Barbara Hernandez: Candidate profile
Office sought: House District 83
Family: Did not reply
Occupation: State representative
Education: Associate degree from Waubonsee Community College; bachelor's in political science from Aurora University; master's in public administration from Aurora University (in progress)
Civic involvement: Aurora Youth Summit (founder); Aurora Township Youth Council; Aurora Hispanic Heritage Advisory Board; former chief of staff for state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia
Elected offices held: Kane County Board
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: Yes, appointed in March 2019
Questions and Answers
1. What is your position on placing a 'Fair Maps' amendment on the November ballot? If the amendment makes the ballot after the primary, will you support it? Why or why not?
The federal level should tackle the issue of fair maps to make sure that all states are remaining consistent, especially the Republican states that have been using extreme partisan gerrymandering for decades. There would be great consequences in our state if future maps of legislative districts were drawn by a Republican-controlled legislature.
As the U.S. Supreme Court continues to tackle protecting Roe v. Wade from anti-choice activists, our state's legislative districts have added importance. Surrounding states to ours have shown the detrimental consequences of a Republican-controlled legislature in protecting this right for women.
The Illinois Republicans map amendment does not include the proper protections for minority voting rights. All across our country we have seen the harmful effects that extreme Republican gerrymandering has had on communities of color, and as a state as diverse as Illinois, we must ensure that the minority vote is not silenced at the state and federal levels.
I believe that we have a lot of work to do to improve our electoral system and redistricting cannot be the only answer, we must also discuss campaign finance and examine voter turnout to make our electoral system a fair one for everyone.
2. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
It is no question that we need serious changes to the legislative ethics laws in our state. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform found a clear need for a nationwide lobbying registration system in all united governments, not just Cook County and state government, because there is no question that lobbying occurs on other levels. Also, I would be interested in seeing some type of grace period for legislators before they can become a lobbyist. Unfortunately, bad actors will always find a way to exploit the integrity of government, but as an elected official, it is my duty to work toward identifying exactly where those loopholes exist and find feasible solutions. This is not an issue that will be done with one bill, chamber or party, but requires strong bipartisan work to find where our laws are failing the people we serve.
3. What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
The first crucial step to our state's pension problem is to stop it before it gets worse, meaning that the state needs to make the full payments that are due. My colleagues and I were able to do just that in this past legislative session. We were also able to make good strides on this through the consolidation of hundreds of pension systems in the state, which will not only allow local groups to get better returns of their investments but we will also see positive change in our property taxes and other costs. This was a great first step, but no doubt one of many down the road. Nonetheless, we must ensure that all stakeholders are at the table when discussing the future of our pension systems. Pension reform must be constitutional, and we do not want to waste anyone's time pushing reforms that will quickly get shut down by the Supreme Court. We owe the workers in our state what they were promised and that will require all stakeholders to come together to uphold that promise.
4. Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership. Do you support term limits for majority and minority leaders in both chambers?
Since becoming state representative nearly a year ago, I have heard firsthand the issues affecting my constituents the most. I voted to close background check loopholes for gun purchases to prevent another senseless shooting from taking away the lives of our loved ones. I voted to increase high-paying jobs and vocation courses for high school students to ensure every person can succeed. I voted to cap skyrocketing health care costs. These votes were not a reflection of my party's leadership but were a result of meeting constituents face-to-face and knowing that they needed to be done for our community.
As for term limits, I believe that our elections are the ultimate term limit, which is why I work hard to make the voices of my constituents heard in Springfield. As I mentioned above, I have made it a priority to knock on doors all year round to meet constituents. I have hosted dozens of meetings and events for residents of the district to come and express their concerns to me, including advisory committees, town halls and open office hours. When elected officials are only working for their own self-interests, then voters have the chance to vote them out.
5. What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
Every year, our state's population takes a dramatic hit from the annual loss of thousands of high school students attending out of state colleges and universities. Our state loses up to $776 million in lifetime tax revenue from these losses, not to mention the potential greatness and opportunities these students would have produced right here in Illinois. This is why I voted to increase funding for MAP grants. I myself may have not been able to go to college without the MAP grant funding that I received. I, just like millions of other people in our state, have the burden of college debt, which is why I will fight for debt-free education and stronger financial aid for students in our state's public universities, colleges, and trade schools.
In addition to quality education, I am committed to making Illinois a safer and healthier place by fighting for common sense gun laws, access to more affordable health care and better, high-wage jobs. We need to work on all of these avenues to make Illinois a place where families want and can stay.
6. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Yes. Scientists all across the globe have proved that climate change is in fact real and in fact caused by human activity. The time to address the climate crisis is already past and is getting to the point where the damage is irreversible. While the current administration in Washington has held our country back in the fight against climate change, Illinois can continue to lead the fight. I am a co-sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which I hope to see passed this upcoming year, creating tens of thousands of new green jobs while leading our state to a path of 100% renewable energy. I plan to continue to meet with businesses, environmental and labor groups to find ways in which we can make our state more green while simultaneously building strong high-wage jobs.
7. The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can you offer voters?
Our state's current tax system is hurting middle-class families. Struggling families should not be paying the same amount of taxes as billionaires, and because of this system, they have faced multiple tax increases. A tax system based on a person's income will protect middle-class and struggling families and make a strong incentive against raising their already high taxes.