Originally published in The Southern Illinoisan, August 13, 2020.

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois Senate committee met for the state’s first-ever virtual hearing Thursday in a Zoom teleconference focusing on diversity in state contracts granted through the Illinois Tollway.

The new Senate rules for virtual hearings were approved by the chamber in the abbreviated May legislative session. They allow the Senate president, in consultation with the minority leader, to create a process in which committee votes can be taken, but such a process has not yet been approved.

Thursday’s Senate Transportation Committee hearing — which state Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, called to order shortly before 10 a.m. — was subject matter only, meaning there could be discussion, but no votes would be taken.

The committee was previously chaired by state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat who resigned his senate seat last year before admitting in a January plea deal that he had received more than $250,000 in bribes from a red light camera company over a three-year period.

Sandoval was also one of the lead architects of the capital infrastructure package passed in 2019, which created a revenue stream for road and bridge projects by raising the gas tax and other transportation-related fees. The revenue that legislation produced funds the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital improvements plan.

Villivalam said the purpose of committee hearings like the one called Thursday was to increase transparency in state contracts.

“Given the fact that we're in the midst of a pandemic, civil unrest and an economic downturn, I would argue now more than ever we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, and we must ensure the safety of our residents,” Villivalam said. “With that in mind, my goal today and those of this committee are to listen and ask meaningful questions of all involved and figure out the best path forward on transparency and diversity goals at the Illinois Tollway.”

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Category: In The News

Road workCHICAGO – In response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s economy and more specifically, Illinois’ transportation and infrastructure system and workforce, State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, led a virtual hearing focused on transparency and diversity goals as it relates to contracts with the Illinois Tollway Authority. 

Among those who gave testimony to the committee were representatives from the Illinois Tollway Authority, the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, the African American Contractors Association, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, the Federation of Women Contractors, and the Asian American Contractors Enterprise. 

“This was an important open and honest dialogue on Transparency and Diversity Goals as it relates to the process in which contracts are selected through the Illinois Tollway,” Villivalam said. “The selection and procurement processes for contracts with the Illinois Tollway should be transparent and the Diversity Goals that have been set forth should be met, if not exceeded. The safety of our residents, our role as stewards of taxpayer dollars, and the stability of our local economy depends on it.”

Villivalam, the committee and stakeholders said they will continue to work together to enhance transparency and diversity goals, both administratively and legislatively.

Category: Press Releases

Originally published in Journal & Topics, August 10, 2020. 

In response to the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases, State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-8th) is urging residents to take advantage of a new temporary testing site set up at the Bernard Horwich JCC, 3003 W. Touhy Ave., Chicago.

“Due to the increasing positivity rate in Chicago, we need to continue our strong testing and contact tracing operations to stay ahead of the virus and prevent a big outbreak,” Villivalam said. “Not only is this temporary testing site a way to make it easier than ever to get a fast, easy and free test, but it’s also key to being able to safely reopen our state and economy. Testing and contact tracing are vital to being able to put people back to work without compromising their health or that of their coworkers.”

Testing will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 16. Simple nasal swabs will be used, and both drive-thru and walk-up testing are available. Anyone can get tested regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms. The tests are free, and the results will be available within four to seven business days. Residents should bring their insurance card but can still get a test without insurance.

“Part of why this virus is so dangerous is the asymptomatic cases that spread silently through communities,” Villivalam said. “Most asymptomatic cases won’t know they have the virus unless they get tested. This site will allow anyone who may be worried about upcoming travel, visiting family, going to work or caring for children to get a test to make sure they don’t have COVID-19 and hopefully bring them a little peace of mind.”

Category: In The News

virus testingCHICAGO – In response to the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases, State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago) is urging residents to take advantage of a new temporary testing site set up at the Bernard Horwich JCC.  

“Due to the increasing positivity rate in Chicago, we need to continue our strong testing and contact tracing operations to stay ahead of the virus and prevent a big outbreak,” Villivalam said. “Not only is this temporary testing site a way to make it easier than ever to get a fast, easy and free test, but it’s also key to being able to safely reopen our state and economy. Testing and contact tracing are vital to being able to put people back to work without compromising their health or that of their coworkers.” 

The temporary testing site is located at 3003 W. Touhy Avenue in Chicago. Testing will be available Monday, Aug. 10 through Sunday, Aug. 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Simple nasal swabs will be used, and both drive-thru and walk-up testing are available. Anyone can get tested regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms. The tests are free, and the results will be available within four to seven business days. Residents should bring their insurance card but can still get a test without insurance. 

“Part of why this virus is so dangerous is the asymptomatic cases that spread silently through communities,” Villivalam said. “Most asymptomatic cases won’t know they have the virus unless they get tested. This site will allow anyone who may be worried about upcoming travel, visiting family, going to work or caring for children to get a test to make sure they don’t have COVID-19 and hopefully bring them a little peace of mind.” 

Category: Press Releases

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