2018 End of Session Update 2: Will's Bills

Dear Neighbors,

I hope this note finds you well.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about the progress on the state budget. If you missed that email, find it here.

Today I'd like to tell you about some legislation I introduced this year and where it went.

One of my top priorities was an expansion of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the law that prevents discrimination in the workplace. Ready for a shock? Right now, the Human Rights Act only applies to businesses with 15 or more people. That means in most of Illinois, it's perfectly legal to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, religion, etc. as long as you have fewer than 15 employees.

Chicago passed a local human rights ordinance that covers all employers, but I believe those protections should apply to every employee in every part of Illinois. Workplace discrimination should be illegal everywhere. That's why I introduced HB 4572, which does exactly that: applies the Human Rights Act to all employers regardless of size.

I'm happy to report that the bill passed the House and the Senate, and is now awaiting the Governor's signature. Our friends at Equality Illinois made a form you can use to urge Gov. Rauner to sign the bill.

I also worked on legislation to allow qualified Illinoisans to receive professional licenses regardless of their immigration status. This will encourage our DACA recipients, green card holders, and others who have work authorization to seek out jobs in every field from medicine to social work to hair styling. The doors of opportunity should be open to everyone regardless of their status. This bill, SB 3109, also passed both houses and will head to the Governor's desk soon.

A few other pieces of legislation I introduced have passed as well. One bill will allow graduate research assistants to join a union. Another will work to reduce class sizes in public schools. Others will allow foster youth to receive birth certificates without a fee, allow farmers to sell canned tomatoes at market, and allow craft brewers to sell cider on tap.

One disappointing note: my "PHARMABRO Act," which I've written you about before, passed in the House but died in the Senate. The bill would keep drug companies from price gouging on essential generic and off-patent drugs. Unfortunately, the industry lobbyists were powerful enough to shut the bill down. But don't worry: I'm headed to DC next week for a conference to meet with some national advocates on the issue, and we'll be back next year to give it another shot!

We'll send one final update soon; meanwhile, don't forget about our town hall meeting on Wednesday, July 11th! Click here to RSVP.

All best,

-Will

2018 End of Session Update 1 + Town Hall!

Dear Neighbors,

The 2018 legislative session adjourned on May 31. I'd like to catch you up on what transpired, where we made progress, and what work is still ahead.

I'll be sending a few emails in the coming days explaining some of this, but we'll also be doing it in person at our upcoming town hall meeting:

End of Session Town Hall

Haas Park Fieldhouse, 2402 N Washtenaw Ave (Entrance is through the park on Fullerton Ave)

Wednesday, July 11th 2018 at 6pm

RSVP Here!

Let's start by talking about the budget.

First of all, we have one! As you may remember, after Bruce Rauner got elected, the state went three years without passing a budget. The results of this impasse were catastrophic for our most vulnerable neighbors and for the people who take care of them.

So I can't overstate the importance of simply having passed a balanced budget. It will provide predictability and stability for our educators, public health providers, and human service organizations.

And despite the state's difficult financial situation, we were able to provide increased funding to some areas that really needed it. K-12 education got an increase of $350 million, including hundreds of millions which will come to Chicago's schools. Public universities saw a 2% increase in operational funding after suffering through decades of cuts, and we created a $25 million scholarship for low-income students. We restored funding to anti-violence and mental health programs, and created new state funding to combat the opioid crisis. And based on other emerging crises, we dedicated special funds to protecting our elections and ensuring access to services for vulnerable immigrant populations.

Of course, the budget is far from perfect. We didn't do anything to address our long-term pension obligations. And we didn't take the kind of dramatic action that will be required to address our state's persistent challenges: stagnant wages, unemployment, violence and instability, and the too-high costs of healthcare, housing, and education from preschool to college.

Those challenges will cost money to fix. That's why I remain a proponent of fair tax brackets in Illinois so that rich folks pay more, the rest of us pay less, and the state brings in the money it needs to start creating solutions. I've also continued to fight for closing corporate loopholes in the state's tax code.

We weren't able to make progress on those revenue solutions this year, but I'm hopeful that the conditions will be more favorable next year.

Please send along any questions you might have about this budget stuff. My next email will talk about some of the bills I worked on this year and how far they've gotten through the process.

All my best,

-Will