Illinois’s legislative session is in full swing, and Woodstock is monitoring many bills that fall within the scope of our mission: to create a just financial system in which lower-wealth persons and communities as well as people and communities of color can achieve economic security and prosperity. Here are some of the bills that we are supporting this session.
SB 2804 and HB 5776
Woodstock is working with the Illinois Asset Building Group to support bills sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss and Representative Chris Welch that 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. With a wage assignment, a lender does not need to go to court to get permission to garnish a borrower’s wages. Rather, the lender sends a notice directly to a borrower letting them know that they will be taking a portion of their wages. 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 and HB 5776 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 2771 and HB 4564
We are also in close contact with Housing Action Illinois to support bills sponsored by Senator Iris Martinez and Representative Will Guzzardi that 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. For example, in the first year the plan was required (2006), the Illinois Housing Development Authority used only 2% of its multi-family housing resources to create affordable rental homes for extremely low-income households. By 2014, that number had jumped to 24%. The Act is set to expire on June 30, 2016. Under SB 2771 and HB 4564, the Act would be extended for ten years.
HB 4360, HB 4514, and SB 42
Finally, Woodstock is working with the Community Renewal Society to support bills that would remove employment barriers for certain people with criminal records. HB 4360, sponsored by Representative Kelly Cassidy, would remove lifetime bans to employment in schools for men and women with controlled substances convictions. HB 4514, sponsored by Representative 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. SB 42, sponsored by Senator Iris Martinez and Representative Camille Lilly, would lift lifetime bans on professional licensure for health care professionals convicted of forcible felonies. The bill would replace the ban with a three-year waiting period after an individual’s sentence. After the waiting period, an individual would be allowed to apply for a license, and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation would use a 15-factor test to determine whether to issue the license.
These are only some highlights. Several more bills are on our radar screen – some of which we are supporting and some that we may have to oppose, depending on negotiations with interested parties and the bills’ sponsors. Please consider contacting your legislators to ask them to support the bills described above. If you need help identifying your legislators, please contact me.