Black Caucus

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, takes a question on whether the Black Caucus believes in House Speaker Michael Madigan's support for their agenda and if the caucus will support his re-election for speaker. Also pictured is for state Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago.

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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chairwoman state Sen. Kimberly Lightford said her caucus is holding Gov. J.B. Pritzker, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, accountable for their pledged support for their agenda.

At a news conference Thursday in Englewood to unveil the third pillar of the caucus’s four-pronged legislative agenda for the upcoming veto session, Lightford, D-Maywood, was asked whether she believed Madigan’s promise “to try” to support its initiatives to combat systemic racism in Illinois and whether the caucus would support his re-election as House speaker.

“He didn’t say he would try,” Lightford answered. “He said he would. Let’s not water down his statement, or the statement of the Senate president or the governor.

“They’re all being held accountable for the support they said they were going to lend to this initiative, and we need their support and we’re calling on all of our colleagues to support the Black caucus agenda to end systemic racism.”

When pressed again on whether she believed Madigan, Lightford replied that “a man is only as good as his word, and that’s the word the man gave us.”

Thursday’s event focused on economic access, equity and opportunity with a joint Senate committee hearing on housing and gentrification following in the afternoon.

Two other pillars of the agenda — criminal-justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability; and education and workforce development — have both been formally unveiled in separate news conferences and have been the subject of six joint Senate committee hearings to delve into more specific topics such as sentencing reform and funding for early-childhood education.

The fourth pillar, health care and human services, will be formally announced at a later date.

State Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, who serves as the chair of the House Economic Opportunity and Equity Committee, and Sen. Christopher Belt, D-Centreville, the Senate ILBC chair, will lead Black Caucus initiatives related to the economic equity pillar.

“At a time when organizations and residents are ready and working to rebuild and organize, our communities deserve the attention they need,” Harper said. “Black people should no longer be considered or treated as a commodity or just a consumer, but an actual partner in the economic success of this country with equal and equitable access to all the state has to offer.”

According to Lightford, all four pillars will be addressed with legislation during the upcoming veto session, which is scheduled for Nov. 17-19 and Dec. 1-3.

Some legislation will actually be repeated, or there will be newer versions of bills the Black Caucus has filed in the past “5 years or so” but were unsuccessful for various reasons.

“It’s either held in rules, or it can pass one chamber but cannot pass the other, or passes both chambers and the governor vetoed it, or it passed and became law and agencies don’t implement,” Lightford said. “I think our advantage this time is the times that we’re in.

“It started with George Floyd being murdered on May 25, and there’s been a major shift in how injustice and inequities have been at the forefront. The pandemic exposed everything disproportionately impacting black people in health care, and all of the nuances.”

Asked where the money to fund new initiatives to end systemic racism would come from, Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, said legislation would focus on reallocating existing resources to areas of the state with Black communities that have historically faced disinvestment or purposeful under-allocation of resources.

Lightford had a shorter answer.

“It’s going to come from the same place the white caucus gets their money from,” she said.

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