READI Chicago lobbies lawmakers in Springfield

This month as part of the inVEST campaign, staff and participants from all four READI Chicago communities traveled to Springfield to lobby Illinois lawmakers to dedicate revenue toward the campaign’s goal of reducing gun violence in Chicago by 80 percent in the next five years.

“[Participants] got to talk to legislators about the importance of READI Chicago, the tools they have learned since joining the program, and how legislators could support this work throughout the state,” said Quintin Williams, Heartland Alliance’s field building manager. “It was an impactful day, and we’re grateful to all the leaders and legislators we met with!”

Participants and staff shared with lawmakers the impact of READI Chicago on their lives, after which they joined hundreds of other members of inVEST in a rally outside the State Capitol. Senior Director Eddie Bocanegra joined legislators on the steps, urging Illinois to set aside a portion of revenue from marijuana sales to fund programs dedicated to reducing violence and reinvesting in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of low-level drug offenses.

Just weeks after the READI Chicago lobby day, the Illinois legislature sent a recreational cannabis legislation proposal to Gov. J.B. Pritzker that would set aside 25 percent of tax revenue from marijuana sales for community reinvestment. Gov. Pritzker has already indicated that he looks forward to signing the legislation, which would potentially result in more than $40 million next year for communities served by READI Chicago, and more than double that in subsequent years. The Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program, a provision of the legislation, will direct public resources to proven gun violence prevention programs, a pivotal move considering the vast majority of violence prevention programs in Chicago are supported primarily through private resources, while the ability to coordinate and scale this work will require sustained public funding.

“The idea of leveraging resources from the marijuana bill is critical,” Eddie told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s natural that the revenue should benefit communities disproportionately affected by lower-level drug convictions. We have to address root causes.”