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 programs.
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.
Back to Alumni Legislators