored the new ordinance and chairs the environmental committee, said the proposal, which will likely see some additional tweaks, is slated for a committee vote on April 15.

"I think we're on the right side of being pro-environment," Cardenas told reporters. "I think we have to be on the right side of pro-business, and that's a balancing act." 

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