At a time when many services to people with disabilities are being cut due to Illinois’ drawn-out budget crisis, Brandi McGuire, who is running for the state House of Representatives in the 72nd District, hopes to help Illinois citizens living with disabilities and continues to advocate for their rights.
Troubled by a decision at her local school to ban her daughter’s service dog, McGuire challenged politicians and was determined to make a difference.
McGuire’s daughter, Kellsey, has epileptic seizures. When Kellsey’s school in Sherrard refused to allow Jasper, Kelley’s service dog, to be with her in school, McGuire sued the Sherrard School District and won.
“This is for the next child that has a disability, it is for the next person that has been denied their rights,” McGuire said in a press statement after winning the 2014 lawsuit. McGuire used the money awarded to set up a charity to help others affected by epilepsy.
Last September, the conservative candidate announced her bid for the Illinois House seat currently held by Rep. Patrick Verschoore, who is a Democrat.
A campaign commercial by Liberty Principles PAC stated that McGuire’s faith inspired her to want to be a servant to others, and that she is running for state representative "to serve those who have been ignored or treated badly by the state government they finance.”
The Illinois budget impasse has caused painful cuts to many social services and programs in the state, many of which provide services to people with disabilities. With a $111 billion pension deficit and approximately $6 billion in unpaid bills, many social service agencies that rely on state funding may have no other alternative but to lay off employees, drastically reduce the services they provide or ultimately close down.
Access Living is one of the agencies struggling to provide continued support to people with disabilities with limited funding. Like many other agencies in Illinois, the agency has had to borrow money on lines of credit in order to keep its doors open.
Rahnee Patrick, director of independent living for Access Living, told New Mobility that the impact the state’s budget crisis has on people with disabilities cannot be understated.
“People with disabilities are not only going without needed services, but on a visceral level it is awful, because we are being made to feel less important, like our lives don’t matter,” Patrick said. “We are dependent on tax-supported, state-funded programs, so we need a budget to be passed.”
But with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats at odds on the fiscal budget, there is little assurance that the impasse will be resolved anytime soon.
Advocates for people living with disabilities have seen some legislative progress in raising awareness to the issues affecting Illinois citizens with disabilities. Last July, Rauner signed legislation that would create respectful references to people with disabilities throughout state law. But the budget crisis has taken precedence over the bill, and many advocates question why the governor vetoed a budget by the General Assembly that would free up funding for agencies providing services to people with disabilities.
McGuire states on her website that she is running for state Representative “so that no child and no family ever has to go through what my daughter and my family went through."
McGuire was born and raised in Rock Island County, and graduated from Sherrard High School and Black Hawk College. She runs her family-owned small business in East Moline and is the founder of Ribbons for Kellsey, a nonprofit in the Quad Cities that supports people with epilepsy.