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Senator Mattie Hunter News

Hunter: Unbalanced marketing leads to obesity

HunterHEALHearToday the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee discussed the next steps for reducing obesity by offsetting the disproportionate marketing of sugary beverages to low-income families.

“Sugary drinks remain cheap and are marketed toward low-income families,” said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago,) Vice-Chair of the committee. “The state needs to address the obesity epidemic through healthcare initiatives and funding associated healthcare costs.”

Hunter’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Act aims to reduce obesity within the state by using a penny-per-ounce excise tax to invest an estimated $600 million for prevention and health care.

Illinois faces a $3.4 billion health problem: 63.7 percent of adults are overweight, 27.7 percent are obese and it costs the state $3.4 billion per year to treat obesity-related health issues.

Lopsided marketing in low-income areas, increased sugar content and lowered prices make the beverages an attractive option for shoppers on a budget.

The HEAL Act would combat the targeted marketing by using $300 million to fund health care initiatives and community projects like promoting nutrition and providing better school meals. The other half would help restore funding to the state’s Medicaid program, which was cut by $1.6 billion in recent years.

Hunter’s next steps are continuing a two-prong effort of launching a nutrition-education town hall and working with colleagues to pass the life-saving measure.

 

Hunter, saving Illinois' seniors from untrustworthy health care workers

HunterSeniors3-6-14The Illinois Senate unanimously passed a plan to protect seniors from health care workers who have a history of taking advantage of the elderly. State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) sponsored a measure to require the Department of Human Services’ Inspector General to add employees undergoing financial abuse investigations to the Department of Public Health’s registry of unqualified workers.

“Documenting people with a history of taking advantage of seniors is absolutely necessary. Not only is taking advantage of seniors illegal, but it is downright ruthless and disrespectful,” said Hunter, Vice-Chair of the Illinois Public Health Committee. “We need to protect vulnerable seniors from health care workers with dubious records.”

Hunter’s initiative came in response to the 277 allegations of financial exploitation that the Inspector General’s office received since 2009. Of the 217 completed investigations, the IG confirmed 45 cases were from community agencies and one case was from a state-operated facility.

Senate Bill 2915 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now advances to the House for further consideration.

   

Illinois Senate votes to create task force to end disparities in senior care

HunterSeniorCare2014Illinois seniors will benefit from a new task force aimed to end disparities based on race, geography and native language. Chicago Democrats, State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins and Mattie Hunter, successfully pushed the task force plan through the Senate without opposition today.

“Regardless of geography, native language or race, every senior should receive the same level of care,” said Hunter, Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee. “The legislation passed six-to-one in Human Services and I’m glad to see my colleagues voted for it unanimously in the full Senate.”

The plan requires the Department of Health and Family Services to establish the Long-Term Services and Supports Disparities Task Force. The task force would include representatives of state agencies, nursing homes and service programs. It is charged with providing data relating to disparities.

"Although groundbreaking reforms enacted four years ago have eliminated many of the worst abuses in the industry, intolerable disparities remain," said Collins (D-Chicago 16th), chief sponsor of the task force legislation and co-sponsor of the 2010 long-term care reforms. "This group must root out the causes of unequal care wherever it occurs, whether among minority residents, among non-English-speaking residents or in a rural area."

Hunter urged Democrats to stick together to ensure the legislation passed. In the end, the bill passed the Senate 48 to 0. Senate Bill 2773 now goes to the House for further consideration.

   

Hunter’s soda tax aims to end obesity

SodaTaxIn an effort to fight obesity and other health issues, Chicago Democrat, State Senator Mattie Hunter has filed a plan to tax sugary drinks.

Sen. Mattie Hunter, Vice-Chair of the Senate Public Health Committee, filed a proposal on Valentine’s Day to add a penny-per-ounce tax to sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax is a part of the legislator’s push to decrease cases of obesity in the state.

