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Illinois State Senator Ram Villivalam reflects on first nine months in office

CHICAGO, IL- On Jan. 5, 2019, Ram Villivalam was sworn in as the first Asian American elected to the Illinois State Senate and first South Asian American elected to the Illinois General Assembly.

Along with the newly elected Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, State Senator Villivalam joined 50 colleagues as part of the class of new legislators, out of 177 total. Nearly 600 pieces of legislation passed through both the State Senate and the State House of Representatives, including historic investments in transportation and infrastructure, funding for education and human services, protections of immigrant rights, and a balanced, bipartisan budget.

Villivalam (D-Chicago) proudly sponsored 12 pieces of legislation that have been signed into law by Gov. Pritzker. Villivalam worked to ensure that the Asian American community, including the Indian American and Pakistani American communities, were being better served by the state of Illinois, and sponsored two pieces of legislation speaking directly to that, which are now law.

The first, Senate Bill 104, requires that subcontractors be paid within seven business days after the prime contractor receives payment. The overwhelming majority of prime contractors receive electronic payments from the state, and this law reduces the time that the subcontractors wait to be paid their share for work already performed. Furthermore, the law requires the Illinois Department of Transportation to publish on its website a searchable database containing the names of subcontractors or what is owed to subcontractors for each pay period, ensuring transparency and accessibility in the payment process.

“Subcontractors, a number of which are Asian American owned, are small businesses that are the engines of our economy,” Villivalam said. “We need to ensure that they have the cash flow to operate, and this law accomplishes that in a reasonable way.”

The second, Senate Bill 1429, makes a person’s immigration status generally inadmissible in a civil proceeding, unless it is relevant to prove an element of the case. Illinois became the third state to enact such a law.

“As the son of Indian immigrants, I know firsthand that immigrants have at times not pursued justice due to fear that their immigration status will be brought up in court,” Villivalam said. “That ends now. Whether related to workers’ compensation, harassment, discrimination, wage theft or a whole host of other issues, all residents of our state deserve access to justice without fear. I would like to thank Governor Pritzker for signing this legislation into law, and Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz for her efforts in passing this legislation through the House.”

In addition to his work on legislation, Villivalam has held numerous events in the communities that he represents, ranging from town halls and budget workshops to property tax appeal sessions and “Know Your Rights” seminars.
Senator Villivalam lives with his wife and son in the North Mayfair neighborhood of Chicago. His parents emigrated from India to the United States of America in the 1970s.

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