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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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Illinois State House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 14

Photo of Kelly M. Cassidy

Kelly M. Cassidy

Democratic
State Representative of the 14th District
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Establishing a progressive income tax to ensure critical services are funded while the rich pay their fair share.
  • Improving our criminal justice system through smart reforms to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
  • Establishing a budgetary framework that provides the revenue needed to fully fund critical services while reducing our backlog of bills.

Experience

Experience

Profession:State Representative of the 14th District
State Representative of the 14th District, Illinois State Legislature — Appointed position (2011–current)
Director of Programs and Development, Cook County State's Attorney (2001–2011)
Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cook County State's Attorney (1997–2001)
Chief of Staff, State Senator John Cullerton (1993–1997)
Legislative Director, National Organization for Women, Chicago Chapter (1991–1993)

Biography

As an organizer, a legislative director and a mom, Kelly Cassidy has spent the past 20 years living her values. Whether fighting for the rights of women and the LGBT community as an activist, working for a smarter criminal justice system within the state’s attorney’s office, or ensuring that her three boys have safe spaces to play in our community, she has devoted the last two decades to making government more accessible, efficient and effective.

Those experiences, both inside and outside the system, have afforded her great insight into how to be a better, more responsive and effective State Representative for the 14th district.

Cassidy’s first job in Chicago was as legislative director for the Chicago office of the National Organization for Women, which was an outstanding introduction to the inner-workings of government. Individuals often found the legislative process too confusing and legislators inaccessible. It was Cassidy’s job to empower women to advocate on their own behalf with legislators.

Highlights of her tenure included aiding in efforts to pass the Human Rights and Family and Medical Leave Acts, as well as defeating bill after bill attacking a woman’s right to choose. Locally, she worked to help pass the city and county human rights ordinances and fought to resume abortion services at County (now Stroger) Hospital.

She has often said that one of her most satisfying jobs was running Illinois Senator John Cullerton’s district office. As the constituent service lead, Cassidy knew at the end of the day someone had their problem solved because of her efforts. It also became clear how often constituent contacts drove a legislative agenda. Their input often led to the introduction of legislation, intervention with a state agency at the policy level and real change that affected far more people than those few that brought the problem to the office’s attention. Cassidy’s top goal as State Representative is to use the district office in the same manner — helping constituents address their needs, while also looking for ways to prevent problems from recurring.

Through the years, Cassidy has worked both as an advocate and as a professional on issues such as choice, equality, social justice, access to quality health care and child care.

During her tenure at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Chicago Recovery Alliance approached Cassidy about their previously unsuccessful efforts to engage the law enforcement community in efforts to pass politically vexing AIDS prevention legislation which included access to sterile needles. Cassidy’s criminal justice relationships empowered her to bring disparate groups together to build a coalition to secure passage of this vital legislation that helped control the spread of HIV.

Prior to her appointment as State Representative, Cassidy was responsible for development and management of the $20 million grant funding programs within the State’s Attorney’s office. She was a key player in creating programs for domestic violence victims, hate crimes victims and victims of human trafficking, as well as programs to address mortgage fraud, support community justice centers and enhance the use of DNA evidence.

Additionally, she helped lead the budget process for the State’s Attorney, which has given her great insight into the impact of budgets on government policy. While budget numbers shrunk, Cassidy found creative approaches to fund critical programs.

Cassidy’s combination of non-profit sector, state and local government experience provides her with unique perspective, expertise and understanding that empowers her to serve as an outstanding representative for the 14th district.

Cassidy is a member of Temple Sholom.

Cassidy, 45, lives in Rogers Park with three sons.

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (15)

Do you support term limits for legislators? Do you support term limits for legislative leaders? Please explain.
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

I have and will continue to support and advocate for term limits for leadership as the entrenched nature of the leadership structure in the General Assembly is such a huge component of the gridlock we are experiencing. Elections do an excellent job of limiting rank and file member terms and the level of turnover among rank and file members bears that out. Arbitrary limits on number of years should not come before a community's decision on who represents them. Some of the most knowledgable legislators I've worked with are those who have spent several terms building in-depth knowledge on the complicated issues our state faces. Additionally, term limits significantly empower staff and lobbying interests who remain throughout terms.

Who do you think bears responsibility for the budget stalemate? Do you have your own ideas on how to resolve it?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

While Illinois has had immense budgetary problems in the past, this marks the first time non-budget related items have led to a period of over a year with no full and funded budget. We must take part in good-faith negotiations and find a middle ground on the reform agenda. Attempts have been made from rank-and-file legislators to do so, and may end up being the best path forward. 

All sides agree that the only path forward is to raise the needed revenue to fund spending priorities, which is why no budget based purely on cuts has ever been proposed. Signficant harm has already been done to our human services system and the organizations that support our most vulnerable. Each day we wait, more organizations and individuals fall through the cracks. 

A June 3 New York Times op-ed was headlined “Higher Education in Illinois is Dying” because of significant funding cuts. Do you agree or not with Gov. Bruce Rauner that additional large cuts could be necessary?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

Larger cuts would devestate an already underfunded system of higher education in our state and do intractable harm to the tens of thousands of students we work to educate. Further cuts lead to significant problems as students leave the state for their education and often do not return. With proper revenue structures in place, we can avoid devastating cuts. 

How should the state’s school funding formula be changed to give all children a better chance at a quality education?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

Our formula for state aid is severely outdated and does not reflect the immense diversity of districts in terms of need and ability to pay. I am supportive of several proposals that would rework the formula to take into consideration rates of poverty, special education and the ability of districts to pay. Basing school funding on property taxes without adequately accounting for that mechanism in the state aid formula creates enormous inequalities. 

