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Issues

Erika on the Issues

Priorities

The Attorney General’s Office plays a critical role in advocating on behalf of the State and Illinoisans, administering key programs, and ensuring that the law is uniformly and fairly enforced.

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The Attorney General’s Office has numerous statutory responsibilities, including: (1) enforcing consumer protection, environmental, and anti-discrimination laws; (2) representing Illinois in legal cases in which the State or its citizens have specific interests; (3) assisting State’s Attorneys with the execution of their duties; (4) protecting the public’s interests in the provision of electric, natural gas, water, cable, video and telecommunication services; (5) providing advice regarding the interpretation and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act; (6) administering provisions of the Charitable Trust Act and the Violent Crime Victims Assistance Act; and (7) representing State officers in actions involving the performance of their official duties. Erika would work to ensure that those responsibilities are fulfilled in an efficient and effective manner. Additionally, Erika would prioritize: (i) enhancing the Office’s efforts and investigative tools to combat public corruption; (ii) coordinating statewide efforts to address the opioid epidemic in Illinois; (iii) collaborating with the legislature to draft and enact workers’ compensation and criminal justice reform measures; and (iv) protecting Illinoisans from harassment, including peer-to-peer harassment in schools and sexual harassment within State government.

Public Corruption

Public corruption imposes real costs upon Illinoisans. It deprives them of opportunities to fairly compete for jobs, contracts, grants and permits; saddles them with a more expensive and less efficient government; hinders business owners’ desire to transact business in Illinois and create new jobs; and undermines respect for the rule of law.

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Erika is committed to using the full measure of the Attorney General’s statutory authority to combat public corruption. Additionally, she will advocate for the expansion of the Attorney General’s investigative tools, such as enhanced subpoena and grand jury powers, to better equip the Attorney General’s Office to fight public corruption. Moreover, the Attorney General is afforded a powerful bully pulpit from which to condemn public corruption and champion governmental accountability and transparency. Erika is committed to using that bully pulpit to advocate for a government that serves the people’s interests—not partisan or special interests.

Criminal Justice Reform

Erika supports a more restorative approach to Illinois’ criminal justice system in order to help provide non-violent offenders with more diversion-based alternatives to incarceration, opportunities for rehabilitation, and the tools necessary to rebuild their lives following their release from prison.

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For the past eleven years, Erika has served on the board of directors of Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest outreach to inmates and their families. In that capacity, she has done prison ministry, advocated for bipartisan criminal justice reform measures, raised awareness of the unique challenges facing children of incarcerated parents, and made visits to prisons throughout the country to help assess vocational and educational programming opportunities for inmates. Prison Fellowship recently has launched an innovative Warden’s Exchange program, instituted national Second Chance Month to highlight the need for restorative opportunities for those with a criminal record, and launched reentry initiatives throughout the country. Erika supports the expansion of problem-solving courts (including drug courts and mental health courts), the streamlining and enhancement of reentry services, and greater access to expungement services. These reforms would promote human dignity; reduce recidivism rates, thereby keeping communities safer; and make better use of tax dollars, which are currently being squandered on a broken system and failed policies. Erika also believes that lawmakers—in consultation with States’ Attorneys—should negotiate appropriate safeguards and regulatory frameworks for the legalization of marijuana for adult use in Illinois. If approached in a thoughtful manner, legalization should enable law enforcement officials to redirect their time and resources towards addressing more critical issues (such as the opioid epidemic), expand Illinois’ revenue base, and decrease the number of people serving sentences for non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Government Accountability and Transparency

Helping to ensure that public bodies comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) is a powerful way in which the Attorney General can promote transparency and accountability in government.

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Robust enforcement of these Sunshine Laws also empowers the public, watchdog groups and the media to be active participants in the fight against government corruption. Accordingly, Erika is committed to ensuring that the Public Access Counselor (which is part of the Attorney General’s Office) is well-equipped to facilitate FOIA and OMA trainings throughout the state, help resolve disputes over documents on an informal basis, and more timely issue binding opinions regarding compliance.

Rule of Law

As Illinois’ chief legal officer, the Attorney General is required to follow the law and defend the constitutionality of Illinois laws when challenged in court. The Attorney General’s personal views regarding any particular law have no bearing on these fundamental obligations.

