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Illinois Progressives. We LOVE Illinois Progressives!
A round of applause for our Blue State of the Week
Welcome to another edition of the Blue State Special — the weekly feature we get around to doing once a month or so. It’s a chance to point out there are a bunch of states where Democratic governors and legislatures are doing neat stuff, even if they don’t get the sort of media attention that governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer do. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at Illinois, where Gov. JB Pritzker and the Democratic supermajorities in both houses of th Legislature) have done a heck of a lot of stuff we can definitely call “neat.”
Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, is officially the richest person holding office in the US, which of course he also was when fake-billionaire Donald Trump was in the White House. But because Pritzker appears to be genuinely not evil, he’ll probably get a pass from the coming “Eat the Rich” laws. He spends bigly on electing Democrats nationwide, including himself, and while that’s good for getting Dems elected, it’s no substitute for a really strong public campaign funding law (what they have in Maine, by the way, and there’s a detail we missed in our earlier roundup of achievements for Gov Janet Mills and Dems there).
Oh, hey, here are the other blue states in our series so far!
Nerd PA Gov Josh Shapiro Trying To Horn In On 'Hot Sh*t Blue State Doin' Good Things For Citizens' Contest, What A Nerd
Because he’s a big mover and shaker in national Democratic politics, Pritzker has been the focus of speculation that he might run for president, not to mention some silly drooling that he’s just waiting to jump into the 2024 race if only Joe Biden dropped out and then Kamala Harris did too, which is more levels of what-ifs than we want to bother with. But as this New York magazine profile from August notes, Pritzker seems mostly happy doing the power broker thing and offering Biden his enthusiastic support, plus some advice now and then, like last year when he urged Biden to be more vocal about abortion rights in the lead-up to the midterms. Biden has certainly thanked Pritzker for his generous campaign spending, and the two frequently talk on the phone.
Let’s talk policies! A few highlights, and if we missed some, it’s because we live in Idaho and it’s Saturday morning:
Pritzker made headlines last year following the mass shooting at the Fourth of July Parade in Highland Park when he said,
“If you are angry today, I’m here to tell you to be angry. I’m furious. I’m furious that yet more innocent lives were taken by gun violence. I'm furious that their loved ones are forever broken by what took place today. I'm furious that children and their families have been traumatized. I'm furious that this is happening in communities all across Illinois and America. I'm furious because it does not have to be this way and yet we as a nation, well, we continue to allow this to happen. While we celebrate the 4th of July just once a year, mass shootings have become our weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”
Pritzker and the General Assembly followed that up with action, including a ban on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, which was upheld by the state supreme court in August, although Crom only knows what will happen when the Trump-McConnell federal courts inevitably get their bloodstained hands on it.
In May 2022, Pritzker also signed a ban on “ghost guns,” and this year he signed a bill to prohibit ads marketing guns to kids and militants, who one hopes are different groups.
Nonetheless, wingnuts nationwide will continue to say “but what about Chicago?” in arguments over gun restrictions until the heat death of the universe, completely ignoring that most guns banned in the city come from nearby states with lax gun laws, with others originating from firearms shops elsewhere in Illinois, or in thefts from “responsible” gun owners who didn’t secure the damned things.
Illinois legalized cannabis sales at licensed dispensaries as of January 1, 2020, with similar limits to other states, and the expected boost in tax revenue too. Heck, this is one of those things that’s almost de rigueur in blue states now, innit? Pritzker has also followed that by pardoning thousands of people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses, and the state seeks to expunge such convictions from criminal records, too. Critics are not 100 percent delighted with the state’s efforts to pursue social equity goals in the awarding of dispensary licenses, however. So hey, opportunity to improve that!
Education ‘N’ Family:
Whole bunch of neat stuff for schools and families in Illinois, in Axios bullet-list style!
Mandatory paid family leave of up to 40 days per year.
A ban on book banning, hell yes. Starting in 2024, schools that don’t adopt strong protections of the freedom to read will lose a chunk of state funding.
Full-day kindergarten, to be offered in most Illinois public schools starting with the 2027-28 school year.
An August 2023 law requiring schools to take concrete actions to measure and address childhood trauma, with requirements for school staff to learn and respond to signs of mental illness, trauma, and suicidal thinking, with particular emphasis on “trauma informed teaching” and addressing the higher rates of trauma experienced by children of color and those living in poverty.
More resources to assist grandparents who serve as children’s primary caregivers.
Abortion Rights And LGBTQ+ Protections
This summer, Pritzker also signed new protections for LGBTQ+ rights, including a sweeping rewrite of the language in foster care laws to make sure they’re gender-inclusive and legislation to make it easier for LGBTQ+ couples to marry. In 2021, Pritzker issued a broad guidance protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ students in schools, including protections from harassment and the right to use the restroom or play on sports teams appropriate to a student’s identified gender.
In addition, Illinois passed a law in January protecting gender-affirming care, abortion, and reproductive healthcare rights; like several other states’ protections, it prohibits state agencies from cooperating with other states’ efforts to prosecute people who travel to Illinois for reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare.
In her regularly-updated map of anti-trans legislative risk in the USA, Wonkette admiree Erin Reed lists Illinois among the safest states with the strongest protections for LGBTQ+ residents.
We’re sure that Illinois is doing all sorts of other great stuff too, but as we say, it’s Saturday and we don’t have all damn day, so if we missed anything — or if you want to brag on your blue state’s government! — please do so in the comments, which we do not allow.
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