CHICAGO – In what she views as an imperative step toward a more equitable criminal justice system, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation that would give tens of thousands of Illinoisans a second chance at a clean slate by clearing their criminal records of arrests for which charges were acquitted or not filed.

“Even if the government doesn’t have a solid case or decides not to prosecute, having an arrest record can hinder an individual’s advancement in all aspects of their life – from housing to education to job prospects,” Hunter said. “It is an injustice to subject people to that if there is no chance they’ll be convicted of a crime, or even charged.”

Senate Bill 3476 requires automatic expungement of records in cases where:

  • arrests result in release without charges;
  • charges result in acquittal or dismissal; or
  • the conviction was reversed or vacated.

This would not apply to arrests related to domestic violence or sexual assault.

Studies indicate that nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords and more than 3 in 5 universities and colleges perform background checks while assessing applicants.

SB 3476 also requires that after an automatic expungement, the arresting authority must notify, by mail, the person whose record has been expunged.

“Innocence should not come with a price tag,” Hunter said. “We know that arrests disproportionately affect African-Americans, and low-income Illinoisans who, more often, lack the means to pay for expenses related to the expungement process.”

Under the current procedure for expungement, the petitioner must file a request for the records to be sealed or expunged. A copy of the petition must be served to the State's Attorney or prosecutor in charge of prosecuting the offense, the Department of State Police, the arresting agency or the local government entity that made the arrest. Any party entitled to notice of the petition may file an objection with the circuit court clerk. The red tape and legal expenses are often a barrier to low-income Illinoisans.

SB 3476 has been assigned to the Senate Criminal Law committee.

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SPRINGFIELD – School administrators and employers would no longer be able to enact policies banning dreadlocks, braids and other hairstyles, or punish those who wear them, under legislation introduced by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

“Hair styles are a core part of African-American history and culture,” Hunter said. “Far too often, black women, men, and children are forced to suppress their cultural identity in order to more closely align with someone else’s culture. This legislation would end that.”

Currently, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination against a person because of his or her actual or perceived race. Senate Bill 3477, known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, expands that protection to include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

SB 3477 follows the lead of California and New York, which both instituted versions of the CROWN Act in 2019.

Hunter’s measure comes amid reports in the media that students across the United States are being penalized by hair discrimination policies.

“We want children to be proud of their culture and heritage,” Hunter said. “Discriminatory hair policies strip them of that pride and inject self-doubt.”

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The measure also allows individuals convicted of providing liquor to minors over 20 years ago to become school bus drivers

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SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that makes various changes to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Driver Services Department, including a provision that would prohibit those convicted of aggravated domestic battery from obtaining a school bus driving permit. Senate Bill 2752 is sponsored by State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

“This is a matter a child safety. Serious violent crime convictions should be a non-starter for anyone responsible for the well-being of children,” Hunter said. “Parents deserve the peace of mind of knowing their children are in safe hands coming to and from school.”

Current law prohibits a person convicted of the lesser offense of domestic battery from obtaining a permit, but an individual convicted of the more serious offense of aggregated domestic battery can still obtain a school bus driving permit.

SB 2752 also includes changes that would make it easier for individuals with certain non-violent convictions to find jobs as school bus drivers. The legislation would allow a person convicted of providing liquor to a minor more than 20 years ago to obtain a school bus driving permit. Currently, those convicted of providing liquor to a minor are banned for life from obtaining a school bus driving permit.

“Punishments should always line up with the severity of the offense,” Hunter said. “Imagine a 21-year old provided liquor to underage peers. If they’ve dealt with the consequences of that conviction and gotten their act together since then, we shouldn’t be punishing that person 20 years later by barring them from certain job opportunities.”

Additionally, SB 2752 would allow the Secretary of State to issue a state ID card to a person in the custody of the Department of Human Services any time prior to their release.

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) advanced legislation out of the Senate Public Health committee Tuesday that would take a multipronged approach to fighting sickle cell disease that includes new funding and programs for educational materials, research, and treatment of the condition affecting roughly 3500 people in Illinois.

“The goal here is to curb the deep social impact and mortality rate of sickle cell disease,” Hunter said. “We know it tends to affect underserved communities, who consistently lag behind when it comes to access to comprehensive care and preventative treatment. This is a meaningful step toward closing that gap for future generations of African-American children.”

Senate Bill 3107 creates the Sickle Cell Prevention, Care and Treatment Program under the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The program is designed to expand efforts and resources for the prevention, care and treatment of sickle cell disease, including an educational outreach campaign.

The program would provide the following:

  • Increased access to health care and pain management therapies for individuals with sickle cell disease with services provided either directly by HFS or indirectly through a contract with health care providers, municipal health departments, or community-based organizations;
  • Establishment of additional sickle cell infusion centers;
  • Counseling to any individual, at no cost, concerning sickle cell diseases, sickle cell traits, and the characteristics, symptoms, and treatment of the disease with services provided either directly by HFS or indirectly through a contract with health care providers, municipal health departments, or community-based organizations; and
  • The development of a sickle cell disease educational outreach program geared toward medical residents, immigrants, schools and universities, and businesses.

The measure also directs HFS to perform a study with assistance from the Center for Minority Health Services and representatives from healthcare providers and community-based organizations to determine the following:

  • The prevalence, by geographic location, of sickle cell trait carriers and individuals diagnosed with sickle cell disease in Illinois;
  • The location and capacity of treatment centers, clinics, community-based social service organizations and medical specialists for the treatment of sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait carriers;
  • The underserved areas of Illinois for treatment of sickle cell disease; and
  • Recommendations for actions to address any shortcomings in the state regarding sickle cell disease.

The sickle cel train an inherited blood disorder that affects approximately 8 percent of African-Americans. In order to develop sickle cell disease, both parents must possess the sickle cell trait or have the sickle disease.

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