RACIAL JUSTICE LEGISLATIVE REPORT
The Racial Justice Legislative Report is designed to improve transparency, accessibility and oversight of the Illinois General Assembly as a whole, as well as that of individual members. The guide features a scorecard of each lawmakers’ performance, an in-depth analysis of key bills, a summary of legislative outcomes, and a comprehensive policy agenda outlining CRGE’s recommendations for advancing Black liberation in the next session.
Learn about CRGE’s vision for advancing racial justice in Illinois by mobilizing community leaders, and improving systems of direct democracy and equitable representation in Illinois government.
RACIAL JUSTICE SESSION OVERVIEW
Illinois’ 2019 legislative session opened on a tone of cautious optimism for local advocates committed to promoting racial equity in Springfield. With a self proclaimed progressive assuming the governors’ seat and an incoming democratic supermajority in both legislative chambers, circumstances appeared to favor the policy objectives of grassroots racial justice activists across the state. However, as the session unfolded, it became readily apparent that lawmakers would thwart this opportunity. In an effort to fast track the new governor’s politically calculated policy agenda, legislators gutted crucial bill language and cast aside dozens of key proposals that would have advanced true safety, opportunity and liberation for Black communities across Illinois.
In the spring session, the Illinois General Assembly roundly discounted the most urgent policy concerns of Black constituents throughout the state. The legislature declined to pass any substantive reform of Illinois’ inhumane and racially targeted systems of mass incarceration and police violence, and failed to adequately ensure fair protections for workers, guarantee the democratic rights of Black voters, or promote equitable access to education, human services and economic opportunity.
Despite these shortcomings, Springfield’s fawning statehouse press corp heralded the session as a progressive triumph, citing, in particular, the passage of a statewide minimum wage increase and the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, the final approved language on these two measures reveals the extent to which legislators were prepared to compromise on issues of Black equity and justice in order to declare legislative victory. Notably, lawmakers exempted tipped employees and younger workers from the minimum wage increase, and slashed a key provision in the cannabis legalization bill that would have allowed for the automatic expungement of certain cannabis related convictions.
The urgency for transformative racial justice policy is palpable for Black constituents across the state. Illinois, which is home to the nation’s three most racially inequitable cities, sustains the highest rate of Black unemployment and racialized prison overpopulation in the country. Communities of color in Illinois are also impacted by staggering racial wealth inequality, pervasive police abuse, and barriers to direct democracy.
In order to build universal equity, justice and liberation in Illinois, lawmakers must champion a policy agenda that includes sweeping reform of sentencing laws, prohibitions on practices of racialized police abuse, improved protections for every worker, equitable investment in public services, and access to direct democracy for all.
RACIAL JUSTICE LEGISLATIVE SCORECARD
The Racial Justice Legislative Scorecard offers an objective rating system based on Illinois lawmakers' policy performance on key bills introduced in the 2019 spring session.
Illinois House of Representatives
CRGE based its grade of the Illinois General Assembly on an analysis of its legislative activities during the most recent spring session, which ran from January through June 2019. By applying a racial justice approach, the scorecard evaluates the legislature's actions on key policies that would either advance or undermine racial equity in Illinois. CRGE considered the general assembly’s performance on a wide range of issues, including criminal justice reform, police accountability, workers rights, equitable economic opportunity and direct democracy.
In determining individual legislator scores, each member of the general assembly who served for the entire 2019 spring session was awarded three points for introducing, two points for sponsoring and one point for voting in support of bills that would systematically benefit Black Illinoisans. One point was deducted for voting against such policies. Legislator grades are based on a curve which was applied to each chamber of the general assembly.
CRGE’s analysis of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session reveals a lawmaking body that fails to address the basic policy concerns of Black constituents around the state. In 2019, lawmakers declined to pass legislation that would meaningfully reform Illinois’ racially targeted practice of mass incarceration, ensure fair protections workers, guarantee the democratic rights of Black voters, or promote equitable access to education, human services and economic opportunity.