Without a budget, Illinois is spending much more than it takes in, leading to an ever-growing stack of bills, underfunded services and a growing deficit. What new revenue sources do you support to help fix this problem?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

In the short term, returning the state income tax rate to pre-2015 levels will put us on track to once again reduce our bill backlog and fund services at appropriate levels. This is a change that is viewed almost universally as being fundamental to a sound budget given the demands of our funding priorities, as no purely cut-based budget has been introduced or advocated for. Rather, it is a debate of how we get to the point where we return rates to those levels. In addition, we need to examine a broad based set of reforms that can help close the gap that grows every day we continue to operate without adequate funding. There are several corporate tax loopholes that can be closed that could bring in needed revenue as well. A prime example of this would be the offshore drilling tax credit. 

In the long term, we must join the vast majority of states and federal government in adopting a graduated income tax structure that provides relief to an enormous portion of Illinoisans while ensuring the rich pay their fair share. This structure would provide the funds we need to sustain our government and eliminate the bill backlog. 

A constitutional amendment is on the ballot that would require money raised for transportation not be spent elsewhere. Do you support this concept? Also, transportation planners say more money is needed for roads and bridges, Metra, CTA rail services and the like. Do you agree and, if so, where would you get the funding?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

While transportation is a critical need and I understand the frustration brought on by the sweeps of funds such as the road fund, I am hesitant to elevate this one fund in particular to the level of constitutional protection while other funds supporting similarly important needs are left exposed. 

There is no doubt that our transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of support, just as the rest of the state's systems are. We need to address the overall revenue shortfall in a way that allows the state to bring in the funds needed to provide all of the services we should.

In the last session, the governor and Legislature turned their attention away from pension reform. What initiatives do you support to reduce the costs of pensions?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

After the pension reform law was ruled unconstitutional, we have an exceedingly limited window in which to reduce the costs of pensions. I am open to proposals utilizing "consideration" carefully crafted within the confines of the constitution to reduce costs as long as they do not negatively affect the majority of retirees who receive modest benefits. 

Do you support measures to reduce Illinois’ prison population and divert more money into community-based services?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

Yes. This subject has been a prime focus of my career. Reforming drug laws, sentencing guidelines and our criminal justice system in a way that reduces prison populations is essential to both saving money and improving outcomes for offenders while enhancing public safety. Our system must fundamentally move away from one that punitively punishes individuals and shift towards rehabilitation. Community-based services have shown innovative, evidence-based measures in doing so. Some of the proposals I have worked on that encompass this field include civil enforcement of cannabis offenses, broad juvenile justice reforms, reducing barriers to reentry and expansion of programs like Redeploy Illinois, a highly successful program which aims at a reduction in prison population while steering those funds to rehabilitation and social service supports. 

There are calls to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture system, which allows police and prosecutors to seize and take – permanently – property from someone who has not been convicted of a crime? What is your view?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

This is an area that is ripe for reform. While there can and should be a system in place to seize assets legitimately linked to criminal enterprises, the current system is too sweeping and too easily abused. The work on this issue is still very preliminary, with one hearing held last session to begin to examine the scope of the problem. I am strongly in support of a comprehensive reform of forfeiture laws.

Do you support allowing transgender persons born in Illinois to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery first?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

Yes, and I served as the chief cosponsor of HB 6073 which would allow change in the gender marker on birth certificates before undergoing surgery. While this legislation has not yet passed, we will continue to push for this much needed change that will allow individuals' documents to reflect their identities. 

What is your view on so-called “death with dignity” — physician-assisted suicide — which has become a contentious issue in other states? California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9.
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

I am supportive of the policy, given that substantial safeguards are in place to protect patients and family members. 

What measures do you support to reduce levels of gun violence?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

Increased penalties and restrictions aimed at reducing gun trafficking and straw purchasing should be implemented to slow the flow of illegal firearms into the city. On the criminal justice side, smart reforms can reduce recidivism and open pathways to opportunity for individuals moving through the system to reduce the number that end up committing violent crimes again. We have seen a growth of innovative social service strategies aimed at problem individuals, working to provide the resources necessary to leave gang life. We must also examine evidence-based strategies like Ceasefire and ensure they are properly funded.

A number of states and local jurisdictions (including Chicago) have recently increased the minimum wage. Do you support or oppose a statewide increase in the minimum wage? If so, what should the new minimum be, and by when? Should local jurisdictions be prohibited from passing their own minimum wage laws?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

I support raising the minimum wage across the state. While local municipalities should be able to raise it further, a higher statewide standard will reduce issues with border-areas and a race to the bottom. The ideal level should reflect the standard of living, both throughout the state and in municipalities. 

In the past couple of legislative sessions, there has been a proposal to add a 1 cent tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Illinois. Do you support or oppose such a measure, and why?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

I am supportive of the proposal, as a means to reduce consumption of sugary beverages while providing critically needed revenue to fund essential services. 

In recent years, there has been a growing push to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources. Do you support or oppose these preferences?
Answer from Kelly M. Cassidy:

I have been a strong supporter of HB 2607, the Clean Jobs Bill, along with efforts to amend our renewable portfolio standards to reflect the changing dynamics of the energy industry and encourage the growth of renewable energy sources. Illinois has immense potential, particularly in the field of wind energy, and we must work towards establishing a regulatory framework that allows it to thrive. 

Videos (1)

Kelly Cassidy tells why she should remain the state representative from the 14th district.

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