This week was the most active week in Springfield so far this year. Friday, April 8 is the deadline for bills to pass out of committee. For Woodstock and our legislative priorities, the week was mostly successful.
The bill on which we have spent the most time this session is SB 2804, and we have worked closely with our ally, the Illinois Asset Building Group. The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss, would amend the Illinois Wage Assignment Act. A wage assignment is a debt collection method used by non-traditional lenders -- like payday lenders -- to access a borrower’s wages when the borrower defaults on a loan. Federal regulations provide that wage assignments are unlawful unless they are revocable by the borrower. By contrast, under the Illinois law, the borrower is informed that he or she must have a “legal defense” to the debt and that he or she has a 20-day window during which he or she may assert that defense. SB 2804 would bring Illinois law in line with federal regulations and make it clear to the borrower that he or she may revoke the wage assignment. SB 2804 passed out of the Senate Executive Committee on a mostly party-line vote with 10 Democrats voting in favor, six Republicans voting no, and one Democrat voting present. However, getting the bill passed out of committee required Senator Biss to promise to the committee that he would attempt to negotiate an agreement with the industry and that any amendment would come back to the committee for approval.
Senate Bill 2271, sponsored by Senator Iris Martinez, also passed out of committee. The State Government and Veterans Affairs Committee passed the bill unanimously. SB 2271 would renew the Comprehensive Housing Planning Act, which requires the State to produce an annual statewide housing plan that includes, among other things, a plan for the coordination of state spending to better address affordable housing goals. The Act has improved the way the state uses its affordable housing resources. The Act is set to expire on June 30, 2016. Under SB 2271, the Act would be extended for ten years.
Committee action was also seen on a bill that would remove employment barriers for certain people with criminal records. HB 4515, sponsored by Rep. Camille Lilly, would reduce certain employment barriers for health care workers. The bill would, among other things, remove low-level cannabis-related convictions (misdemeanors) from the list of disqualifying offenses under Illinois law. On Tuesday, on a tie vote, the bill failed to pass the Health Care Licenses Committee, but the next day, after some negotiations and after certain members of the committee were substituted with members more inclined to favor the bill, the bill passed 8-2.
Finally, a major bill was filed this week that would regulate small business lending in Illinois. The bill (SB 2865) is sponsored by Senator Jacqueline Collins, the Chair of the Senate Financial Institutions Committee. The drafting of the bill was led by City Treasurer Kurt Summers’ Office with substantial input from Woodstock and our allies. The bill would require small business lenders to be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Small business lenders would be required to determine that borrowers have the ability to repay their loans, and the bill identifies an existing statewide database as a tool that lenders would be required to use to determine that a loan is permissible under the law. We believe the bill, which includes a variety of other consumer protections, would go far in protecting small businesses from predatory lenders. A hearing on the bill is tentatively scheduled for April 13.
These are only some highlights. We supported and opposed many bills this week, and we were mostly pleased with the results. The next major deadline is April 22. By then, bills must have passed out of the chamber in which they originated (House bills must pass out of the House, and Senate bills must pass out of the Senate). As always, please consider contacting your legislators to ask them to support the bills described above. If you need help identifying your legislators, please go to http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/.
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