Kudos! Reentry’s Fair Access to Employment (FATE) bill passes, goes to the governor

Headed to the Governor! With a final Illinois Senate vote Wednesday, the General Assembly passed House Bill 5341, the Fair Access to Employment (FATE) bill.

RROCI partners celebrate passing the FATE bill, including (fourth from left) Mercedes González, Glenn Brown, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, and Ali Simmons.

The FATE bill would bar judges from considering an individual’s fines, fees, or outstanding financial obligations when reviewing a petition to seal their criminal record. It does not eliminate the debt, but would stop judges from refusing to seal a record until all fines or fees are paid.

The issue arose after people sought to seal their records, as allowed under 2017 legislation (HB2373). The record-sealing measure was advocated by the CCH Reentry Project and its partners in the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI) — Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal Society, and Heartland Alliance.

RROCI also advocated for the new FATE bill, which passed the Senate by a 32-21-1 vote, and the House, 63-39, on May 24. CCH made multiple trips to Springfield with reentry community leaders to advocate for the bill, involving service providers that included St. Leonard’s Ministries and Haymarket Center.

Said Ali Simmons, a CCH reentry leader, “RROCI viewed this bill as a top priority because after HB2373 passed last year, courts started engaging in the practice of denying sealing petitions based on an individual’s unpaid fines or fees. This was an unintended consequence. It was a way to continue to bar people with criminal histories from sealing their records, obtaining a job, and finally being able to move on with their lives, which includes having the means to pay their fines and fees.”

Kudos to our lead sponsors, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) and State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). Policy Specialist Mercedes González and Senior Organizer Rachel Ramirez led CCH’s effort with leaders Ali Simmons, Gloria Davis, and Glenn Brown.

LINK to HB5341 Fact Sheet

– Anne Bowhay, Media