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Senator Jacqueline Collins 16th District

An accomplished advocate of political activism and social justice, State Senator Jacqueline Collins has served the constituents of the Chicago-area’s 16th Legislative District since 2003. A student of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement, Collins was greatly influenced by the efforts and presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A former journalist and Emmy-award nominated editor at CBS-TV for nearly 20 years, Collins has used her journalism experience and communication skills to support progressive agendas in the General Assembly that seek to create economic and social welfare policies that reduce inequality, expand opportunities and strengthen communities.

After majoring in Journalism at Northwestern University, Collins worked as the editor of the Citizen Community Newspapers, under the tutelage of former Congressman Gus Savage, the Citizen’s publisher. Through this work relationship, Collins was introduced to advocacy journalism and reported on a series of social and economic justice issues including redlining, voter disenfranchisement, and housing discrimination. It was through this first-hand encounter with injustice, that Collins developed her passion for social justice.

In 1983, Collins worked on the massive voter registration drive that helped elect Harold Washington as Chicago’s first African-American Mayor. In 1984, she served as a press liaison for the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson during the Democratic National Convention, and as a press secretary to Congressman Savage. As a congressional aide, Collins toured Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

From 1987 to 1999, Collins volunteered as Minister of Communications for St. Sabina Catholic Church. During her tenure, Father Michael L. Pfleger launched a large-scale public awareness campaign against alcohol and tobacco companies, and advertising agencies that targeted youth in inner-city neighborhoods. Through Collins’ efforts, the issue gained national media attention and public support. In 1997, after waging a successful campaign, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance banning alcohol and tobacco billboards in the city.

This powerful union of faith and action inspired Collins to combine theology and public policy, and to make the message of love espoused by Dr. King real through justice. In 1999, Collins returned to Harvard University to pursue concurrent degrees. In June 2001, she received her master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and graduated with a master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard’s Divinity School in June 2003. In addition, Collins was named a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow in 1998/99, and worked as a Legislative Fellow for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2001.

During her first year in office, Collins successfully sponsored and passed legislation to support Illinois’ working families, protect children and assist senior citizens. Some of her major accomplishments include SB1035, landmark legislation extending the statute of limitations for civil and criminal prosecution of sex crimes against children; SB 1330, a law preventing public utility companies from disconnecting LIHEAP participants during the winter months; SB 505, a new law allowing more Illinois senior citizens to qualify for the Homestead Exemption based on the number of days they lived at their residence; and SJR 36, a resolution creating a 17-member commission to study and document racial and gender discrimination in hiring or contracting on state public construction projects.

In 2003, Senator Collins was recognized as a Henry Toll Fellow by the Council of State Governments and as a BILLD Fellow with the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development in 2004. Also that year, she received the “Best Voting Record Award” from the Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) for her work in the Senate.

For the 94th General Assembly, Senator Collins was appointed to serve as the Chairperson of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee. She also serves on the Appropriations I Committee as vice chairperson; the Housing & Community Affairs Committee; and the Revenue Committee. She is also a member of the Governor’s Racial Profiling Task Force and the Governor’s State-wide Community Safety Re-entry Commission which deals with reducing recidivism amongst individuals recently paroled from Illinois correctional facilities.

As chairperson of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, some of her major legislative accomplishments include the Mortgage Fraud Rescue Act: the landmark Sudan Divestment Act to End Atrocities and terrorism in Sudan; and the Payday Loan Reform Act. For her work on regulating the payday loan industry, Senator Collins was the recipient of the 2005 Monsignor John Egan Campaign Leadership Award. In 2006, in response to growing instances of mortgage fraud in Chicago, and particularly in her district, Senator Collins has introduced legislation to provide greater consumer protection from fraudulent and unscrupulous brokers.

Jacqueline Collins is a native of McComb, Mississippi and moved to Chicago when she was still very young. She was raised by her mother in a single parent home in the Englewood/Auburn Gresham community of Chicago, the very neighborhood which she now represents.

Senator Collins believes her political sentiments mirror those expressed by Dr. King, who once said, “I have the audacity to believe that people(s) everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”