While Republicans ranked consistently lower than Democrats, political complacency on racial justice issues in Springfield is not restricted to a single political party. Rather, an astonishing contingent of Democratic legislators roundly ignored the concerns of Black constituents, and despite their super majority control in both chambers, the party as a whole failed to pass policies that would meaningfully address systemic racial inequity in Illinois.
Members of the Black caucus ranked higher than the general legislative body, however a startling number of Black lawmakers scored below standards. Given the astounding levels of structural inequity and injustice experienced by communities of color across the state, it is incumbent upon lawmakers who represent majority Black districts to blaze the trail on racial justice policies.
RACIAL JUSTICE POLICY ANALYSIS
CRGE examined the racial justice impact of twenty-three key bills introduced the 2019 spring session.
To review the legislation, click on the issue areas listed below. Each summary includes an explanation of the bill and a racial justice policy analysis, as well as the bill status and final language. Policies that did not pass include a link to contact your local legislators, urging their support in the next legislative session.
HB 900 - Ends Illinois' Prison Pay to Stay Law
HB 900 would repeal the statewide prison “pay-to-stay” law, under which the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is permitted to charge inmates for the cost of their incarceration and to conduct intrusive investigations of their personal financial assets.
HB 2045 - Improves Access to Healthcare in Prisons
HB 2045 would protect the human right to healthcare for individuals held in state prisons by preventing the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and the Department of Juvenile Justice from charging inmates prohibitive co-pay fees for medical care.
HB 221 (Oppose) - Enacts Rollbacks on Bail Reform
CRGE opposes HB 221, as it would allow Illinois counties to opt out of the Bail Reform Act, which currently offers presumptively innocent defendants protections from pretrial detention based on an inability to pay a money bond.
HB 3347 - Ends Wealth Based Pretrial Detention
HB 3347 would abolish monetary bail, require judges to immediately release defendants charged with nonviolent offenses, and restrict the use of pretrial detention to only the most high-risk cases.
HB 1614 - Reforms Draconian Felony Theft Laws
HB 1614 would reform Illinois’ overly punitive and racially targeted theft laws by increasing the property value threshold for felony theft from $500 to $2000.
HB 3120 - Employment Equity for Re-entering Workers
HB 3120 would foster job creation for previously incarcerated workers by establishing an employee targeted tax credit program for re-entering job applicants. It would also take steps to reverse mass incarceration by retroactively eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.
HB 2434 - Supports Economic Opportunity for Families
HB 2434 would remove the current ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for households with members who have been convicted of a drug related felony.
HB 217 - Promotes Access to Higher Education for All
HB 217 would prohibit colleges and universities located in Illinois from inquiring about an applicant’s conviction record during the admissions process.
HB 1115 - Restricts the Use of Electronic Monitoring
By proposing a ban on the use of electronic monitoring for individuals who have served their full prison term, HB 1115 would advance justice, equity and liberation for thousands of Illinoisans returning from incarceration each year.
HB 2112 - Outlaws the Officer Code of Silence
HB 2112 would make it a criminal offense for a member of law enforcement to falsify, misrepresent or withhold facts in investigations of alleged officer misconduct, and require cops to affirmatively report any known false reports made by members of the police force.
HB 152 - Reforms Unjust Police Union Contracts
HB 152 would prohibit any measure in a police union collective bargaining agreement that limits a department’s ability to investigate allegations against an employee.
HB 3119 - Holds Officers Accountable for Sexual Abuse
HB 3119 would require that within all police jurisdictions, investigations of officer sexual abuse be conducted by an external police department, rather than by an accused officer’s home agency.
HB 25 - Enforces Prohibitions on Racial Police Profiling
HB 25 explicitly prohibits the act of racial profiling by state and local police and offers civil protections to individuals who are subject to race-based targeting by law enforcement.
SB 1 - Enacts a Statewide $15 Minumum Hourly Wage
SB 1, which was signed into law in February 2019, will increase Illinois’ hourly minimum wage to $15. Unfortunately, the wage increase will not take full effect for six years and the law allows for a reduced minimum wage for tipped and younger employees.
