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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



ELECTIONS 2016: STATE REP Kelly Cassidy on budget impasse and dangers of complacency
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

This article shared 710 times since Wed Oct 26, 2016
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As an openly gay legislator and representative for the 14th District, Kelly Cassidy ( D ) has fought innumerable battles since taking on the role vacated by Harry Osterman in 2011 including marriage equality, the prohibition of conversion therapy, school bullying policy reform and mandatory paid sick leave.

On Nov. 8, Cassidy faces a new challenge in the form of independent candidate Arthur Noah Siegel—an everyman who says he was inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign in his decision to make a bid to unseat the incumbent.

Cassidy spoke with Windy City Times about the election and her continuing work in Springfield should she prevail in the election.

Windy City Times: Some of the bills you sponsored in 2016 have a focus on restorative justice and criminal-justice reform. How confident are you about them passing?

Kelly Cassidy: My district is incredibly diverse and these issues are deeply personal to me. My family has been impacted by the criminal-justice system and, in addition, I see every day in my neighborhood the disparate impact of the way we administer justice in this state and in this country on the people that I represent. So it's incumbent upon me to find ways to make things better. We are at a really special time in our history where a lot of conservatives are realizing that we've been foolishly spending money on policies that aren't working. So there's this wonderful confluence that we have now that I feel really compelled to take advantage of and get as much success as we possibly can.

We've done some great work this year on repairing some of the reentry policies of the state. I believe they will make a huge difference in people's lives. But we're not done yet. There's more to do and we can always do better.

WCT: Siegel seems to agree on a number of your positions but his problem is the stalemate over the state budget. He isn't alone in that sentiment even with the stopgap measure passed in the summer. How would you describe the state of impasse and what progress do you think you can make in 2017?

KC: To be honest with you, I think it's a failure of leadership. I've spent a lot of time working with rank and file members on both sides of the aisle who are ready to be the grownups in the room and that's really what needs to happen. The action of a handful of us who refused to pass the speaker's out-of-balance budget that would have just been more of the same, is what pushed us to at least get to the place of a Stopgap.

As we return, we will see a lot more folks from the rank and file who are pushed to the point of forcing real solutions. Every single person in that building, save a couple, knows that we need to add revenues to the budget. We cannot possibly cut our way out of this and we can't continue to do this dance over non-budgetary items holding up the budget. It's become a very personal and pitched battle between the governor and the speaker and that needs to stop. The way that stops is by rank and file members standing up and saying "enough."

WCT: Are there enough rank-and-file members to successfully do that?

KC: I think that we're getting very close to that point. People who have never voted against the speaker, voted against the speaker on the [Stopgap]. I do think there is a great deal of frustration on the part of rank and file members and I think the more time people are spending in their district campaigning and talking to people, the more clear it's going to be to put these non-budgetary issues aside and get the work done that you're there to do. Throughout all of this process, social services have been thrown to the wayside. It's very clear to me that, on the part of the governor, it's very calculated and it can't continue. My district is an area that has a huge need and an incredible reliance on social services and it is reprehensible that the most vulnerable people in our state are the ones paying the highest price for this impasse.

WCT: We've been seeing a lot of ads demonstrating Gov. Rauner's support for the top of the Republican ticket. These have been effective attacks for Democrat down ballot candidates in Illinois but, in a post-Brexit world, isn't there a concern that Trump's base is being underestimated?

KC: Absolutely. People rely on the polls. We've seen that in the last several elections here whether it's that polling hasn't really caught up with new technology. There's also an inaccuracy in the way they are reported. I don't think a lot of people are willing to admit support for Trump. But it is scary, very real and very possible that [a Trump victory] could happen.

WCT: If it does, there are policies such as penalizing Chicago as a safe city for undocumented immigrants that may come into play. How do you push back against Trump's ideas and a Republican governor who supports him?

KC: The first priority is not letting [Trump] win and holding Republicans who are afraid to speak out against him accountable. It is unimaginable that any person of conscience would stand up for this guy. My commitment between now and election day is to do everything I can to make sure that, not only do we defeat this man in the election for president, but that we prevail in those down ticket races.

WCT: What are the attitudes in Springfield, post-marriage equality? Are LGBT issues reigniting?

KC: I think the issue around trans use of bathrooms have given people pause on the victory lap because our work isn't ever really done. I'm meeting in [Washington] D.C. with The Maryland Department of Children and Family Services, who are doing some really innovative work around the placement of LGBT youth in foster care in order to explore options for us here. It took two years to pass the conversion-therapy [ban]. It took two years to pass bullying, and it's still watered down and doesn't have the enforcement I would like to see in there. Our community must be mindful of protecting those who do not have equality yet. Some people think that they get to take their wedding cake and go home but they don't.

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