Massive changes are happening in Springfield


Since 2006, federal law has capped the annual interest rates on payday loans granted to active-duty military personnel at 36%. The interest rate cap was broadened in 2015 to include several other types of unsecured personal loans.

In Illinois, payday borrowers were subject to average annual interest rates of nearly 300%.

Illinois lawmakers attempted to tackle this problem in 2005 and passed a rate cap that was widely advertised. But the industry took advantage of a gaping loophole and continued to operate.

This legislation was painstakingly negotiated over many months. Under the former regime of House Speaker Michael Madigan, most interests were given seats at the table and then told to find their best deals. Madigan has often said that he was a big fan of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s use of this same method to pass much of his own legislation.

I don’t know about FDR, but MJM also had mouths to feed. The political machine he built (which was copied by other legislative leaders) enabled his most privileged former officials to access contract lobbying jobs, where they continued to run his campaign apparatus and represent a large number of interests under the dome of the Statehouse. .

Hiring one of Madigan’s former employees didn’t necessarily guarantee a victory for a specific industry, mainly because those people represented all sides of almost every room. But it meant they were being listened to. And often the bills couldn’t budge until their concerns were addressed, sometimes leading to very complicated laws that at first glance seemed like victories for Liberal Democrats, but, as with the loan bill on salary, turned out to be paper tigers.

As always, there have been notable exceptions over the years, but this holistic approach began to change after the 2018 governor’s election. A new liberal Democratic governor and empowered lawmakers and progressive interests were no longer content with settle for extra surface earnings and push for big things like a $ 15 minimum wage. For decades Madigan would only agree to small increases in the minimum wage, but soon realized he couldn’t stand in the way of this freight train.

Then, as the Black Legislative Caucus truly united for the first time during the uproar of 2020 and began working on a vast body of reform legislation, Madigan found itself under fire from all corners. Federal prosecutors were clearly following him, and an ever-growing number of his own caucus members were increasingly tired of his leadership and wanted him to leave. He needed allies and he needed them fast.

These two phenomena, combined with a new untested Senate Speaker (due to the pandemic cancellation of the 2020 legislative session), a national mood shift and many other factors, produced an environment that The Black Caucus took full advantage to pass a remarkable number of high-profile criminal justice, education, and economic bills during January’s brief lame duck session.

The days of Madigan’s “everyone at the table” incrementalism ended with progressive bills that were far from watered down. Madigan’s long and successful career also ended in January. His gambit didn’t work.

Last week Governor Pritzker enacted the massive Black Caucus bundle of bills dealing with economic reform. Among them was SB1792, a bill that essentially enforced the military’s simple but apparently effective interest rate cap on payday and other personal loans. The payday loan folks were outraged at how they had been left out of the process and predicted the imminent demise of their industry.

We’ll see if the industry’s terrible predictions turn out to be true, but it’s as clear as day that a massive change is happening, not just in the types of bills that have been passed, but in the way they are passed. were adopted.

The question now is whether the January session was an extremely intense bushfire that will be extinguished and / or extinguished by more moderate Democrats, or whether the path taken by the General Assembly will be maintained.

As an example, Representative Curtis Tarver (D-Chicago) ‘s bill to eliminate qualified immunity for police officers advanced out of committee last week.

The Black Caucus Criminal Justice Reform Bill originally contained this qualified immunity provision, as well as limits on collective bargaining rights for police unions. But their bill was only able to garner enough votes when they agreed to remove those elements at the behest of some moderate Democrats.

Tarver’s bill could put more heat on those same moderates and create tensions within the party. So this bill could be one to watch.

• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political bulletin, and

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