Issues in 2017, 100th Illinois General Assembly of Illinois

Racial Justice

We focused this year on people of color caught in the criminal justice system

Expanding Eligibility for Sealing Records HB2373
Currently, over 4 million Illinois citizens who have served their time are excluded from applying for jobs, housing, education and other opportunities because they have a criminal record. Providing an opportunity for the to have their records sealed affords them the opportunity to turn their lives around and become productive members of society. HB 2373 will expand the eligibility of felony records that can be sealed, allowing more people to petition the court to have their records sealed from public view.
HB2373 Passed both houses with huge support – awaits the governor’s signature

 Ending Unlimited Solitary Confinement: HB259
The bill to limit the use of solitary confinement may be nearing a vote in the Illinois House. Almost 150 witness slips from UUANI supporters and others helped get the bill out of committee last month, and a recent successful lobby day netted another six co-sponsors. Help push this bill over the top by emailing and, if possible, calling your representatives.
HB259 is stuck in the Rules committee in the House, ran out of time with amendments 5/18/17

 “Ban the Box” in Higher Education: A Second Chance for Everyone
Currently, people with criminal records are being deterred from pursuing higher education and becoming more productive members of society. Most college applications ask about an applicant’s criminal record, but asking this question has a chilling effect — discouraging individuals with criminal records from completing the application. 

HB3142 will “ban the box” in the higher education admissions process. This bill prohibits colleges, universities, and trade schools from asking or considering an individual’s criminal record for purposes of admissions.
HB 3142 passed the Illinois House on April 4, 2017 and is currently pending in the Illinois Senate.

Ending Cash Bail: A Matter of Equity and Justice HB3421
The current bail system in Illinois is broken. Every day thousands of people accused of non-violent offenses are incarcerated and held awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail. This system discriminates against those who are poor but pose no threat to society. This bill allows pretrial detention only in the most serious cases.

 Pretrial detention causes people to lose jobs and income, with a cascade of negative effects for them and their dependents. It also leads people to take plea deals that put convictions on their records, where or not they are guilty of the crime, in order to secure release with a sentence of time served while in detention.

HB 3421 would establish a risk assessment system to determine whether individuals should be released on their own recognizance, placed under supervision, or detained based on the risk to society or of failing to appear in court, rather than on ability to post bail.
HB3421 still in the House (rules), gathering co-sponsors

 Juvenile justice
HB 3165
mandates that the Department of Juvenile Justice must train all employees in courses on restorative justice and restorative practices.
Passed both houses, awaits gov

HB 3817 limits the use and sharing of juvenile records and provides for easier avenues for expungement.
Passed both houses, awaits gov

 Economic justice

Minimum wage SB81
SB 81
raises the minimum wage in Illinois gradually for an employee who is 18 years of age or older to $15 an hour by January 2022. It includes tax credits for businesses who will be affected by this raise.
SB81 passed

Nothing here

Affordable Care: A Matter of Equity and Compassion (national)
Congress is moving fast to strip health coverage from 24 million people currently covered under the Affordable Care Act. The proposed replacement would make health care far less affordable than even before the ACA. They’re working to pass the bill into law before April 7, and every member of Congress is deciding how they’ll vote right now.

The proposed replacement makes these changes:

  • Eliminates the Medicaid expansion, putting 11 million people’s health care in jeopardy.
  • Dramatically cuts Medicaid by capping federal funding, cutting the program over time, and shifting billions of dollars in health costs onto the states.
  • Ends the individual mandate, causing an estimated 20-25 percent rise in premiums in the next year.
  • Eliminates subsidies that help low-income families get insurance, and instead implements small tax benefits ($2000-$4000 per year – far lower than many subsidies) based on age instead of need.

Gives a tax break for Health Savings Accounts for those who can afford to save extra, but fails to make premiums affordable in the first place.
Abolition of ACA failed

Expanded Sanctuary

Limiting Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement (SB31)
The Illinois TRUST Act (SB 31), limiting local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement, has passed the Illinois House and Senate; it now goes to the Governor, who has yet to take a position.. The bill provides for reasonable, constitutional limits on local police interaction with ICE enforcement, fostering trust between local police and immigrant communities.

