Pritzker endorses reforms on payday loans, employment and state contracts

Massive legislative package that caps payday loan interest at 36% per year and subjects employers to human rights complaints for denying people hiring and promotions based on track records criminals was promulgated on Tuesday by Governor JB Pritzker.

The four bills, which are part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ efforts to combat systemic racism, are also designed to expand access to state contracts for minority-owned businesses, women and individuals. with disabilities. And one of the bills allows a person convicted of a felony to live in federally subsidized housing.

The reforms, some of which had been proposed and not passed in the past in the Illinois General Assembly, will help all Illinois but especially black people, supporters of the legislation have said.

Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford D-Maywood said economic reforms are needed as black people often face economic hardships rooted in racism that have left them poorer, less educated , more likely to be incarcerated and more likely to live in crime-prone neighborhoods. with fewer economic opportunities.

“This is a victory and an important victory,” Lightford said ahead of the bill signing ceremony in the gymnasium at Union Baptist Church in Springfield.

There is still a long way to go, she said, “But make no mistake, this law is a big step forward. “

Representative Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, called Senate Bills 1480, 1608, 1792 and 1980 “a very important step in reversing the setbacks our communities have suffered for so long. It is a leap forward. certain.”

The interest limit on payday loans has been fought for years by companies that claim to provide an essential service, but many nonprofits and other consumer advocates have fought for limits on loans that can carry lower rates. ‘interest of up to 297% per annum.

Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia cap payday loan interest rates at 36% or less.

Those who make the loans, which are designed to be short-term, often target low-income blacks, Hispanics and other groups who historically have not been able to benefit from the traditional banking system, Lightford said.

She declared the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, other high-profile black deaths at the hands of police, the social unrest that followed and the COVID-19 pandemic – which has drawn attention to the disparities historic economic and medical issues between blacks and whites – all fueled black caucus efforts to pass major bills during the lame duck session of the General Assembly in January.

Pritzker, a Democrat, said he was proud to sign the bills and said they “mark significant progress in our efforts to bridge racial gaps and remove barriers that for too long have held back unjustly black and brown Illinois “.

Pritzker has already enacted two other sets of black caucus-pushed laws dealing with reforms to the criminal justice and education systems in Illinois.

The third “pillar,” dealing with systemic racism linked to the economy, is in many ways the most important, as economic disadvantage can lead to lives of crime and failure in school, said Senator Chris Belt, D-Centerville.

“This bill is the linchpin and the cornerstone of all other bills,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Democrat and former Illinois House member in Chicago, said when signing the bill: “In the American system, racism has been infused into our economy from the start.

Pritzker said the legislation “advances our shared vision of equity and inclusion by recognizing and reaching out to communities that have historically been left out of the conversation.

“It means addressing the impact of a criminal record on your ability to find a job after you’ve already paid the price for a transgression, which shouldn’t prevent you from finding a job or having a roof over it. of your head, “he said. noted.

“It means looking inward and advancing our equity goals where we have the most immediate opportunity to initiate change – state government,” he said.

For job seekers, Illinois already prohibits discrimination based on arrest records and an applicant’s criminal history investigation until later stages of the application process.

The legislation, according to a press release from the governor’s office, “adds another layer of protection” by allowing people to file a discrimination charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights if they are victims of discrimination on the job or when they get a job because of a conviction.

Republicans criticized parts of the economic package of bills and supported others. Some Republicans have said SB 1480, which deals with potential human rights complaints, will result in frivolous charges and unnecessary legal fees for employers.

The bill states that employers would not be liable for civil rights violations if there was a “substantial relationship” between one or more prior criminal offenses of a person and the job sought or held. Further, whether “the granting or maintenance of employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or well-being of specific individuals or the general public”.

Republicans also said the package of bills went through the legislature without sufficient verification, a claim rejected by members of the black caucus.

Whitney Barnes, spokesperson for Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said: “Providing economic opportunity for all Illinois, especially those who have faced systematic barriers and a lack of investment, is a top priority for Republican Senate Leader Dan McConchie. He is working to learn more about the needs of all communities in Illinois and will continue to work with all members of the Senate to help spur economic development in every neighborhood in that state. “

Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068;

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