Freddie’s Leggie Review

Frederique Desrosiers is Chicago Votes’ Policy Manager, where she focuses on the intersection of voting rights and the carceral system. “Most of my work is trying to build a more equitable society. I’m trying to figure out how to change our world to be more just and compassionate.” 

Hey folks!

Last week, lawmakers returned to Springfield from every corner of the state to commence the 2024 Session. Lets take a look at some of the most buzzworthy topics right now in Illinois: laid out some state policy trends to watch as legislatures all over the country begin to convene.

Transgender rights, abortion, AI, international relations, housing, and crime are some of the trending issue areas across the country.

The Migrant Crisis is becoming more dire, it’s estimated that since the summer of 2022, 15,500 asylum seekers have arrived in Chicago, after Texas Governor Greg Abbott began bussing folks from the Texas border to sanctuary cities.

Frederique Desrosiers in Springfield advocating for the expansion of voting rights.

Sanctuary cities became a thing in the 80s, when city governments said that they would not comply with federal immigration agencies, when it comes to undocumented residents. Beyond that, sanctuary cities often don’t use citizenship status as a requirement to get access to public services.

In Texas Governor Abbott’s view, he’s testing Democratically led cities on their values and giving them a taste of what goes on at the Mexico/Texas border. This is the sinister side of partisan politics, using human beings, many of whom have been subject already to violence and instability, to prove a point.

Naturally, Chicago, a city that has already failed to meet the basic needs of its residents, is not equipped to deal with the magnitude of folks that have arrived in our city. Our public schools need more support and resources, access to health care and mental health services are not great, and we already have a huge number of unhoused folks. If anyone passes a Chicago Police Department Station anywhere in the city, you probably see tents, air mattreses up against the wall, women with young children, people grilling–basically a community of people searching for a better life, just to be .

Government officials have been pointing the finger every which way. Chicago’s mayor and city council are looking to the Illinois government, Illinois leadership is saying the federal government needs to stand up and provide support.

Now winter is here, blowing her arctic breeze right on our city. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker sent a letter to Texas Governor asking him to stop sending migrants to Chicago during these frigid temperatures, but he probably won’t.

Pritzker did say that Illinois would divert $160 million for the migrants, but additional funding from the Illinois General Assembly doesn’t look promising.

This is what Senate President Don Harmon had to say: “The honest truth is, for generations we’ve been saying we don’t have enough money to tackle systemic problems that we’ve known about for far too long, such as homelessness, food insecurity, mental health issues. It’s really hard to convince the General Assembly to appropriate money to solve problems or a new cohort of people when we’ve been ignoring existing problems for far too long.” Okay Don, so what are you gonna do to tackle these issues for Illinois residents, is it finally time to deliver critical services to Illinoisans? Or is this a cop-out to excuse not supporting asylum seekers? We’ll see.

So, what exactly will the Illinois Legislature do in this session? I’ll preface by saying that it is an election year and every single state representative and state senator will be on the ballot for re-election on March 19th, which is smack dab in the middle of the legislative session. To answer the original question, though, typically in election years, legislators want to get things done quickly so they can have enough time to campaign in their districts. On top of that, they avoid voting on anything “controversial”… whatever that means. Mind you, every two years, house members are up for re-election, so every other year, they don’t want to pass certain types of legislation. Right now, following the the SAFE-T Act that passed in 2021, ending cash bail and several other criminal justice-related reforms, lawmakers are reluctant to vote on anything that pertains to crime, people in prison, parole, basically anything that would combat mass incarceration. Republicans relentlessly brought up the SAFE-T Act in the 2022 election year in thier attempt to paint democrats as “soft on crime” and allowing reckless criminals on the street putting us all in danger (whole time, the SAFE-T Act wasn’t even implemented until 2023).

Republicans were using fear and misinformation to discredit some of the most groundbreaking criminal justice reform to sway voters, they ultimately failed. Illinois Democrats won overwhelmingly and even gained seats in the Illinois legislature. This illustrates Illinois voters are willing to implement alternative approaches to criminal justice and public safety.

