Years served: 2001 - Present
Native of Washington, D.C., a licensed real estate broker and insurance agent; Rep.
Yarbrough is a full time legislator. She has a B.A. in Business Management from Chicago
State University and an M.A. in Inner City Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.
She has served on numerous boards, enhancing the quality of life for citizens and
has received many prestigious awards highlighting her advocacy, community service
and legislative work. Karen is a full-time legislator representing the 7th District,
which includes Chicago's west-side and Proviso western suburbs; Rep. Yarbrough chairs
the Appropriations-Public Safety Committee, which has the oversight of twenty-four
state agencies. She also serves on the Insurance Committee (Vice-chair), Elementary
& Secondary Education, Environmental Health, Computer Technology, Appropriations-Higher
Education; Cities & Villages; Public Policy & Accountability and Railroad Industry
Committee. In 2009 she helped pass the most significant package of ethics reform in
many years, getting to the heart of the "pay to play" apparatus that allowed our former
governor to sell Illinois to the highest bidder. She also passed the first comprehensive
public works program in ten years to create jobs and stimulate the economy through
infrastructure improvements. Karen's legislative themes have been public health and
public safety. She has been a stalwart fighter to increase assistance for those incarcerated,
and funding for programs that provide a "Second Chance." She has been the leading
spokesperson in Springfield for Cease-Fire, the innovative anti-violence program that
relies on cooperation and community involvement rather than police force and violence.
In 2007, Karen successfully fought the tobacco lobby as the chief sponsor of "Smoke
Free Illinois" and made Illinois the first Midwestern state to go "smoke-free." She's
taken on powerful real estate interests in her pursuit of "source of income" legislation
that prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to those on subsidies. Recently she
sponsored "Quality of Life," a bill using lottery money to fund groups that treat
individuals with HIV-AIDS. Karen is a board member of the United Way of Suburban Chicago,
Proviso United Way and the Oak Park YMCA, currently serving on the board of directors
of the Maywood Chamber of Commerce, The Way Back Inn, and a supporter of scholarship
Yarbrough was elected to the Illinois House in 2000, representing suburban communities
of Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside and parts of Oak Park, River
Forest, Melrose Park, Westchester and the Austin community of Chicago. In 2006, Karen
was elected as Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman. She is the first African-
American and female to be elected to this position. Her goal is to heal divisions
among Democrats in the highly Democratic Proviso Township area. Karen is the recipient
of numerous awards.
As a member of the House, she champions education, health care and economic development
initiatives and she is a strong advocate of government accountability and accessibility
to the electorate. She also supports the abolition of the Death Penalty Law and supports
a Smoke Free Illinois.
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