We are in the final stretch of the legislative session, and excited to share with you our legislative successes in Springfield thus far. Shriver Center advocates have made great strides toward passing laws that will bring justice and opportunity to low-income Illinoisans, but there is still a ways to go!
We hope you will join our efforts over the next few weeks to carry these important pieces of legislation over the finish line and to successfully block undesirable bills. If you have not done so already, please sign up for any or all of our action alerts so you can make your voices heard in Springfield!
Asset Opportunity Legislation
Provide a Retirement Savings Plan for Illinois Workers—SB 2758/HB 4595. In early April, the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program legislation (formerly known as Automatic IRA) passed the Illinois Senate. With a solid and comprehensive retirement savings framework for private sector workers that saves taxpayer dollars, Secure Choice has recently been endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the State Journal-Register. Please contact your state representative and tell him or her to support this commonsense approach to ensuring all Illinoisans have the opportunity to retire in dignity.
Budget and Tax Legislation
The Shriver Center has been a leader of the A Better Illinois campaign, which sought to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to replace the requirement that the state income tax be set at an unfair, regressive flat rate, and instead permit a Fair Tax where lower incomes would pay a lower rate and higher incomes would pay a higher rate. To get on the ballot, a constitutional amendment must obtain a 3/5 supermajority of both the Senate and House at least six months before the election. The campaign came close but was unable to secure the votes needed. Efforts to put this constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2016 are ongoing.
The Shriver Center, in its role as convener of the Responsible Budget Coalition, is one of the leads in seeking to maintain the current 5% tax rate, which is scheduled to revert to 3.75% on January 1, 2015. If this happens, the state would lose $2 billion in revenue in FY 2015 and $5 billion in FY 2016. This would result in devastating cuts to programs that serve low-income people and other vulnerable populations.
The Shriver Center is also a lead on legislation that would double the state earned income tax credit from 10% of the federal credit to 20% over five years. Contact your representatives and ask them to maintain the 5% tax rate and increase the earned income tax credit.
Community Justice Legislation
Increase the Child Support Pass-through for TANF Families—SB 3216. This bill, which passed the Senate in March, requires that $100 of the child support paid for one child and up to $200 for two or more children (the federal maximum) be paid to their families rather than diverted to reimburse the government for the cash Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits the families are receiving. Currently Illinois "passes through" a maximum of $50 per month of child support. Increasing the pass-through to the federal maximum not only increases the income of some of Illinois’s lowest income families but also lets noncustodial parents see that their child support payments actually help their kids, encourages noncustodial parents to pay regularly and on time, and often increases noncustodial parents’ involvement in their children’s lives. SB 3216 will be considered in the House soon. House members need to hear from constituents that they should vote in favor of SB 3216.
The impetus for SB 3216 came from Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities, a responsible fathers group that helps improve outcomes for low-income children by having their fathers support them and be more involved in their lives. The bill has the strong support of many children’s advocacy groups.
Move the Box or Job Opportunities for Qualified Applicants Act—HB 5701. On April 30 this important piece of legislation passed out of the Illinois House of Representatives with bipartisan support. HB 5701 would prohibit employers or temporary employment agencies from inquiring into someone’s criminal history in any form until after the applicant receives written notification of the employer’s intent to interview or a conditional offer of employment. The next step for the legislation is a committee hearing in the Illinois Senate, where we are hopeful for concurrence and passage. Learn more.
Seal Older Low Level Offenses—HB 2738. On March 27, HB2738 passed out of the Illinois House of Representatives, and then on May 7 it passed out of the Illinois Senate Criminal Law committee. This legislation would allow minor, older, low-level offenses (misdemeanors) to be eligible for sealing and give hard working, law abiding men and women who can demonstrate they have turned their lives around an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. It now waits in the Senate where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support. Learn more.
Economic Justice Legislation
Increase the AABD Grant for Certain Refugees and Asylees—SB 2735/HB 4369. Shriver Center advocates continue to gather support for legislation that would increase the monthly Social Security grants to certain elderly and disabled refugees and asylees. This bill updates and indexes the monthly grant provided to elderly and disabled refugees and asylees suspended from the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program if they do not become U.S. citizens within seven years. The monthly grant amount of $500 was written into the statute when the program was created in 2004. This legislation would update the grant amount to restore it to 90 percent of the SSI payment level, as it was in 2004, and would index the amount to future increases in the SSI payment level. Learn more.
Shriver Center advocates have also led the successful effort to defeat several proposals that sought to stigmatize and dehumanize recipients of public benefits, including bills that would have mandated drug testing, required SNAP (Food Stamp) recipients to carry a special picture ID, and limited SNAP recipients’ food choices.
