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Welcome to the Prairie State

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International House

1414 East 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637

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Welcome to the Prairie State introduces students and the University of Chicago community to both the State of Illinois and Prairie State Society (PSS), one of Harris School of Public Policy’s newest student organization.

Our inaugural event features state representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) in conversation with recently retired Assistant Majority Leader in the Illinois General Assembly, Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook).

Moderated by student Patrick Hanley, the panel discussion will address the unique and influential characteristics of the Prairie State including: geographic and demographic divisions in state politics, political culture of Springfield, and governing under a strong partisan establishment at a time of unprecedented and bipartisan anti-establishment momentum. This event is free and open to the public.

Our Panelists
Will Guzzardi
is a state representative from the 39th District, which includes parts of Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa, Belmont Cragin and Portage Park neighborhoods in Chicago. He’s been in the legislature since January of 2015. At age 30, he’s one of the youngest members of the Illinois House.

As one of the leading progressive voices in Illinois politics, Will has continued that fight since his election. He introduced and passed the $15 minimum wage legislation in the Illinois House (before it was vetoed by Gov. Rauner). He has introduced legislation for free tuition at public universities for every Illinois student. He has fought for and passed major reforms to the criminal justice system, protections for immigrants, expanded rights for LGBT Illinoisans, and transformational new clean energy policies.

Elaine Nekritz recently resigned after serving 15 years in the Illinois House of Representatives. She represented portions of several of Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs. She served as Assistant Majority Leader in the House as well as Chair of the House Judiciary Civil Law Committee and the House Personnel and Pensions Committee.

Elaine focused her legislative work on solutions to the state's fiscal problems, particularly pension underfunding. She was committed to a blend of reforms, spending cuts and revenues to address Illinois' budget woes and backlog of unpaid bills.

Providing a social safety net and administering a fair criminal justice system were Elaine's other areas of focus in state government. She worked to ensure that state spending in those areas prioritized modern, evidence-based practices that offered the best use of limited state resources. She was the chief sponsor of legislation to end the automatic transfer of juveniles into adult court for non-violent crimes, ensuring that troubled youth receive the services they need to build productive lives.

This event is presented as part of University of Chicago International House Global Voices Program.

Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Office of Programs & External Relations in advance of the program at 773-753-2274 or mdestefa@uchicago.edu.

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International House

1414 East 59th Street

Chicago, IL 60637

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