Dear friend,

 

This past week in Springfield was marked by major reforms that came about as a result of months of public hearings and negotiations. These tackled everything from criminal justice and finances to education. Changes to the way workers are licensed to sell cannabis and improved coordination between hospitals were among other important things that passed and now await the governor’s signature to become law.

 

Read on for a breakdown of some of the most important measures that passed this past week.

 

Sincerely,

State Senator, 7th District

 

Hospital and health care transformation

 

I sponsored legislation that brings to fruition one of my major goals from this past year: Empowering hospitals to forge new partnerships and transform themselves to better meet the needs of their communities.

 

Under Senate Bill 1510, up to $150 million in annual federal matching funds will enable health care institutions to forge partnerships with safety net hospitals, critical access hospitals and cross-provider networks. This ensures that hospitals receive stable funding while workforce development and racial equity analyses provided for under the bill will work to address systemic disparities. This will help major health institutions partner with other local hospitals to provide specialty care and strengthen the quality of care in parts of the state that need it the most. 

 

Criminal justice reform

 

House Bill 3653 passed the General Assembly this past week. This comprehensive criminal justice package contains many provisions that focus on police accountability, increase detainee and victims’ rights by streamlining the victims’ compensation system, and reform the judicial system with a special focus on ensuring that no one – regardless of race – is penalized for being poor. 

 

Among other things, House Bill 3653:

  •    Modernizes sentencing laws.
  •    Ends cash bail.
  •    Institutes certification & decertification system statewide for police officers.
  •    Requires the use of body cameras.
  •    Reforms crowd control response.
  •    Amplifies law enforcement training standards.
  •    Prevents destruction of law enforcement misconduct records.
  •    Connects substance abuse treatment programs with first responder duties.
  •    Increases and improves de-escalation and mental health training for law enforcement.
  •    Creates two police misconduct databases for public viewing and transparency.
  •    Requires police to develop a plan to protect children during search warrant raids.
  •    Empowers the attorney general to investigate deaths occurring in police custody.
  •    Addresses officer wellness and mental health awareness and screenings.
  •    Bans use of chokeholds and other extreme measures.
  •    Establishes statewide use of force standards by 2022.

 

Education reform

 

House Bill 2170, another policy pillar of the Black Caucus, tackled education reform at all levels in Illinois. Here are some changes it made:

 

For early childhood schooling, the bill:

  • Allows children to continue to access Early Intervention services until the beginning of the school year after they turn 3.
  • Codifies the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.
  • Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to make recommendations on how to create a diagnostic system that would allow Medicaid to pay for some Early Intervention services.
  • Expresses support for the recommendations of the Illinois Commission on Equitable Early Childhood Education and Care Funding.
  • Urges the state to increase the availability of Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultations.

 

For K-12 education, the bill:

  • Requires two years of laboratory science and a foreign language (or sign language) to graduate high school, starting in the 2024-2025 school year.
  • Adds a one-year course with an intensive computer literacy focus to the required high school curriculum.
  • Requires schools to automatically enroll students in the next level of advanced coursework if they meet or exceed state standards in that subject matter – including Advanced Placement courses.
  • Creates an inclusive American history curriculum to reform the Black history curriculum and curriculums for teaching about other minority groups.
  • Creates a Whole Child Task Force to address trauma in children and create an equitable, inclusive, safe, and supportive environment for all children.
  • Creates grant-funded Freedom Schools to expand teaching of Black history, the civil rights movement, and leadership.

 

In higher education, the bill:

  • Creates English and math placement requirements at community colleges.
  • Changes the matching requirement for AIM High scholarships. Allows schools with more than 49% Pell Grant recipients averaged over three years to pay a 20% match, while schools with less must pay a 60% match.
  • Supports the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s efforts to identify more race conscious and equitable ways to fund higher education.

 

The Senate also passed House Bill 2275, which restores certain collective bargaining rights to Chicago teachers on things like the length of school day and year, reductions in the workforce, use of pilot programs, class size, staff size, and other things. It also removes a mandate that labor disputes within Chicago Public Schools go to arbitration rather than a strike after a 60-day impasse.

 

Chicago schools in particular are suffering from overcrowded classes, nursing shortages, and staffing shortages. Teachers need the power to bargain for changes that help our students and our schools.

 

Financial reform

 

Major economic reforms also passed last week under SB 1980, SB 1480, SB 1608 and SB 1792. Included were:

  • Equal Pay: The state is prohibited from contracting with a private business with more than 100 employees that does not have an equal pay certificate.
  • Payday lending: Predatory payday loan rates are now limited to 36%, among other measures to hold such lenders accountable.
  • A Community Reinvestment Act for Illinois, which requires covered financial institutions to meet certain financial services needs of local communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and areas where there is a lack of access to safe and affordable banking.
  • The Illinois Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Program are both reinstated. Those programs award matching grants to startup and research businesses that receive federal grants.

 

Secure ballot drop boxes

 

House Bill 3994 allows election authorities to establish permanent ballot drop boxes to accept vote-by-mail ballots. 

 

This measure came directly from election authorities who heard concerns from some voters who weren’t comfortable with mailing their ballots. According to the election authorities, these voters wondered if the ballots would be delivered on time, if they would be lost in the mail and if they needed stamps – among other concerns. With this measure, many voters will have an additional way to safely cast their ballots.

 

Free meal program through Chicago Public Schools to continue

 

CPS will continue to offer free meals to the community. Any child under the age of 18 can receive a three-day meal kit at over 450 CPS locations across the city. You do not have to be a CPS student to receive a meal. Families just need to inform cafeteria staff how many children are in their household and they will receive meals for each child. The grab & go meal service is provided Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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