Pritzker, Black Caucus members celebrate recently-signed bills for economic equity

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and legislators discussed the “historic accomplishment” of four bills meant to decrease loan interest and improve economic stability for Black and Brown communities.

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Democratic state Rep. Sonia Harper speaks at a press conference about the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’s agenda. To the left, Gov. J.B. Pritzker sits in a chair while listening.

Democratic state Rep. Sonia Harper said the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’s agenda is essential to breaking the chains of economic bondage, which keep minorities from having the same fair shot at life as everyone else.

Mari Devereaux/Chicago Sun-Times

Gov J.B. Pritzker applauded the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and other advocates for their efforts in creating what they called a four-pillar agenda to end systemic racism in Illinois.

Pritzker signed the latest piece of that legislative package — focused on economic equity, access and opportunity — on Tuesday.

“I’m very proud of what this pillar requires of state government,” Pritzker said. “We have the opportunity to make fundamentally positive change that will benefit many who have been left out and left behind for far too long.”

Pritzker, along with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, members of the Black Caucus and community organizers met at Kennedy-King College in Englewood on Friday to celebrate the newly signed legislation.

Illinois Rep. Sonia Harper, D-Chicago, said the bill penalizes companies by taking a percentage of their profits if they don’t close wage gaps based on race or gender, and makes it a civil rights violation to refuse to hire someone based on a criminal conviction.

“When it comes to many of the ... issues that we have in Black communities, most can be traced back to economic-related causes,” Harper said. “When we solve these ... we will see less violence, we will see less hopelessness and despair in our communities.”

Illinois Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, said under the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act, part of the third pillar, state banks, credit unions and mortgage companies have an affirmative obligation to serve all communities in their area, including those with low and moderate income.

“While this legislation that we celebrate today is a major step in righting the wrongs of decades of no investment or disinvestment in communities of color, there’s still much work to do,” said state Rep. Nicholas Smith, D-Chicago.

Pritzker has signed other bills related to the Black Caucus’ pillars, including a sweeping criminal justice reform bill and the Education and Workforce Equity Act, but has yet to sign the Illinois Health Care and Human Service Reform Act, the fourth pillar in the Black Caucus agenda.

A spokeswoman for Pritzker said Friday it will be a few weeks until the bill is ready to be signed.

Among other things, that act seeks to address mental health, substance abuse, access to health care, women and children’s health and implicit bias in the medical industry.

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