2021 Illinois Lame Duck Legislative Session Wrap-up

January 19, 2021

By Timothy Jackson, Director of Government Relations

With the reckoning of historic racial injustices and the devastating effects of a global pandemic gripping the state and the nation as a backdrop, the Illinois General Assembly gaveled into a lame duck session beginning Friday, January 8, 2021 and ending minutes before the members of the 102nd Illinois General Assembly took their oath of office on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. At the heart of this session was the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ four pillared policy agenda to address systemic racism across Illinois. Those four pillars — criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability; education and workforce development; economic access, equity and opportunity; and health care and human services — seek to remedy the racial inequities imbedded in various government and social systems. 

Over the course of the lame duck session, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) was able to get comprehensive bills for three of the four pillars across the finish line before the end of the special session — criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability; education and workforce development; and economic access, equity and opportunity. Although the bill related to health care and human services was not passed by the legislature, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) is committed to working alongside the ILBC, members of the Illinois General Assembly, the Pritzker administration and our community partners to bring about the necessary transformations to the state’s health and human services system,  ensuring a more fair and just system that achieves true racial health equity for all Illinoisans and centers Black and Latinx communities most disproportionally impacted by both the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the reforms gained through these legislative measures will have a tremendous impact in addressing racial injustices and inequities, we know that they are only first steps in righting the systemic wrongs that have directly or indirectly impacted Black and other communities of color for generations. AFC congratulates the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for passing the following measures: 

  • Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability, HB3653, Senate Amendment #3 (Bill Sponsors: Senator Elgie Sims & Representative Justin Slaughter): This landmark legislation addresses the need for ending mass incarceration, enacting police reform and strategically investing in the reduction of violence in Illinois communities. AFC wholeheartedly supported this bill. Specifically, this legislation accomplishes the following, among others:
    • Abolishes Illinois’ cash bail system. 
    • Institutes pre-trial fairness where pre-trial detention is imposed only when determined that a defendant poses a specific, real and present threat. Also, all persons charged with an offense are eligible for pre-trial release, with some exceptions. 
    • Eliminates driver’s license suspensions due to non-payment of outstanding fines. 
    • Mandates that all law enforcement officers must wear body cameras. 
    • Places limitations on law enforcement agency participation in the U.S. Department of Defense’s 1033 program that has led to the militarization of police. 
    • Mandates training for law enforcement officers on use of force, crisis intervention and de-escalation, implicit bias and sensitivity to racial/ethnic minority communities. 
  • Education and workforce development, HB2170, Senate Amendment #3 (Bill Sponsors: Senator Kimberly Lightford & Representative Carol Ammons): This sweeping legislation responds to longstanding racial inequities and disparities found in our state’s education apparatus including early childhood education, K-12 education, higher education and other forms of workforce training. Specifically, this legislation accomplishes the following, among others:
    • Provides access to early intervention services.  
    • Creates two-year lab science and foreign language — or sign language — high school graduation requirement (beginning 2024-2025 school year). 
    • Creates math and English placement requirements at the state’s community colleges.  
    • Creates initiatives to address the teacher shortage and increase educator diversity. 
    • Automatically enrolls eligible high school students in advanced courses like dual credit and Advanced Placement.  
    • Considers goals to address the digital divide and impact of school closures on students. 
    • Creates a requirement for districts to provide computer literacy programs.  
  • Economic access, equity and opportunity, SB 1480 House Amendment #2, SB1608 House Amendment #2, SB1792 House Amendment #3, & SB1980 House Amendment #2 (Bill Sponsors: Senator Christopher Belt & Representative Sonya Harper): This package of four bills seeks to remedy ongoing concerns of workplace inequities and unfair practices, wage equity, workers’ rights and consumer protection. Specifically, this legislation accomplishes the following, among others:
    • Caps the annual percentage rate payday loan and car title loan lenders can place on unpaid balances at 36% instead of the astounding current rates, some as high as 400%. 
    • Creates a state commission to study reparations for the descendants of African American slaves. 
    • Prevents employers and landlords from discriminating against people with criminal records. 
    • Expands access to state contracts for businesses owned by people of color, women and people with disabilities. 
    • Includes additional racial diversity requirements in state purchasing policies. 

Next, the bills will go to Governor Pritzker — who has indicated his support — for his signature. 

Although final legislation related to health care and human services was not passed by the legislature, AFC was proud to submit written testimony in support of HB3840 Senate Amendment #1 and HB5548 House Amendment #1. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Mattie Hunter and Representative Camille Lilly, sought to address systemic racial injustices and improve health outcomes for Illinoisans by dramatically reforming the state’s health and human services system. The reforms outlined in legislation sought to remedy several issues AFC is supportive of including but not limited to community health worker certification, addressing maternal and infant mortality, improving access and systems for mental health and substance use treatment, requiring medical implicit bias training, and the creation of an Anti-Racism Commission.  

The 2021 lame duck session of the 101st General Assembly was a flurry of activity that produced comprehensive reforms to address systemic racism in our schools, on the job and in our criminal justice system. As stated previously, AFC looks forward to working with members of the General Assembly in the 102nd session to complete the fourth pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ policy agenda related to health care and human services reform, in addition to crucial policy priorities related to telehealth, the high costs of prescription drugs, HIV decriminalization, increasing access to Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and expanded funding for HIV/STI prevention, testing and treatment.  

Moving forward, AFC remains committed to protecting the most marginalized in our communities, including people living with or vulnerable to HIV. To stay engaged in AFC’s advocacy work throughout the year, please be sure to sign up for our Mobile Action Network here.  

Categorized under Advocacy, AFC news and Illinois.

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