Pritzker Signs Large Swath of Economic Bills Tuesday

By Benjamin Cox on March 26, 2021 at 1:58am

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing bills in June 2019.

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a large legislative package Tuesday aimed at what the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus calls ridding the state of systemic racism in several institutions.

The massive legislative package includes caps on payday loan interest at 36% annually and subjects employers to human-rights complaints for denying hiring and promotions to people based on criminal history.

The State Journal Register reports that the four bills, part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ efforts to address systemic racism, also are designed to expand access to state contracts for minority-owned businesses, women, and people with disabilities. One of the bills allows a person with a felony conviction to live in federally assisted housing, something currently forbidden under law.

The measures had, all at some point, come before the General Assembly in the past and failed. Illinois now joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia in capping interest rates on the payday loans at 36% or lower.

Illinois Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford of Maywood says that the death of George Floyd and other Black people as well as the civil unrest around COVID-19 shown a light on racial disparities in the medical community as well as historical disenfranchisement for minorities in the entire country. Lightford says it has been the catalyst for the Legislative Black Caucus to get major bills passed this year in the state.

The SJ-R reports that Republicans have criticized some parts of the economic package of bills and supported others. Some Republicans have said SB 1480, which deals with potential human-rights complaints for employers, would lead to frivolous charges and unnecessary legal fees for employers. Republicans also said the package of bills was rushed through the legislature without enough vetting. Lightford rebuked those claims Wednesday during the signing: “The whole idea of we pushed, we rushed, we pushed it through, it was done in a short period of time, it’s just absolutely not true. A lot of work, a lot of hours spent, a lot of involvement from people all across the state created what you see here today.”

Another portion of the bills requires state review of of the low- and moderate-income loans by banks and other lenders to improve investment in lower income communities. The law makes Illinois the first state in the Midwest to have a state Community Reinvestment Act, and just the second state nationally to include non-bank mortgage lenders and credit unions.