SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As this spring’s legislative session concluded, state Rep. and Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, highlighted her work to support the state’s COVID-19 response and investment in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“While we continue to handle the challenges of the pandemic, we can’t leave anyone behind,” Harper said. “I supported this year’s budget because it recognizes the investment that is needed in our health care system, schools, job programs, rental assistance and other essential services that families depend on. In particular, I fought for a $100 million investment toward youth and violence reduction, pushed for expanded housing and economic development, and helped deliver needed funding for disproportionately impacted areas that have suffered throughout this pandemic.”
In her first year as chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Harper led a number of initiatives aimed at dismantling institutional barriers that have disproportionately hurt Black residents in Illinois.
“I’m encouraged by the progress we have made in recent months to target some of the underlying causes of hardship experienced by people of color,” Harper said. “Legislation tackling criminal justice reform, police accountability, education and workforce development, economic access and opportunity, health care and other priorities were finally passed after years of advocacy. Equally important, we have committed state resources in the budget to make sure these gains are realized.”
Harper notes that more work remains in the fight for equality, and that the General Assembly will need to continue to monitor the implementation and progress of hard-earned reforms.
“If we want to truly build back a stronger Illinois, we can only do so if everyone has the opportunity to not just recover, but also thrive,” Harper said. “Diversity is one of our state’s greatest strengths, we must continue to support it.”
Harper this session secured passage of a number of bills she introduced, including one (House Bill 3097) that will require new drivers to receive guidance on how to interact with law enforcement during a traffic stop.
“We’ve all seen far too many stories about traffic stops that escalate into violence,” Harper said. “Particularly for Black Americans who are too often unfairly targeted, a traffic stop is incredibly stressful. By requiring coursework that explains how to handle a traffic stop as a driver, I am hopeful that we can prevent future tragedies.”
Harper also partnered with the Shriver Center to introduce a Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare Task Force (House Bill 3821), which will examine the racial disparities of children and families involved in the child welfare system. The task force will look at the causes of disparities, and explore ways to reduce disproportionality.
Concerned that school districts are not doing enough to help students who chronically miss school, Harper passed a plan (House Bill 3099) to encourage social and emotional focused attendance intervention. In addition to targeting the underlying causes of chronic truancy, the proposal aims to create individualized student attendance plans to ensure no student is left behind.
Additionally, Harper, who serves as chair of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, passed a proposal to protect the right of residents to grow their own food (House Bill 633) and updated an agricultural education advisory committee (House Bill 3178). Her House Joint Resolution 33 would create the Illinois Good Food Purchasing Policy Task Force to study the current procurement of food within Illinois and to review ways to maximize the acquirement of healthy foods that are sustainably, equitably and locally sourced.
For more information on Harper’s proposals, please contact RepSonyaHarper@gmail.com.
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