Heather Steans

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Heather Steans
Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 7th district
Assumed office
February 10, 2008
Preceded by Carol Ronen
Personal details
Born (1963-05-08) May 8, 1963 (age 51)
Lake Forest, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Leo Smith
Children Ryan Smith, Samuel Smith, and The Magnificent Abigail Smith
Profession Trustee of the Steans Family Foundation

Heather Steans (born May 8, 1963) is a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, representing the 7th district. She was appointed after winning a controversial special primary election that followed the mid-term resignation of her predecessor, Senator Carol Ronen. In November 2010 she was elected to a full term with 84% of the vote.[1]

Special primary election[edit]

Steans’ predecessor, Carol Ronen, announced her resignation on October 22, 2007. Ronen said the timing of her announcement was chosen “so that anyone who wishes to run for the office will be able to file petitions for the February 5th, 2008, primary election by the November 5th deadline.” Chris Lawrence, an independent, reported to the Chicago Reader that he believed Ronen announced her resignation too late for “independents to mount a campaign”. Only two individuals, Heather Steans and Suzanne Elder, were able to collect enough signatures to run in the special primary.[2] Steans won the election with 63.26% of the vote.[3]

Public service[edit]

A full list of bills sponsored by Heather Steans can be found on the Illinois General Assembly website. She sits on the following committees of the Illinois State Legislature: Human Services, Insurance, Local Government, and Labor.

Healthcare reform[edit]

Steans is Chief Sponsor of IL Senate Bill 655 (SB685), which created new rules designed to improve care at nursing homes and prevent patient neglect and abuse.[4] According to a press release by the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, “The new law remakes the system of admission to nursing homes, ensuring that only those in need of 24-hour skilled care are admitted...The law sets higher nursing home quality and staffing requirements, raises penalties for violations, and increases inspections and monitoring.”[5]

Steans also partnered with a formal political rival, Suzanne Elder, to pass anti-discrimination legislation. Working together, she and Elder faced formidable opposition from the state’s teachers’ unions and overrode an amendatory veto from Governor Quinn to enact legislation that protects the health and civil rights of students with diabetes and other disabilities (The Care of Students with Diabetes Act, P.A. 96-1485).[6]

Environmental reforms[edit]

Steans authored the Lead Sinker Act, SB 1269, an education program that promotes the use of fishing products that are not detrimental to humans and wildlife.[7]

Co-sponsoring SB 3346 with State Representative Karen May, Steans passed a bill reducing mercury in the ambient environment by improving the material’s collection and recycling from thermostat units. According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, an organization that helped to draft the bill, “It’s a bill that environmentalists, manufacturers and the entire General Assembly could agree on.” [8]

Marriage reform[edit]

In 2009, Steans introduced a gay marriage bill (SB 2468) which introduces civil marriages in Illinois and allows religious institutions the right to decline marrying same sex couples.[9] SB 2468 states, “nothing in the Act should be construed to interfere or regulate any religious practice concerning marriage and no religion is required to solemnize a marriage to which it objects”.[10] The bill states that marriage is legal between two persons (rather than only a man and a woman), but that these persons cannot have the following relations: aunts, uncles, siblings. The bill has been re-referred to the Assignments committee as of March 19, 2010.


Steans received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Urban Studies from Princeton University. She earned a masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where she serves on the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council.


Evergreen Health Care Center[edit]

On June 16, 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported that Steans had an ownership stake in Evergreen Health Care Center, a southwest suburban nursing home whose license was being revoked by state authorities due to repeated citations for serious patient neglect and medical errors that allegedly led to the deaths of two patients.[11] State health officials cited Evergreen after facility staff failed to notify a doctor as the health of a 90-year-old resident with pneumonia deteriorated in January 2009. "This failure resulted in the resident being transferred to the hospital in full respiratory arrest ... and then dying at the hospital," a state health department report said.[11] She divested her stake in the facility and a separate but related management company, several weeks later.[12] The Steans family maintains a 15% interest in Evergreen Health Care Center.[12]


External links[edit]