HERALD STAFF REPORT
Members of Hyde Park’s business community peppered State Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) and State Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II (D-25th) with questions about issues ranging from changes to the minimum wage to the new cannabis law to ethics reform.
Sponsored by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday’s session was the first of four community forums scheduled by the Chamber. State Rep. Kambium Buckner (D-26th) was scheduled to attend, but a transportation issue prevented him from being there.
Both Peters and Tarver support the increase in the minimum wage, but acknowledge that it will have an impact on the bottom line of some smaller businesses.
Tarver pointed out that the minimum wage had been so low for such a long time that the increase can’t help but affect some businesses, “but we have to make sure people are being paid a living wage.”
Peters said that the higher wage will allow workers to put more money back into the local economy. “We need to look at the Orland Park model,” he said. “The residents there are spending their extra dollars with the local businesses. We want to create that same of dynamic here in Hyde Park.”
Both legislators agreed that the state’s law legalizing recreational use of cannabis has gaps that need to be filled.
“I’m not satisfied with the progress on the criminal justice issue,” Peters said. “And I’m not satisfied with how the licenses are allocated. It looks like a great deal for white males.”
Peters also expressed reservations that the laws would be applied disproportionally to minorities. “If someone is stopped by the police for some reason,” Peters said, “too often those few grams of pot just get added to the original charge, and it happens far more often to black and brown folks.”
On the issue of ethics reform, both pointed out that Springfield is trying to address the issue, but neither is certain what the best path to reform is, although they agreed one major goal should be to collaborate more with those of the opposition party.
“Right now, we (the Democrats) have a super majority, so we can push through pretty much anything we need,” Peters said, “but that won’t always be the case. We need to make sure we build relationships with the other side.”
“The political system is broken,” Peters said. “The people have lost faith in government; we need to try to restore trust in the government and the politicians.” He cautioned against being reactionary in the approach to ethics reform.
Tarver agreed that reform is needed, but he said the process needed to handled with care. He cautioned that the push to limit lobbying should be examined carefully.
“The line between lobbying and giving legal advice is very thin,” Tarver said. “We need to clarify existing laws rather than make new ones.”