First-term State Rep. Sharon Chung has announced she will run again in the 91st District that stretches from Bartonville to Bloomington-Normal. Chung said she is pleased with the first bill she sponsored and was able to pass, requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids.
It was more of a battle than she expected.
“It’s a human rights sort of issue. I believe that people should have the right to be able to hear,” said Chung, a Bloomington Democrat.
GOP opposition to the bill centered on a desire to avoid government mandates, increased health system costs, and a claimed knock-on effect to state out migration.
Chung said she’s also proud of the constituent service operation she has set up to help people navigate the state administrative apparatus on everything from student loans to health care.
Chung said she has worked to represent higher education during her first term. She has not yet made progress on a provision long sought by Illinois State University to increase the university’s per student state funding. Chung said the current funding levels have left ISU at a disadvantage compared with other public universities in Illinois.
“They have the least amount of funding per student from the state, and [I’m] trying to see what we can do to bring that up,” said Chung.
The state allocates flat amounts of money to universities and since ISU has a healthier enrollment than many public universities in Illinois, it has been a victim of its own success.
Chung said she also sponsored a bill to encourage students who want to become special education teachers to stay in Illinois after graduation.
Nuclear construction moratorium
On another issue, Chung said the state may need more nuclear power generation in addition to the investments in wind and solar technology Illinois has made. Following the spring session of the General Assembly, Gov. JB Pritzker vetoed a bill that would have lifted the decades-long moratorium on nuclear plant construction.
Chung said she voted for that bill.
“I know that we probably can’t get to where our energy needs are with just that. I do think nuclear could be a part of this and it’s just trying to figure out how much,” she said.
In his veto message, Pritzker expressed reservations about language he said could allow huge and costly nuclear plants to be built.
“At least we can try and see what we can do to explore technology,” said Chung. “Even if we lift it tomorrow, there won’t be giant reactors building up overnight. I think it’s great to start the conversation.”
Chung said she’s not sure the measure will return during the fall veto session.
“There might be a different bill that might be introduced at some other point, maybe next session in the spring, that will set some of those parameters. I’m not quite sure if that will happen,” she said.
The original 1987 moratorium came as a stopgap until the nation created a permanent high-level nuclear waste repository. That has yet to happen and there are no active prospects under discussion. Some nuclear waste is stored at reactor sites. Some also goes to dry-cask temporary storage facilities.
Chung compared the nuclear waste challenge to continuing state efforts to deal with coal ash, a potential cancer-causing pollutant that can affect ground water, because both can require government involvement. Chung said the state should have a conversation about nuclear power in any event.
Chung serves on five committees: Agriculture & Conservation, Counties & Townships, Health Care Licenses, Higher Education, and Higher Ed-Campus Activities.
Republican Desi Anderson announced her candidacy in the 91st District earlier this month.
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