A Sit Down with State Senator Pat McGuire
A lifelong resident of Joliet, State Senator Pat McGuire has represented the 43rd district since 2012. A former high school and community college teacher, he has served as a school board member and county treasurer. He chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and is a member of the Appropriations II Committee.
You’ve been a strong supporter of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. Why is it important that the State provides funding for civil legal aid?
In the 1970s I encountered the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago while I was working with men and women injured and poisoned on the job. I learned then that civil legal aid is invaluable to people running out of money, enmeshed in bureaucracies, and losing hope.
Your senate district includes communities such as Joliet, Bolingbrook, and Romeoville. What civil legal issues do your constituents need the most help with?
Many. I fear the circumstances faced by the family of Semaj Crosby, the toddler found dead in a Joliet Township home last April, are not unique in Senate District 43. Semaj’s family had “touches” with about ten different government agencies, yet the bough broke. Families simultaneously beset with problems ranging, from behavioral health care to public benefits, to housing to domestic strife to child care, need empathetic, skilled assistance such as that provided by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation’s grantees.
You undoubtedly hear from many advocacy groups with funding requests. What’s the most effective way organizations can communicate the importance of their issue to elected officials?
Be efficient with your time and the legislator’s. Introduce the legislator to constituents who have used your services. Make specific requests, e.g., “Please vote ‘yes’ on Senate Bill 123 on Wednesday” or “Please ask your Appropriations Committee chair to include level funding for program ABC in the state budget.” Win or lose, mail a follow-up note to the legislator.
You’ve served five years now in the General Assembly. What do you enjoy most about being a state senator?
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to use the resources of state government to help people gain understanding and fairness.