You’ve probably already heard about many of the big things that came out of the Illinois legislature at the end of the 2019 session. It was so big, in fact, that it took us at the Jobs Council a week or two just to catch our breath long enough to put together this update! Below, we talk about how things went with our legislative priorities, as well as other important policy and funding changes that will impact our workforce development field. Feel free to reach out to our policy team with any questions or if you see anything we missed!
- SB 1791: Building a Stronger, More Effective SNAP E&T Program
We are excited to see SB 1791 head to Governor Pritzker’s desk! We strongly supported this bill, which would transition IL’s SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) Program from mandatory to voluntary. A voluntary SNAP E&T program will be better for Illinois in so many ways! It brings us in line with national best practices and paves the way for a skills-based workforce strategy for people on SNAP. We wrote a report about it earlier this year: https://bit.ly/2wB7Jvd. Our current program only has enough services for a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people we “mandate” to participate. We ask people to jump through a hoop that doesn’t exist. Mandatory programs create huge administrative burdens on SNAP participants, on programs who provide services, and on the state. Resources get spent on oversight rather than meaningful services. SB 1791 would functionally eliminate these harmful mandates, and instead allow SNAP E&T programs to focus on helping job seekers on SNAP build the skills they need to enter career pathways and earn family-sustaining wages.
2. SB 1786: The License to Work Act
The License to Work Act would eliminate driver’s license suspension as a penalty for most non-moving violations in Illinois, with the biggest impact being parking and compliance tickets. This is the third year that the Jobs Council has worked with our Transit Table coalition to advance the License to Work Act, and this year we advanced the bill farther than ever before, through the Senate, and through House committee. We hope to take advantage of the fall Veto Session to pass the final legislative test: a vote on the floor of the House.
One notable win from this year was the continued strength of our coalition and the growing consensus we are helping to build that driver’s licenses should not be suspended for debt collection or other non-moving violations. We were also happy to welcome a wider variety of allies than ever before, including Americans for Prosperity Illinois and the Illinois Policy Institute as supporters of this bill.
3. SB 2024 – Apprenticeship Study Bill
This bill is also headed to the Governor’s desk! It was supported by the Illinois Apprenticeship Collaborative, and would require the state to collect, publish, and analyze data related to apprenticeship in our state, in order to expand apprenticeships and increase the diversity of who participates and what sectors take advantage of the strategy.
4. Fair Tax
Finally, a more equitable and sustainable revenue system for Illinois has cleared a huge hurdle! The Legislature passed a bill to allow the public to vote about making a change to Illinois’ Constitution to allow us to implement a progressive income tax. Passing this amendment will be critical to allow our state to collect revenue needed to fund essential programs that create social supports and equity. Now, the real work begins as we gear up to pass the Fair Tax Amendment this November.
5. Capital Bill
Among the big accomplishments of the 2019 Legislative Session is the passage of a bill providing billions of dollars to fund capital improvements, including improvements to roads and expansion of public transportation in our state. We were thrilled to see this bill include resources to build up the strong, diverse workforce that Illinois will need to accomplish the ambitious projects laid out in the proposal. Specifically, the bill provides creates the “Illinois Works” program, which includes resources to support Apprenticeships as a strategy to connect non-traditional candidates in the building and construction trades. It includes $25 million for community-based pre-apprenticeship programs and incentives for businesses who hire Illinois Works Apprentices through “bid credits” that employers can put towards RFP bids. The bill also included broad funding to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)
“for the purpose of making grants and loans to foster economic development and increase employment and the well-being of the citizens of Illinois.” This bill will be funded through multiple revenue streams, including state bonds, and the timeline for implementation is yet unclear. We’ll be monitoring this and providing updates when we can!
This year’s budget included several pieces of funding that are pertinent to the workforce development field. According to the Governor’s office, these include:
- Expanded childcare eligibility
- Increase in Career Technical Education funding
- Business Apprenticeship Tax Credit
- Created new high paying tech jobs and construction jobs with a data center tax incentive program
- Refocused community college workforce development programs to concentrate on high growth industries
We’re working to learn more about each of these and plan to send a more detailed budget update sometime soon.
7. Cannabis Legalization (HB 1438)
Recreational cannabis will be legal to purchase and consume for adults age 21 and over in Illinois starting January 1, 2020.
It’s worth remembering, however, that cannabis remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government. This is one of the reasons that it’s hard for states to provide strong protections for workers who may be subject to drug testing. Employers in Illinois can and will continue to drug test employees. While some may remove cannabis from their testing panels, and some may also consider eliminating tests, many will continue to test. It is critical for job seekers to understand that the new law does not protect them from losing their jobs for failing a drug test. Furthermore, public consumption will remain illegal, and businesses, landlords, and universities will have the option to ban consumption on their premises. Because of this, many may find that it doesn’t feel like cannabis has been legalized in a meaningful way.
On the bright side, hundreds of thousands of cannabis records will be expunged, and there are provisions to promote businesses and workers from communities of color hit by the war on drugs to join and profit from the industry.
8. Child Support Suspension Bill (SB1473)
This bill makes slight but potentially helpful changes to Child Support collections. It allows for the reinstatement of a driver’s license suspended for nonpayment of child support “if the individual has arranged for payment of the arrearages and current support obligation in a manner satisfactory to” the court or the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. It also provides increased discretion to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services about how and whether to collect interest in some cases.
Previous versions of this bill were much narrower, but during negotiations, progress was made to expand the potential protections for non-custodial parent’s’ driver’s licenses. We will monitor implementation of this bill, and welcome any information about it’s value or opportunities to influence implementation in a way that increases possible employment outcomes of individuals with license suspensions or child support debts.
9. Climate bills
The Jobs Council joined the Clean Jobs Coalition in support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) an ambitious piece of legislation that put equitable access to high-quality clean energy jobs at the center of our state’s necessary transition to 100% renewable energy. With so many big ticket priorities on the agenda, CEJA did not advance through both houses during this session. However, we plan to work with the Clean Jobs Coalition to continue to build support for CEJA and particularly for the important workforce development components of the bill.
10. Other bills we’re excited to see go to the Governor’s Desk:
- Healthcare Worker Background Act (SB 1965)
This bill simplifies the process for individuals with criminal records to work in healthcare jobs.
- No Salary History (HB 834)
This bill prohibits employers from asking applicants about their salary history, which will help to reduce the gender wage gap.