New Progressive Caucus sets agenda
Reps. in House check off minimum wage, set sights on pot legalization, campaign finances
By Ted Cox
The new House Progressive Caucus can already check off one major achievement.
On Thursday, the 17-member Progressive Caucus formally announced its legislative agenda, capped later that day by passing its lead item: a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
To come is legalization of marijuana and a small-donor match in campaign finances.
Rep. Will Guzzardi, of Chicago, co-chairman of the new caucus, announced plans for the new legislative bloc shortly after the November general election along with Chairwomen Reps. Carol Ammons of Urbana and Theresa Mah of Chicago.
After saying they had talked with about 10 legislators about forming the caucus last spring, they stood with 14 colleagues in proclaiming the Progressive Caucus on Thursday.
“It’s a new day in Illinois, and we’re excited to lead on this bold agenda,” Guzzardi said. “By enacting these policies, and by organizing around our shared vision, we’ll be able to move our state forward and pass legislation that will transform the lives of the people of this state. I’m excited to be a part of this caucus, and to stand together with so many of my colleagues in this work.”
Legalization of recreational cannabis, with “tight regulations and sensible taxation,” will “reverse a trend of senseless incarceration for minor drug users and create economic benefits for Illinois,” according to the caucus. Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago is leading that initiative.
Saying, “The influence of big-dollar donors and candidates in Illinois politics must be curbed,” the caucus is also backing what it calls a “small-donor match” in campaign finance reform. It would set aside a fund to provide matching donations up to a certain level in order to “level the playing field” with big donors and dark money.
In addition to the three chairs and Cassidy, the caucus includes officers Rep. Celina Villanueva as treasurer and Rep. Delia Ramirez as secretary, House Majority Leader Greg Harris, and member Reps. Sara Feigenholtz, Robyn Gabel, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Rob Martwick, Joyce Mason, Anna Moeller, Aaron Ortiz, Lamont Robinson, Anne Stava-Murray, and Maurice West.