February 2024 Newsletter

This year’s legislative session marks my fourth year as your State Representative! I am so grateful to continue representing the 12th District in Springfield and to advocate for issues that impact my constituents. As we gear up for a busy session, I wanted to give you a legislative update and a look into what to expect in the next month:

Recently, I filed two bills to add to my list of this year’s legislative priorities. These bills are:

HB 4657, which is a 10-year extension of the Housing Opportunity Area Tax Abatement Program. The program, which is currently set to expire at the end of 2024, allows owners who rent to participants in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program to receive a property tax abatement in an amount up to 19% of a property’s Equalized Assessed Value (EAV). Access to affordable housing is an issue that I hear often from constituents, and this program incentivizes affordable housing opportunities in areas that traditionally don’t have them.

HB4550 would increase the penalty of someone caught with a ghost gun from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony. Currently, if someone is caught with a ghost gun, which is an unserialized and homemade firearm, they are only charged with a misdemeanor. This legislation would bring the ghost gun possession charge in line with all other illegal handgun possession charges.

At the start of the 103rd General Assembly last year, each member was assigned to various committees based on their background and experience. The committees I’m assigned to include: Revenue and Finance, Gaming, Childcare Access and Early Childhood Education, Adoption and Child Welfare, Immigration and Human Rights Committees, and I am the Chair of the Financial Institutions and Licensing Committee.

Every piece of legislation that is newly filed is assigned to a committee based on subject matter. In order for a bill to move to the House floor for debate, it first needs to be heard and voted on by the members of its assigned committee. To view my assigned committees and to track upcoming hearings, please visit the ILGA.gov website.

Please reach out to my office to voice your support or opposition for upcoming legislation and to request background information on any legislative questions you may have. I am optimistic of the year ahead and look forward to updating you along the way!

Black History Month

The month of February commemorates the achievements, contributions and culture of Black Americans. This Black History Month, discover the diverse cultural offerings of the city while celebrating Black history by supporting Black-owned businesses, attending exhibits, and participating in local events. Here are a few resources to help you plan your month:

  • Visit Choose Chicago’s How to celebrate Black History Month in Chicago blog for a list of upcoming events, museum exhibits, concerts, and historic landmarks for you to visit this month.
  • Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce put together a Black History Month Business Spotlight feature to share their favorite Black-owned businesses in Lakeview East.
  • Chicago Black Restaurant Week is back and runs until Feb. 25th! This restaurant week first started back in 2015 to celebrate and support Black-owned restaurants all throughout the city of Chicago. This year’s week-long event will feature themed days, specials, events, and prizes.

Have a favorite Black-owned business you would like us to highlight throughout the month? Email us at info@repcroke.com with your recommendations!

Diaper and Baby Wipes Donation Drive

My office is partnering up with the Old Town Triangle Association for a Diaper and Wipes Donation Drive! Social service organizations are in great need of diapers (all sizes) and wipes — both for recent migrants and those in need. You can purchase donations online through our Amazon Wish List or in-person at one of the drop-off locations. Donations will be accepted now through February 18th.

Constituent Services Highlight

Do you have questions about the Secretary of State’s policies for small businesses? Are you experiencing trouble with obtaining the licensure necessary to carry out your dream job? My office is here to assist.

In order to showcase the high-quality work that my office does and ensure residents know how we can be helpful, we asked a constituent who recently reached out to our office about his experience. Here is what he had to say:

We are able to assist you with any questions or concerns related to state programs. Examples of state-related programs and common constituent inquiries include:

If you are not sure who to contact regarding an issue pertaining to government affairs, my team is always happy to connect you with the appropriate resource.

Grant & Scholarship Opportunities

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity recently announced the opening of the Tourism Incentive Grant Program! The program will provide grant funding for the establishment of an incentive grant program used by eligible entities to attract new out-of-state events to Illinois when competing with other states’ destinations. It may also be used to retain existing business when documentation is provided that the entity is competing against other states’ destinations to retain the business in Illinois. Eligible applicants include local governments, not-for-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, etc. For more information please visit here.

DCEO Grant Training Information Sessions

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is conducting information sessions and office hours designed to help entities seeking grants. The training session topics will detail the pre-qualification process, as well as other critical information. Check out this link to sign-up for an upcoming session.

Do you want to stay up-to-date on active state grant opportunities? Subscribe to Illinois NOFO Notifications to receive a weekly digest of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) offered by state agencies.

To subscribe, send a blank email (subject and body) to subscribe-omb-gata-grants@lists.illinois.gov.

