Reentry advocates will resume push to enact a school jobs access bill

Reentry leaders celebrated a key House vote this spring with HB494's sponsor, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy
Reentry leaders celebrated a key House vote this spring with HB494’s sponsor, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy

By Jonathan Holmes, Policy Specialist

Following Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 494, another version of the jobs access bill will be introduced this fall. Like the original bill, the measure would remove lifetime bans to employment within Illinois schools for people with a non-violent record.

Rauner expressed full support for the substance of HB 494, but his August 14 veto claimed a technical concern with its language. Though rarely used before this year, state law allows the governor to place an amendatory veto by suggesting technical or substantive changes as a prerequisite for signing a bill into law. 

Rauner wrote that Illinois law never mentions a 7-year bar to employment for lesser felonies, so HB494 should not have included clarifying language on that point. HB 494 also would lift the lifetime ban for drug-related felonies, reducing the wait to seven years.

Advocates initially sought to get an amended bill passed by the House and Senate in August. Its chief sponsor, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), decided instead to reintroduce a new bill that includes the minor language change cited by the governor.

Sponsored by Rep. Cassidy and State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), HB 494 was advocated for by a coalition of community leaders and staff from CCH, Community Renewal Society, and Cabrini Green Legal Aid. Community leaders visited Springfield five times this session to advocate for this bill and were told by multiple legislators that this was “the most lobbied bill in Springfield” this session. After nearly two years, the bill passed with strong bi-partisan support with backing from a diverse group of organizations, including the Illinois State Board of Education.

More than 50 community reentry leaders worked for passage of HB 494, knowing it will help people’s lives. Advocates will seek to pass the new bill with three-fifths support, which would allow the measure to take effect six months earlier, on January 1, 2016.