It has been a busy Spring on the CBF advocacy front at both the state and federal levels, and we were thrilled to have leaders from the CBF again visit both Springfield and Washington over the past month for the first time since the pandemic started.
Working with our colleagues at the CBA, ISBA, ABA, and other partners, the CBF continues to focus our advocacy efforts on funding for legal aid, student debt reform, and modernizing the court system to improve access. And thanks to tremendous leadership and support from our legislative and executive branch leaders at both the state and federal levels, there already has been some good progress this year.
Legal Services Corporation
At the federal level, the CBF continues to advocate for funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which funds legal aid programs in the Chicago area and throughout the country. Last year, with strong support from our Illinois congressional delegation, LSC received a $24 million increase in their annual funding, bringing the total funding to $489 million. That new overall funding total translates into about $15 million in annual support for the three LSC-funded Illinois legal aid programs, a critical part of the funding for the overall legal aid delivery system.
However, even with this recent increase, LSC is more than 1/3 below its funding in inflation-adjusted dollars from back in the early 1980’s, when many fewer people were eligible and in need of these services. The President is proposing an increase to $700 million for LSC in the FY 2023 budget to help close that gap, and the CBF is joining our state and national partners in advocating for that increased level of funding.
The CBF also continues to advocate for an equitable, fiscally responsible, and sustainable solution to the student debt crisis. This has been a major priority in the CBF’s advocacy efforts, and thanks to some great work by a team of pro bono lawyers over the past two years, the CBF was able to propose a balanced legislative solution that has been well received by our Illinois delegation.
A new bill introduced this Spring, The Affordable Loans for Any Student Act (H.R. 7288) is a solid start towards our more comprehensive CBF proposal, with a streamlined income-based repayment program as the centerpiece of this new bill. The CBF is advocating for support for this bill and its Senate counterpart while also encouraging amendments to include other key elements in our proposal, particularly a one-time refinance option for those with current student debt and accountability provisions for both schools and borrowers.
The CBF continues to advocate for the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security Act, H.R. 4436 and S.2340. This bill is a critical effort to bolster privacy protections for the safety of judges and their families. Senator Durbin already is one of the cosponsors for the bill in the Senate, and the CBF is joining our colleagues at the ABA, CBA, and ISBA to encourage our entire Illinois delegation to support it.
On the Springfield side, there was some solid progress on several priority CBF advocacy issues in the recently passed FY 23 state budget. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, which is the core state funding entity for legal aid and access to justice in Illinois, received its first budget increase in ten years, to $4 million annually.
In addition, the Supreme Court received further support in its budget to continue its efforts to modernize the technology infrastructure for the Illinois courts, a key step towards building the new and more accessible hybrid court system of the future.
And lastly, the CBF continues to advocate for HB 2542, which would modernize and increase access to the name change in Illinois. The bill already has passed the House, and with the leadership of the Senate sponsors and growing support in the Senate, appears on a good track to pass later in the year.