Trust between immigrant communities and police is being undermined by attempts to entangle local police in federal immigration enforcement, raising fear of seeking police assistance for fear of deportation. The Illinois TRUST Act (HB 3099/SB 31) seeks to protect and build trust between local police and immigrant communities by limiting local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

The TRUST Act’s main provisions will:

  • Bar local law enforcement from being deputized as immigration agents or engaging in immigration enforcement without a court-issued warrant
  • Limit arrests based solely on immigration-related information included in federal databases
  • Bar the use of private prisons to house immigration detainees
  • Bar local participation in federal registry programs based on country of origin or religion

Include the Immigration Safe Zones Act (HB 426), which bars federal immigration agents from entering state-funded schools or health institutions unless presenting a court-issued warrant.
SB31, the Illinois Trust Act, passed both houses, awaits the gov

Trans Recognition: A Matter of Worth and Dignity (HB1785)
HB1785 will modernize the process for changing the gender marker on a birth certificate. HB 1785 is commonsense legislation to drop an outdated, burdensome, and unnecessary surgical requirement that prevents many transgender Illinoisans from obtaining identity documents that reflect their gender identity

HB 1785 amends the Vital Records Act and gives the opportunity for intersex and/or transgender youth to change their birth certificate to reflect who they are, bringing the state’s laws in line with the Secretary of State’s rules and Federal regulations.

Current state law makes it difficult and expensive for transgender people to update their birth certificate because it requires them to undergo surgery. HB 1785 would allow an individual to update their birth certificate gender marker by producing a sworn statement from a licensed medical or mental health provider verifying that they’ve undergone clinically appropriate treatment. By doing so, HB 1785 reduces the serious risk of discrimination that transgender Illinoisans face by making it possible for them to correct their core identification document to reflect their gender identity.
HB1785 passed both houses

Affirming the right of conscience:  Abortion rights (HB40)
UUs have long affirmed the right of conscience in making choices about the morally complex issue of abortion. A bill now before the Illinois House (HB40) would eliminate a trigger provision that would make abortion illegal if the US Supreme Court modifies or overturns Roe v Wade.

The Illinois House and Senate have both passed HB40 which would eliminate a trigger provision that would make abortion illegal if the US Supreme Court modifies or overturns Roe v Wade. The bill now goes on the Governor.

Automatic Voter Registration: Giving Everyone a Voice in the Democratic Process (SB1933)
By simply changing voter registration at state agencies like the Dept. of Motor Vehicles from opt-in to opt-out, Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) could ensure that more than a million currently eligible but unregistered voters are able to vote. AVR would also make voter rolls more accurate and secure through more frequent records updating. And modernizing the process through electronic voter registration would reduce paperwork and cost.
SB1933 passed both houses unanimously, await the gov

 Environmental justice

Climate Resolution: Safeguarding the Interdependent Web (national)
Executive Orders 13777 and 13783 together present the biggest attack on climate action and climate safeguards in U.S. history. These orders not only strike down the Clean Power Plan and other carbon reducing regulations, but specifically direct the Environmental Protection Agency to identify rules to roll back or weaken.

The Republican Climate Resolution states that “if left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans, hitting vulnerable populations hardest.” The resolution commits Congress to work constructively to create climate change solutions, including efforts to mitigate human activities that have an impact on our climate.

This is the first positive statement by Congressional Republicans since 2008 to affirm the realities of climate change and commit Congress to taking action. It follows a proposal by eight Republican elder statesmen – including Secretaries of State and Treasury to former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush – for the Republican Party to support a bipartisan revenue-neutral carbon tax.

This resolution shows there’s support in both parties for meaningful climate action. It’s time to push our members of Congress to support bipartisan action on one of the most profound challenges facing humanity

Prioritizing Environmental Justice in Illinois HR234
In December 2016, the Future Energy Jobs Law was passed by the Illinois General Assembly – a victory for investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy jobs. However, there is still work to be done in ensuring the enactment of this law.

The Environmental Justice Resolution for Illinois (HR0234/SR317) advocates that the Illinois Solar for All Program be properly funded.

The Solar for All Program trains residents across the state, including persons with criminal records and foster care alumni, for jobs in the clean energy economy. This program is funded by Illinois electric customers (not tax dollars) through the Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF). However, over the past several years over $200 million has been collected but only $30 million has been used for new renewable projects.

This resolution will ensure that funds in the RERF are preserved and maintained for the Solar for All Program as established by the Future Energy Jobs Act, and protected from sweeps, interagency transfers, chargebacks, or other reallocations.
HR234 continues on the calendar of resolutions, gaining co-sponsors

SB1029 is the Natural Areas Stewardship Act which allows land trusts the ability to apply to the Department of Natural Resources to preserve land for future generations of Illinoisans to appreciate.
SB1029 passed