State Rep. Fine, opponent talk pension reform, birth control


Paige Leskin/Daily Senior Staffer

Kathy Myalls, running against current state Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) for her position in the Illinois General Assembly, answers a question about the state’s pension reform. Myalls and Fine participated in a forum Saturday morning, where they addressed issues that will matter to voters in the upcoming November election.

Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

Ahead of the upcoming election, State Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) and her opponent tackled issues ranging from pension reform, the women’s referendum act and the criminal justice system at a forum Saturday morning.

Held at Wilmette Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave., the forum brought out about 75 people to hear Fine and her opponent Kathy Myalls, who are running for the 17th district state representative. The 17th district serves part of Evanston.

Fine opened her remarks by mentioning her work to cross party lines, citing bills she has sponsored that achieved bipartisan support.

She touted legislation she sponsored that helps residents navigate insurance coverage for prescription drugs and explores cyberbullying solutions to make schools safer.

“I look forward to the opportunity to continue working with constituents and members of the legislature to keep our state on the right track, make improvements and make the 17th district in Illinois a great state to live,” Fine said.

Myalls, who is currently the assistant general counsel at the Interpublic Group in Chicago, emphasized several areas within the state that need improvement. She said 66 percent of fourth graders are not reading at grade level and Illinois has one of the top 10 highest unemployment rates. She also noted Illinois is 51st, behind all states and Washington, D.C., in providing services for citizens with disabilities.

If elected, Myalls said she wanted to focus on creating a robust job market, reducing taxes and regulations, building a better education system and fixing the broken pension system.

The two candidates answered several questions submitted by audience members.

When asked how they would respond if the pension reform bill, which addresses benefits for retirees and looks to stabilize the teacher retirement system finances, were found unconstitutional, Fine said she hoped the court would provide a “road map” to help find a solution to keep the discussion moving forward.

“It’s a problem that has been brewing for years and years and years and we finally got to the point where we said, ‘We’re not going to let this happen anymore, we’ve got to get something done,’” Fine said.

Supporting a complete reform of the pension system, Myalls said the system is not up-to-date because it was established at a time when residents died before age 70.

“We need to take a big step back and start looking at the assumptions that underlie our current pension system so that we can build a system that is based in reality in terms of what our lives are like now,” she said.

She recommended the implementation of a defined contribution plan, in which both the person and employer create savings for retirement. She said this plan would give retirees greater flexibility and dependability.

Audience members also brought up the women’s health referendum act, which would require that health insurance plans in Illinois expand to include prescription drug coverage of birth control.

Fine and Myalls clashed on the birth control mandate, with Myalls emphasizing the need to let the free market decide what should be offered.

“The less we mandate, the better we do because competition drives what our insurance companies and our employers offer,” Myalls said.

However, Fine said it should not be up to corporations to determine what medications should be covered and women should be provided with birth control.

“I think it’s baffling that here we are in 2014, decades after Roe v. Wade, and this is still an issue,” she said.

The candidates also discussed their views on finance reform in elections, concealed carry laws and charter schools.

The election will be held Nov. 4, and the elected representative will assume the role at the start of 2015.

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Twitter: @beccasavransky