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As the People’s lawyer, the Attorney General also should foster a culture of nonpartisanship throughout the Office by setting forth rubrics for decision-making that are based on the rule of law, a balancing of the interests of all Illinoisans, and an independence from other branches of government, both at the State and Federal level. As a lawyer, Erika is committed to the highest levels of professionalism and was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve on its Committee on Equality and as a Commissioner on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. As Attorney General, Erika will follow the law, defend the law, and exercise independent legal judgment on behalf of all Illinoisans.

Preventing Harassment

As someone who has been the victim of harassment and understands the feeling of being powerless, Erika is dedicated to fighting for those who need a champion and being a voice for those who feel marginalized and silenced. She will continue to lead efforts to protect children from bullying in schools and advocate for reforms to address sexual harassment.

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Erika has been a national advocate for measures to protect students from harassment in schools, speaking to more than 100,000 students about the consequences of bullying and discussing peer-to-peer harassment on numerous television shows, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN Headline News, and PBS’s Emmy award-winning teen series In The Mix. She also has delivered presentations to school administrators, legislators, teachers and parents regarding the best practices for protecting students from bullying. In recognition of her leadership and advocacy, Erika was named one of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids’ “Champions for Children” and received a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime. As Attorney General, Erika will continue to work to protect students from cyberbullying and harassment in schools, mobilizing students to stand up against bullying, advising parents regarding warning signs of bullying, and ensuring that schools have adopted and implemented anti-bullying policies. Erika also will advocate for reforms of the policies and procedures for addressing sexual harassment within State government. These reforms include: (i) providing that founded sexual harassment complaints be resolved by the independent Illinois Courts Commission, as opposed to the ethics commission comprised of legislators; (ii) empowering the Illinois Courts Commission to remove, suspend, censure or reprimand any member of the legislature found guilty of sexual harassment; and (iii) publicly identifying any member of the legislature the Illinois Courts Commission finds guilty of sexual harassment, as the public is entitled to know which legislators abuse their power and position.

Workers' Compensation Reform

Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation system is fatally flawed, imposing high insurance premiums on businesses, saddling taxpayers with unnecessary costs, and delaying payments to injured workers with legitimate claims.

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Instead of being a balanced system in which injured workers are timely compensated and businesses experience the efficiencies of avoiding protracted and expensive litigation, Illinois’ system is inefficient, costly, and susceptible to fraud and abuse. Illinois’ broken system also places Illinois at a competitive disadvantage in relation to the more cost-effective systems of neighboring states, thereby hindering job creation and economic activity in Illinois. As such, Erika supports a transformation of Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation system and will advocate that the General Assembly adopt the following reforms: (i) the requirement that employees provide their employers with verified written notice of any workplace accident, and whenever physically possible, written details regarding such accident; (ii) clarification of the compensability guidelines to ensure that coverage is limited to those accidents or injuries that arise out of and in the course of performing job duties; and (iii) a refining of the causation standard to ensure that coverage is limited to those cases where the work injury was a primary or significant cause of the employee’s condition. These reforms will help ensure that legitimate claims are prioritized in the processing and compensation process and Illinois’ system begins operating in a more balanced, efficient and equitable manner.

Opioids

Nearly 2,000 Illinoisans died of an opioid-related overdose in 2016, which is almost two times the number of fatal car accidents in that same year. (IDPH 2017 State of Illinois Comprehensive Opioid Data Report.) Erika is committed to using the Office of Attorney General’s tools and influence to help combat this public health crisis.

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First, Erika will ensure that Illinois is a part of multistate, bipartisan investigations of the marketing and distribution of opioid painkillers to determine whether deceptive practices are being employed. If evidence of fraudulent practices is discovered, Erika will initiate the appropriate legal action to protect Illinoisans and hold wrongdoers accountable. Second, Erika will advocate for enhanced use of diversion programs and drug courts for those arrested for opioid use and will highlight the need for additional treatment resources to aid those battling opioid use disorder. Third, Erika will use the Office’s bully pulpit to help educate Illinoisans—particularly young people—about the unique toxicity of synthetic opioids and the severe health risks associated with using them. Finally, Erika will advocate for enhanced cooperation, resource sharing, and data dissemination among Illinois agencies and branches of government, as this is the only way we can stem the opioid epidemic and save lives.