Health Care Justice Legislation
Restore Critical Benefits in the Medicaid Program—HB 1516 SA2. Critical benefits were eliminated or severely restricted for Medicaid recipients in the SMART Act Medicaid Reforms in 2012. The Shriver Center has been advocating for restoration of these benefits, which include dental services for adults, prescription medications for people with mental health issues, and prescriptions for medically complex children. In the past two years, thousands of low-income Medicaid recipients have not been able to access necessary preventative medical and dental services and have instead been treated unnecessarily in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, thus costing the state unnecessary spending. Learn more.
During this legislative session, we have provided expert testimony to the Medicaid Working Group—an ad hoc committee of legislators from the House and the Senate working on a Medicaid Omnibus bill. We are working in partnership with the leading children’s hospitals in Illinois, the dental society, social service organizations, and behavioral health providers, and we hope that these critical services will be restored as part of a bigger Medicaid bill closer to the end of session in late May. In the meantime, Illinois General Assembly members need to hear from constituents that they want these services restored.
Housing Justice Legislation
Prevent Execution of Evictions by Any Peace Officer—HB 5395. The Shriver Center vigorously opposed HB 5395, which would allow any peace officer to execute an eviction if the Cook County Sheriff did not do so within 45 days. The bill would also limit the number of post-judgment requests to stop an eviction that a defendant could present in court. In addition to concerns that the bill would limit access to justice, especially by pro se litigants unfamiliar with technical pleading requirements, the bill could potentially lead to dangerous results for renters. The 45-day time limit would allow the sheriff no discretion to delay an eviction if, for example, on the 45th day weather conditions were dangerous. A sudden eviction in severe weather could place an evicted family—especially one at risk of homelessness—in harm’s way. Furthermore, by allowing any peace officer within the county, on or off duty, to execute evictions, the bill could expose renters to evictions at the hands of individuals who have no supervision or training in executing court orders. At the end of a heated debate on the House floor, Rep. Monique Davis ultimately did not call the bill for a vote. The bill, which was supported by Realtors and financial institutions, does not appear to be moving at this time. We will watch for and oppose any efforts to revive it.
Protect Tenants from Eviction for Minor Noise Complaints—HB 1532. The Housing Justice Unit is opposing House Bill 1532, which is now pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would expose renters to eviction for minor municipal ordinance violations such as noise complaints. The bill in its current form also contains language that is vague and that violates Due Process. The Shriver Center negotiated an agreed amendment to the bill last year which led to the bill stalling out. We are attempting to negotiate with the Senate sponsor, Sen. Tom Cullerton, and will continue to oppose the bill if an agreement cannot be reached.
Women’s Law and Policy Project Legislation
Raise the Minimum Wage—SB 68 SA4/HB 3718. The Shriver Center continues to work in collaboration with a powerful coalition on state legislation that would raise the minimum wage. There are 400,000 minimum wage workers in Illinois who earn only $17,000 a year, working full-time—well below the annual cost of housing, health care, electricity, groceries, transportation, and child care. We are confident that our coalition will ultimately be successful, but the legislation may carry over into veto session. Learn more.
Ensure Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers–HB 8. HB 8 passed the Illinois House on April 10. It has been amended in the Senate and is poised for a full Senate vote; then, it will return to the House for concurrence. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers in the House and Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Senate, this legislation will ensure workplace fairness by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. Three-quarters of women now entering the workforce will become pregnant. Most pregnant women need to keep working for as long as possible during their pregnancies to support their families. No woman should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and her job. We ask that you please contact your State Senator and urge him or her to vote yes on HB 8. Learn more.
Domestic Workers are Employees—SB 1708/HB 4169 HA 1. We continue to make progress on the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights legislation. This legislation would protect domestic workers from exploitation and unfair treatment by ensuring basic workplace protections affecting workers’ wages, work environment, and employer obligations. Learn more.
Protect Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors—SB 2003 and HA 1. The Shriver Center has also led the effort to amend the Workplace Violence Prevention Act, a law that became effective January 1 of this year. The Act allows employers to obtain orders of protection on behalf of its employees who are the target of any unlawful violence, including employees who are domestic and sexual violence survivors. Problems with the current law include the use of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IDVA) legal process for all actions under the Act, even when the violence is not related to domestic violence—an inappropriate use of the IDVA; and the very real danger that an employer’s pursuit of an order of protection may put domestic and sexual violence survivors at greater risk of harm not only on the job, but more likely, while not at work. SB 2003 and House Amendment 1 have been negotiated to remove the legal proceedings from the IDVA process and provide some protections for survivors, such as the obligation of employers to notify and consult with survivors before petitioning the court for a protective order. The bill has been amended in the House, is poised to be voted on in the House, and then will be sent to the Senate for concurrence.