Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz: 2022 candidate for Illinois House District 17
Previous offices held: Gong-Gershowitz seeks her third term as 17th House representative. In 2018 she defeated Peter Lee in the Nov. 6 General Election, and beat Christopher Kruger and Yesoe Yoon in the General Election of Nov. 3, 2020.
Background: The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants and born and raised in Oak Park, Gong-Gershowitz earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University, a law degree from Loyola University-Chicago, and a master's degree in law from Northwestern University. She is married with three children.
Introduction: The first American lawyer to earn a master's degree in international human rights law from Northwestern, Gong-Gershowitz was a founding member and co-chair of the Illinois Unaccompanied Children's Task Force, as well as a board member of the Glenview Education Foundation. In Springfield she chairs the House Judiciary Civil, and Immigration and Human Rights committees, and is a member of the Energy & Environment and Mental Health committees. She has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Illinois Action and Personal PAC.
Is the state doing enough to increase access to mental health care: "While we have made significant progress in repairing the damage to our provider network exacerbated during the Rauner administration when the state went 736 days without a budget, we can and must do more to provide effective mental health and substance use treatment. The key is to invest in programs that prevent crises before they escalate and tragically require law enforcement intervention or emergency room care.
"The 988 System, which was recently adopted in Illinois, is a step in the right direction. It's a mental health crisis hotline that puts people in crisis in touch with trained professionals that can help. Another measure that I co-sponsored (HB4238) creates a major expansion of community-based mental health and substance use treatment programs in order to reduce waitlists, address workforce issues and add trauma-informed services. Our Fiscal Year 2023 budget provided over $170 million to implement these services and included an additional $100 million to group-related services.
"In addition to increased funding for mental health treatment, we must continue to support durable solutions to improve outcomes such as better training and resources for first responders, teachers, and others that can identify people who need help and work to destigmatize mental health."
Budget priorities and most important challenges: "Our budget is a moral document, and I believe that Illinois needs to spend responsibly in a way that reflects the shared values of our community. That's why I worked toward and helped pass a responsible, balanced budget that stabilizes Illinois' finances, funds critical services like education, senior resources, and health care. Making pension payments in full and on time -- and in cases like the FY23 budget, paying them early -- will continue to reduce the overall financial obligation while honoring commitments to retirees and being responsible stewards of our state finances."
Preventing gun violence: "The recent gun violence tragedy in Highland Park starkly emphasizes the need for swift and meaningful reform of gun laws in Illinois and around the country. It is simply too easy for a mass shooter or other violent criminal to acquire and stockpile guns and ammunition. I support a ban on assault weapons and other weapons of war that allow a single individual to mow down dozens of innocent people in seconds.
"I also recently supported the 2022 Smart on Crime package of legislation that provides new training and funding to law enforcement, bans homemade 'ghost guns,' cracked down on retail 'smash and grab' organized retail thefts, and new funding for crime victims and for mental health funding."
What are one or two environmental challenges, and preferred policy to deal with them: "The biggest environmental issue facing Illinois (and the planet) is climate change. As a proud member of the Green Caucus, I understand that Illinois must prioritize clean energy and a green economy. It is vital to the health of our planet as well as our state economy. I co-sponsored the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), which puts Illinois on track to be 100% powered by carbon-free energy by 2045.
"Clean drinking water is another major issue. I have worked to pass legislation that places stricter regulations and enforcement on toxic coal ash disposal by coal power plants. This legislation will prevent the reckless disposal of waste in local water supplies and protect the safety of our drinking water. I also sponsored the Drug Take Back Act, which will prevent harmful pharmaceutical drugs from ending up in our water supply and in our state's waterways."
Improving economic growth in the state and the district: "We have passed several pieces of legislation that will bring new businesses and jobs to Illinois. These include extending the EDGE tax credit program for five years and allowing startup businesses to qualify for the first time.
"The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) passed last year includes many provisions to make Illinois a leader in clean energy -- and clean energy jobs. CEJA includes workforce development programs to assist individuals to enter the clean energy workforce. The General Assembly passed the Reimagining Energy Vehicles Act (REV) that provides incentives for manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, EV component parts and EV power supplies to startup business in Illinois. EV manufacturer Rivian now supports close to 6,000 jobs at their manufacturing plant in Bloomington after having fewer than 1,500 employees at their plant at the start of 2021.
"In the 17th District, small businesses form the backbone of our local economy. I will continue to make partnering with local chambers of commerce to promote economic recovery and growth through available programs like the Back to Business grants a top priority.