Laura Fine: 2022 candidate for Illinois Senate 9th District
Occupation: 9th District State Senator
Previous offices held: 17th District state representative, 2013-19; clerk of Northfield Township
Background: Fine earned a bachelor's degree in telecommunications from Indiana University and a master of arts in political science from Northeastern Illinois University. In the state senate she is the chair of the Behavioral and Mental Health Committee and a member of the committees on Environment and Conservation, Health, Healthcare Access and Availability, and Insurance. She is married with two children.
Introduction: "I have a strong record of crafting and passing important legislation that improves the lives of families in my district and across the state. My experience in both houses of the legislature has given me a broad perspective on the legislative process. I have successfully used these skills to work on some of Illinois' most pressing issues, including improving Illinois' fiscal status and providing necessary support for families and our most vulnerable residents. I am 100% pro-choice, and I am proudly endorsed by Planned Parenthood Illinois Action and Personal PAC.
"I support a ban on assault rifles and extended magazines, as well as universal background checks for firearms purchases. We must collectively refuse to live in a world where active shooter drills are necessary in our schools.
"I am endorsed by the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers because of my lifelong commitment to education. Education is key to our children's -- and our state's -- futures."
Is the state doing enough to increase access to mental health care? "As chair of the Senate's Mental and Behavioral Health committee, this past session I worked with behavioral health organizations on a key issue -- growing the workforce. Our workforce cannot keep up with demand. There are currently only 14 mental health professionals for every 10,000 residents in Illinois. People who desperately need mental health care are unable to access it because of this shortage. By taking measures to increase the number of mental health professionals in Illinois, we will be able to meet these needs.
"Mental health impacts every family in Illinois. We all have a loved one who struggles with mental health and/or substance use. Receiving the proper care results in positive outcomes for ourselves, our friends and our family members. In order to receive this treatment, we need to expand access to mental health care throughout our state.
"To address this issue, I sponsored and passed SB 3617, to help grow our workforce. The law streamlines and accelerates the process for clinicians from other states to apply for an Illinois license. It simplifies the licensing process for clinical psychologists, professional counselors, and social workers who have previously been licensed but are currently inactive. It also provides funding for internships to ensure we have providers in all parts of our state that reflect the diversity of our residents.
"In this next session, I will continue working on ways to enhance the mental health system to make affordable, accessible care a reality for everyone in Illinois. This may include increasing school-based mental health programs, finding supportive placements for young people in crisis, and more employment opportunities for people in recovery."
Budget priorities and most important challenges: "Our budget reflects the values of our state. My budget priorities include fully funding our public schools, making smart investments and financial decisions to help pay down our pension debts early, improving access to health care in Illinois, and providing supportive services for our most vulnerable residents.
"For many families, health care (including mental health) is one of the single biggest monthly expenses. I am committed to keeping the cost of health care affordable and accessible for Illinois families. In my district, the majority of employers are small businesses, for whom health insurance is among their largest costs. Lowering those costs helps consumers and businesses alike, which provides a measure of relief as other costs continue to rise."
Preventing gun violence: "The most important step in reducing homicides, shootings, and other gun-related crimes is to get guns off our streets. We must ban assault rifles -- weapons designed for military use should not be in civilian hands. In addition, we need to strengthen background checks and explore other ways to ensure dangerous and unstable people can't stockpile an arsenal of weapons."
What are one or two environmental challenges, and preferred policy to deal with them? "Global climate change is an existential threat that we cannot ignore. The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) will be a major environmental leap forward as the state moves toward 100% renewable energy. Because of this and other legislation, Illinois has become a national leader in renewable energy.
"I also support helping to grow electric vehicle development here in Illinois. This legislation is geared not just toward protecting our environment but also creating jobs in a fast-growing sector of the economy -- green energy. It includes workforce development programs geared toward underserved communities to provide economic opportunities in an equitable way that strengthens our state economy.
"In addition, I am the vice-chair of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus. This is a bipartisan group of legislators from the Great Lakes states and the provinces of Canada that surround the Great Lakes. Our goal is to draft policies designed to protect our freshwater supply from pollutants, invasive species, and coastal erosion.
Improving economic growth in the state and the district: "The Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) will be a major economic driver as the state moves toward 100% renewable energy, in addition to its significant environmental benefits. It includes workforce development programs geared toward underserved communities to provide economic opportunities in an equitable way that strengthens our state economy.
"For many families, health care is one of the single biggest monthly expenses. I am committed to keeping the cost of health care affordable and accessible for Illinois families. We must hold insurance companies accountable to consumers. The state needs to be a watchdog to ensure policies are affordable for individuals and families. We must ensure we have parity with coverage for physical and mental health, and we need to work to ensure everyone has access to affordable medications."