Former State Representative Naomi Jakobsson Discusses Her Six Terms In Office
The spring legislative session is underway in Springfield. And for the first time in 12 years, Naomi Jakobsson is not a part of it.
The Urbana Democrat chose not to run for another term, after representing the Champaign-Urbana area for six terms in the Illinois House, which covered the impeachment of Rod Blagojevich, and years of mounting budget problems in Illinois.
Under Blagojevich, Jakobsson recalls times where things seemed amiss with the former governor. "There were times when we as legislators would try to meet with him (Blagojevich) to discuss things, and he was just more interested in the show of meeting with us, rather than the substantive part of it," said Jakobsson.
The former State Representative also voted on controversial legislature, authorizing same-sex marriage.
Jakobsson had to momentarily leave her gravely ill son, Garret, to cast the vote."I had been spending the nights sleeping on the floor in Garret's room, so that his wife could be with their ten year-old son," said Jakobsson, "I had also let staff know that I wanted to be there when that bill came up, of course I didn't know the timing of either the bill or my son's health."
As a college town legislator, Jakobsson made higher education a major focus. And she talked about legislation she shepherded as chair of the House Higher Education Committee.
Former State Representative Naomi Jakobsson, Democrat from Urbana. Her successor in the Illinois House is fellow Urbana Democrat Carol Ammons.
Story source: WILL
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Transcript for file: news20150123_jakobsson_useforweb.mp3
If you remember way back more than five years ago now when the then current president White issued I don’t know if it was an executive order if that’s what he would have called it telling faculty that they couldn’t wear political buttons they couldn’t display even bumper sticker if they were political on their cars on campus and I really felt that their freedom of speech was taken away and I introduced a bill . Things like that you know protecting our students and our faculty. We did a lot of textbook bills years ago. Textbooks came all bundled in other words there would be a textbook and a workbook and maybe a CD and they would all be bundled together. There was no way to buy those items separately. So I introduced a bill. Unbundled the textbooks because it was very expensive for the students. That was a bill that passed that was a bill passed and the same thing with the political speech Bill. Oh yes that passed also.
OK I was you know looking back reading about you and it was just one of the votes you cast as it was in two thousand and thirteen and I think it must have been one of the more dramatic votes when you voted on the measure authorizing same sex marriage in Illinois that was a vote that passed with maybe one vote to spare. Right and you left the side of it you’re gravely ill son Garrett to cast that vote. That was you know a very hard time must have been for you and your family.
It was in fact I had been spending the nights sleeping on the floor or on a chair in garrets room so that his wife could be home with there at the time he was ten or ten year old son and I had also let staff know that I wanted to be there when that bill came up of course I didn’t know the timing of either the bill or my son’s health. But when I got the call that it was going to be called that day I said to GARRETT Chris he was not. Terribly responsive that at that time I said to him I didn’t care if I have to go do my job and I think I know you want me to . And Eric was there. We left we drove together and I got to Springfield and the bill was being debated and it seemed to me like he was being baited forever and has wanted to cast my vote and get back to my son that was a difficult time to be away but it was that particular piece of legislation of importance to you that piece of legislation was very important to me and that was one of the reasons that I said I wanted to be there to vote for that. I think people need to be treated equally. Equality is important whether it’s marriage equality or voting rights or whatever but marriage equality was something that was very very important to me and to a lot of my constituents and to a lot of my family.
The big build in that area of law before the same sex marriage bill was the anti-discrimination bill for gays and lesbians back in two thousand and five and you voted for that bill for that.
Yes again I just think that we you know we’re talking about this on Martin Luther King Day Even as it happens and I just don’t believe that we should discriminate people for sexual orientation as well as you know race which we passed a long time ago.
If you were in office during a time of Democratic majorities in the legislature and Democratic governors those majorities are still there but there’s a new governor now and they’re going to have to figure out how to deal with the big budget problem. How did all this happen how did the state’s budget get into this trouble.
I think it started long before I was in the General Assembly . And I think it’s there because we don’t have the revenue that we need. As you know I introduced legislation to move from our flat tax to a progressive or a graduated income tax and I really think that that’s something we need to do we need to get away from this flat tax and be able to support the kind of services that the people of Illinois want.
Now you know what the counter argument from the Republican side is on that that it’s not a revenue problem it’s a spending problem. Did lawmakers go the wrong way as far as spending over this period.
I think we made so many cuts while I was there when we saw that that we were having a revenue problem. I’d be curious to see what Governor Romney or is going to cut because people are going to hurt if there are cuts in education or social services or any of the areas that he talks about .
Well you brought up the bill for a progressive state income tax. What do you think it would take to make something like a progressive income tax politically feasible in Illinois.
I think it would take people to stop and really understand what it would do the World Policy Institute the Illinois Policy Institute the conservative group. Yes I mean they came out with so many misstatements. That’s putting it mildly about it as soon as I introduced the bill and a lot of misinformation and unfortunately a lot of lawmakers bought it. They didn’t do their own research they listened to them. Now on the other hand I think people who were really trying to do research and saw that taxes would go down for so many of the people of Illinois if we moved to a progressive income tax that it would benefit the low income and the middle income people and sure the millionaires were going to pay more.
And you think that would do the job but that that would provide sufficient revenue for the state of Illinois to conduct its operations. I believe it would be a step in the right direction. Illinois seemed to have its recent governors put in prison for corruption and you had to vote on the impeachment of one of them on Rod because of age. And George Ryan and rubble garbage when they were elected I don’t think they were considered outsiders are mavericks and as far as I know they were hardly backed by the members and leaders of their respective parties . What happened when you look back on that period in Illinois history and just all the turmoil concerning those two governors and they hit that Illinois reputation took nationally. Was there something about their governance that people missed at the time.
I can’t speak about Ryan.
I mean I wasn’t there except for two days.
Still Governor I mean I certainly know what I read and but I think he was imprisoned not for being governor but the secretary of state secretary of state for which I think he just somehow or other got caught up in I don’t know what he thought could be .
I guess he thought he could get away with it and. You know we passed ethics laws. And to me I don’t even know why we have to pass that the clause.
I mean why don’t people have ethics.
How can you you know make them statutory but we’ve done that trying to to rein in and say how money can be how grants can be given or but somehow or other he just found his way around some of those laws or even he wanted to say we’re going to be great .
Was there a point for you where you just took a look at the governor and this is things aren’t right here.
Yes. When was that. There were different times when we as legislators tried to meet with him and discuss things and he was just more interested in the show of meeting with us rather than the substantive part of it.
You think he wasn’t really paying attention to the to the matters at hand the job he was elected to do.
It seemed to me that he wasn’t it was just hard to you know get an audience with him. I think he was just too wrapped up in some other things .
Well now you’re leaving after twelve years in the Illinois House. Looking back on your own years when you were a freshman do you have any advice for your successor or anybody who’s just starting out now in the General Assembly.
Listen and do some more listening . But really pay attention to your constituents . Make sure that the constituent service is what it should be when you’re in Springfield do your job.
Yes you should have a good time but make sure you’re there for the reason that people elected you to be there.