(The Center Square) – With a Democrat supermajority in Springfield, the Legislative Black Caucus pushed several reform measures through the General Assembly in 2021.
One of the cornerstones of the group’s agenda involved criminal justice reforms. The SAFE-T Act gives the Attorney General’s office authority to investigate and take civil action to address patterns of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.
“I think all police departments have been in a process of looking in the mirror and looking at how they can improve their process of working toward constitutional policing,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said.
The laws also changes use-of-force guidelines, requires body cameras for every police department in the state, ends cash bail, and strips collective bargaining rights relating to discipline from police unions.
“We are not on the right side of history,” said state Rep. Andrew Chesney during debate. “You want to pass a flawed bill that is not supported by labor, it is not supported by the sheriff’s association, it is not supported by the police chiefs. Everybody that we task to keep us safe say this makes you less safe.”
The legislation also allows officers to be punished or fired based on anonymous complaints from the public and defunds any department that does not comply 100% with the requirements.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker also signed legislation that expands economic opportunities for Black and minority communities in Illinois.
The bills aimed to expand access to state contracts for minority-owned businesses, women, and individuals with disabilities, caps payday loan interest rates, prevents employers from discriminating against people with criminal records and improves access to public housing.
Steve Brubaker from the Illinois Small Loan Association said this will put a lot of people out of business.
“I’m worried about the members of our association, and number two, all their employees that have to try to find a job during COVID which is going to be awful, but also, you are taking a billion dollars away from customers,” said Brubaker.
The Illinois Automobile Dealers Association also voiced opposition to the legislation.
The Health Care and Human Services Act was also signed into law. It addresses health obstacles while establishing new programs, including a Community Health worker certification and training program.
Hospital closures can now be put on hold until a racial assessment is conducted, and workers are now able to use sick days to care for a parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparent or stepparent.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege, but for too long too many Illinoisans have been denied that right,” Pritzker said.