“We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public about the link between consuming sugary soft drinks and obesity,” Hunter said. “The only way to save lives is to fight this issue from both ends: through preventive measures and programs to help those who are overweight or have diabetes.”

Hunter is holding a press conference Wednesday to introduce the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Act to initiate a conversation about ending obesity. The proposed act should raise more than $600 million for obesity prevention and health initiatives in schools and local communities.

   

Sen. Mattie Hunter leveled playing field for minority business owners, says Gov. Quinn

HunterSOSState Senator Mattie Hunter’s hard work in the Senate was acknowledged by Governor Pat Quinn during his State of the State address today.

Gov. Quinn spoke about the great progress the state has made this past year. He highlighted the achievements of Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter by noting that her efforts to establish a new revolving loan fund has led to an increase in minority state contracts.

Illinois has increased state contracts to minority and women-owned businesses by nearly 60 percent since the governor took office.

Jobs, education, health and increasing access to greater opportunities were the main themes of the governor’s address. One of his plans for this year is to increase youth employment –a legislative goal that Sen. Hunter feels passionately about.

“Last year, I proposed an initiative to increase jobs for young people. This year, I am looking forward to working with Gov. Quinn to expand opportunities for aspiring youth,” Hunter said. “It was good to see him focus on an issue that I think would not only help our communities, but also our economy.”

The senator is waiting to hear the governor’s recommendations on budget night but is looking forward to working with him this session.

   

Senator Hunter offers leadership to move past DCFS tragedies

Hunter-DCFS2When authorities in July found the tortured, broken body of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford lying among trash in an Austin apartment, it became yet another heartbreaking example of the failings of the state’s child welfare system.

It’s a tragic scene that happens far too often in Illinois. Over the past five years, more than 450 children have died from abuse and neglect, and recent numbers from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services show the annual death toll is rising.

State Senator Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat and longtime child welfare advocate, wants changes.

“People say these children are slipping through the cracks. That trivializes their lives and their deaths. When children ‘slip through the cracks’ at DCFS they end up dead. If our state isn’t able to protect its children, what good is it?” said Hunter, who, during a recent special Senate committee hearing, told DCFS’s top brass that they should all resign.

At issue is the embattled Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. An internal audit recently revealed 111 abuse and neglect-related deaths during the most recent reporting year, although the DCFS director recently revised that number down to 104. The most recent reporting period covered July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013.

That nameless, faceless tally of dead children doesn’t even include the horrific Gizzell Ford case that has put the state’s child welfare system under the spotlight. Now, police, prosecutors and policymakers are asking how this could have happened and are trying to learn from the tragedy to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“More than 100 of our children are dying a year. Think about those numbers. Those are entire classrooms of children dying because the state isn’t protecting them,” said Hunter, a member of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team. “Quite frankly, one death is unacceptable. These numbers are an atrocity.”

Hunter is among the Illinois lawmakers trying to drive meaningful change at DCFS. Hunter and fellow Democratic Senator Julie Morrison of suburban Deerfield initiated a series of hearings designed to force public discussion of the agency’s shortcomings with the goal of arriving at specific recommendations for program changes to reduce the number of children dying from abuse and neglect.

“I want this agency to be successful. Our neediest children rely on its success,” Hunter said.

The special Senate committee looking into DCFS issues is scheduled to meet next month with the intent of reviewing DCFS’s recommended proposals for potential legislation.

Hunter said the issue is her top priority heading into the 2014 legislative session at the Capitol.

   

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Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter


3rd District
Majority Caucus Whip


Years served:
2003 - Present (Senate)

Committee assignments: Appropriations I, Executive, Human Services (Chairperson), Public Health (Vice Chairperson.

Biography: Full-time legislator; born June 1 in Chicago; B.A., government, Monmouth College; M.A., sociology, Jackson State University; certified drug and alcohol counselor and prevention specialist; former vice president of Human Resources Development Institute Inc.; member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; co-chair of Health Policy Task Force, Council of State Governments; vice chair of the Commission to Study the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Past and Present Effects on African-Americans.