SB 1485 - Protects Workers Against Racial Discrimination
SB 1485 would require the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to establish a telephone hotline and online portal for workers impacted by racial discrimination and harassment to anonymously report and pursue complaints.
SB 1474 - Safeguards Collective Bargaining Rights
SB 1474 would safeguard protections for hundreds of thousands of workers across the state, by prohibiting local governments from enacting anti-labor “Right to Work” ordinances.
SJRCA 1 - Allows for a More Equitable State Income Tax
SJRCA 1 would initiate an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would allow the state to impose a graduated income tax, creating a path to end the state's current regressive flat tax, which disproportionately burdens low income taxpayers.
HB 2044 - Expands Access to Childcare Assistance
HB 2044 would expand access to Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) by raising the income eligibility threshold from 185% of the federal poverty line to 300%.
HB 1628 (Oppose) - Restricts Access to Public Assistance
HB 1628 proposes stringent restrictions on access to Illinois' public assistance programs, including ongoing drug screening requirements at the applicant’s personal expense, as well as overly burdensome work and job search requirements.
HB 2691 - Expands Eligibility for College Financial Aid
HB 2691 would enable Illinois residents who are not eligible for federal aid to qualify for state aid as well as institutional aid in public universities.
SB 2090 - Protects Ballot Access in Local Jails
SB 2090 would protect voting rights for constituents held in pretrial detention by establishing a polling branch in Cook County Jail, improving jail vote-by-mail in other counties, and requiring prisons to provide inmates with accurate information on voting eligibility.
HB 203 - Ends Prison Gerrymandering
HB 203 would end Illinois’ current prison gerrymandering policy under which, for purposes of the U.S. census, an inmate’s residence is counted as the district in which they are temporarily incarcerated, not their permanent home community.
RACIAL JUSTICE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
CRGE's legislative agenda provides a blueprint for state lawmakers to build universal equity, justice and liberation in Illinois. The recommendations call upon legislators to answer the policy demands of Black constituents throughout the state, by enacting sweeping reform of sentencing laws, outlawing practices of racialized police abuse, improving wages and protections for all workers, investing equitably in public services, and ensuring fair voting rights and direct democracy for all.
End the hyper criminalization of Black communities, reverse mass incarceration, divest public dollars from the prison industry, and foster justice in the court system
Enact legislation that ends racialized hiring and pay discrimination, and guarantees safe, accessible, living wage jobs for all
Eliminate structural barriers and repair harms done to residents most impacted by Illinois’ inhumane and racially targeted prison system
Transform our local economic system to end racialized wealth disparities and foster equitable financial opportunity for communities of color
End police brutality, corruption and abuse by advocating for community control over law enforcement and divestment of public dollars from the police state
Remove structural barriers to racially equitable and representative government and implement mechanisms of direct democracy
A PATH FORWARD
CRGE believes communities of color deserve responsive and equitable political representation in Springfield. In order to advance policies that will reverse the institutionalized violence, displacement and extraction waged against Black Illinoisans for generations, constituents must play an active role in demanding accountability from elected officials. As we prepare for next year’s legislative session, CRGE is working to assert political power in Springfield, amplifying the demands of Black communities and championing an ambitious policy agenda that platforms Black Liberation as an electoral imperative.
CRGE is actively mobilizing Black communities to advance a racially progressive legislative agenda in the upcoming session. We will engage lawmakers through constituent meetings, legislative briefings and grassroots lobbying events, demanding their support on policies that would reverse mass incarceration, end police violence, secure worker protections and promote economic justice.
In the 2020 primary election cycle, CRGE will launch a tactical voter engagement campaign aimed at destabilizing the power of Illinois legislators who fail to address the policy concerns of their Black constituents. We will also work to champion systems of direct democracy, including rank choice voting, public campaign finance, and citizens initiated ballot referendums, in order to ensure equitable racial representation in Illinois government.