Unfortunately, the Republican fear tactics still did a number on Illinois Democrats, who have punted several other necessary reforms, like bringing parole back to our state, or restoring the right to vote to people in prison. Fear has been an effective tool all over the country and it’s been working. Republicans and right wing news outlets and social media accounts have been sharing videos of retail theft to rile up thier base. The lobbyist group for retailers in went as far as saying that “organized crime” was responsible for almost half of inventory losses in 2021, they were later made to retract that statement because it was untrue and had no reliable research to back it up, an article in the New York Times says the number is closer to 5%…. An article on The Hill wrote that “retail theft is robbing people of the American Dream” not inflation, poverty wages, student debt, but people stealing items from stores. Americans excuse stealing ancestral homeland and wiping out indigenous people, stealing natural resources from countries in Africa, but draw the line at people stealing merchandise from corporations. Okay…

Several states have been increasing penalties for crimes.

In 2022, when the Unlock Civics coalition attempted to pass the Voting in Prison bill, lawmakers ran in the other direction, saying they would revisit after the election, in fear that this vote would be used against them, but that never came to fruition even though almost everyone won their seat back.

To me, this indicates that many lawmakers are more interested in being re-elected than they are with passing legislation that would right the wrongs of the past and set our state on a new path. If democrats care about getting young people to the polls this year, skirting past important issues isn’t particularly convincing for the reluctant voter or skeptical young person.

Heres some legislation to watch:

IL HB4448 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan:

A bill introduced by Rep Suzanne Ness would make it illegal for restaurants and grocery stores to give or sell single use plastic or paper bags. I understand wanting to save the environment and to lessen the amount of plastic waste and promote reusable shopping bags, which I’m sure retailers will sell but at a higher price point. I can see this being potentially harmful to the elderly and homeless folks. Rep Ness, we are recycling the bags I swear! I got a bag of bags under my sink to prove it! Who knows if it will pass, but the grannies aren’t gonna like this one.

Rep. Gregg Johnson filed HB4417

Amends the Course of Study Article of the School Code. Provides that all public high schools, including charter schools, shall designate and annually observe a week known as “Workplace Readiness Week”. Provides that students shall be provided information on their rights as workers during that week, and sets forth what information must be included. Provides that for students in grades 11 and 12, the information shall be integrated into the regular school program but may also be provided during special events after regular school hours. Effective immediately.

I understand why this seems attractive, and I actually really like Rep Johnson and I wouldn’t be upset if it passes. The US school system is designed to create workers and train them to become participants in the hierarchy that ultimately supports the capitalist agenda. Schools teach students to be docile, conforming, and obedient. My hope is that one day schools will be truly a hub of learning, teaching kids critical thinking and supporting their creativity, in a democratic way. I hope for a system that doesn’t just churn out compliant students, but responsible, free-thinking, and compassionate citizens who can reimagine the systems that no longer serve them.

IL HB0001 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This is great day for my shroom girlies! This bill removes psilocybin from the list of Schedule 1 drugs like heroin and meth and creates an advisory board for the Department of Public Health on the use of psilocybin. It also decriminalizes and allows for expungement for folks who have a record of having psilocybin. If this concerns you in any way check out The Mind Explained on Netflix, they have a great episode on how psychedelics were criminalized and demonized in our current culture.

IL HB4285 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This bill would allow 14 and 15 year olds to work as long as the job doesn’t require any formal education, certification, or license; involve the use of dangerous machinery or chemicals, or require them to stay out past curfew…. This bill was introduced by a Republican representative, which tracks, as Republicans across the country have been pushing to weaken child labor laws. They are saying these bills are an attempt to fill the worker shortage.. I have thoughts but check out the article linked to learn more about why and the potential ramifications of amending our child labor laws.

IL SB2723 | 2023-2024 | 103rd General Assembly | LegiScan

This bill introduced by Democratic Senator Patrick Joyce, would require folks to have a valid photo ID to use a Link Card at the grocery store. It would also require the Department of Human Services to include the name of everyone in the household that is authorized to use the card.

This bill is really annoying to me. This could only lead to problems and potentially be a barrier to folks getting the food they need. Why are folks so hellbent on putting barriers in front of poor people trying to get groceries? Are there not more pressing things to do in Springfield than add more bureaucratic steps that low income folks already have to navigate? Gimme a break…

That’s all folks! Stay tuned for more updates throughout the legislative session. 

This is Freddie, signing out!