Suzanne Ness : 2022 candidate for Illinois House District 66
Office sought: State Representative District 66
City: Crystal Lake
Occupation: Small business owner, Forward Effect
Previous offices held: McHenry County Board District 2
Q: What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
A: The legislature has passed ethics reform proposals, but there is more to be done. I supported and voted for capping legislative leader terms at 10 years. As I personally feel this should not be a lifetime job I would be open to discussions on additional term limit measures, but I do believe there is value in having experienced legislators and voters should have the final say in who deserves to represent them.
I also supported expanding Statement of Economic Interest disclosure requirements as well as additional lobbyist disclosures. To increase accessibility for the general public, I wrote legislation to enact universal URLs and emails for all district office websites and would like to implement changes to the Illinois General Assembly website to make it easier to follow the process. People should be able to easily participate in committee hearings and follow bills so they know what is going on. Our current website and technology systems are old and not very user-friendly.
Q: Federal assistance has enabled the state to make important advances toward improving its budget. What will you do to ensure these advances continue when the federal aid is gone?
A: Federal assistance helped the state ensure the most vulnerable Illinoisans were assisted during the pandemic. Debt was also paid down early, resulting in millions of dollars of interest saved and improved credit ratings. This freed up other state funds to pay for improving infrastructure, investing in renewable energy, economic development, and rebuild up critical services that were severely damaged by the state's budget impasse.
Going forward the state needs to ensure that funding earmarked for specific purposes is spent accordingly, continue investing in infrastructure, and continue pursuing and updating other forms of revenue. For example, while we are improving our charging infrastructure the state should also take into consideration that electric vehicles are not using gas and how that will impact the capital fund for future infrastructure needs. Our policies and laws need to update with the changing times.
Q: To what extent are you happy or unhappy with the evidence-based model for education funding now in place in Illinois? How would you define "adequate" state funding for Illinois schools and what will you do to promote that?
A: I have spoken to every superintendent in my district where I have tier 1, 2, and 3 schools. The model of funding has been a game changer for underfunded schools and allowed districts to catch up in all metrics that are counted. I'm fortunate to represent a district where all children regardless of their ZIP code or income, have access to a good public education and offers alternatives for parents who want to make a different choice. I would say the program has done what it was intended to do and I support continuing it.
Additionally, it is one way we can hold down increases in property taxes as schools are better funded through the State. I encourage our districts to be even more mindful of their levy requests when planning their budgets.
Q: Do you believe elections in Illinois are free and fair? What changes, if any, are needed regarding election security and voter access?
A: While so many states seek to restrict access to voting, I supported legislation that makes sure every eligible voter can participate by expanding vote by mail offerings, allowing vote by mail special drop offs to be used for all future elections, and taken other steps to help people make their voices heard.
Trust in government is something I strive to build every day in my district by being accessible and accountable to my constituents. I have held multiple town halls, mobile office hours around my district, coffee hours around the district as well as walking door-to-door. I prioritize meeting people to hear what's on their minds and use that feedback to make my community's voices heard
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, gay marriage and other social issues to be state, not federal, responsibilities? What if anything needs to be done in these areas and what would you do to make your vision come to pass?
A. I am proud to live in Illinois because of the actions we have taken to protect reproductive health care and same-sex marriage rights. The policies that surrounding states have passed as the Supreme Court rolls back the rights of women and other are truly frightening. That is why it is vital that we elect leaders who prioritize protecting the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups. I have heard this similar message shared with me at the doors of the people in my district.