The Township Officials of Illinois recently opened up the application window for their 2024 Scholarship opportunities! They will be awarding seven, $2,000 scholarships to Illinois high school seniors who will be attending an Illinois college or university. Applications are due by March 1st, 2024. Please visit here for more information.

The Chicago Area Laborer’s Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET) is awarding twenty, $2,000 scholarships to graduating seniors! 10 individuals will be selected in a random drawing selection and 10 will be awarded scholarships through the Academic/Merit Based Award. The scholarship application window closes on March 31st, 2024. In order to qualify for this scholarship, you must be a senior expected to graduate high school in Spring 2024 and a dependent of union laborers. For more information, including how to apply, visit here.

Community Updates

18th Police District Council Meeting

The 18th Police District Council is hosting their monthly meeting at Wintrust Bank (100 W. North Ave.) on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6pm. The upcoming meeting will include an overview of the Chicago Police Board, an independent civilian body appointed by the Mayor that decides serious police disciplinary cases. RSVPs are not required but are encouraged. To do so, please visit here.

19th Police District Council Meeting

The 19th Police District Council is hosting their monthly meeting at Uptown Church (1134 W. Wilson Ave.) on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 6:30pm. The meeting will feature a presentation by the Independent Monitoring Team on the court ordered CPD consent decree. RSVPs are encouraged for the upcoming meeting. To do so, please visit here.

REAL ID Information

A REAL ID from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office or a valid U.S. Passport will be required for Illinois residents who fly domestically beginning May 7th, 2025. For information on other types of identification accepted by TSA, please visit the TSA website. To view which documents you need to apply for a REAL ID, visit the REAL ID Interactive Checklist.

REAL ID applicants have the option to make an appointment at one of the 30 appointment facilities, or they can visit a walk-in facility. To determine what facilities require an appointment or to make an appointment, please visit Secretary of State Facility Appointments.

After School Matters Spring Application is Now Open!

Chicago nonprofit After School Matters (ASM) is now accepting Chicago teens’ applications for their spring programs running Feb. 26 – May 11. Teens ages 14-18 can choose from hundreds of programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM, to discover their passions, develop new skills for life beyond high school, and earn a participation stipend in the process. Interested teens can apply at https://afterschoolmatters.org/apply/. Applications are reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis until the spring programs are filled.

Apply to Vote by Mail

Interested in voting by mail in the upcoming election? Vote by Mail applications are now open for the primary election on Tuesday, March 19th. All requests must be submitted by Friday, March 15th at 5pm. To request a vote by mail ballot, please visit here.

Looking to vote in-person? The first day of early in-person early voting in all 50 Wards is March 4th! To view your polling place, verify your voter registration status, and to view your sample ballot, visit the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.

In the Community

Old Town Triangle Association Annual Meeting

I had the pleasure of attending the Old Town Triangle Association’s Annual Members Meeting to speak with members and provide an update on my legislative agenda for this spring.

Lunch with the Consul-General of Japan

Japanese Consul General Jun Yanagi hosted my colleagues Representative Canty, Representative Gabel, Representative Mussman and me for lunch to discuss ways in which we can collaborate to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the State of Illinois.

Advocate Health Beam Raising Ceremony


To commemorate the completion of the structural construction for their new Patient Pavilion, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center hosted a Beam Raising Ceremony. Hospital Leadership, fellow elected officials, and I all shared why this hospital is integral to the Lakeview neighborhood and how this addition will aid in Advocate Illinois Masonic’s long standing tradition of providing exceptional medical care to the community. It was a privilege to celebrate this milestone with Advocate Illinois Masonic, and I look forward to the Patient Pavilion’s completion in 2025!

Small Business Shoutout

Every month we highlight a small business in our district. This Black History Month, we are thrilled to highlight Soul Prime Chicago!

In May of 2023, Sonya “Chef Royce” Williams opened Soul Prime Chicago, an elevated soul food experience in the heart of Lincoln Park. Through Soul Prime Chicago, Chef Royce’s vision is to allow people from all walks of life to celebrate her creativity while honoring the roots of soul food history.

A few months after the grand opening, Chef Royce’s hopes were in decline as Soul Prime Chicago’s sales were not consistent enough to maintain daily operations and staff. To her surprise, Las Vegas-based TikTok food critic Keith Lee stopped in to pay the restaurant a visit and featured them on his page, giving rave reviews. Keith Lee has over 15.5 million followers and tours the country providing watchers with food reviews of mainly Black-owned restaurants. To date, Lee’s TikTok review has over 9 million views, drawing thousands of people to the restaurant and has helped solidify Soul Prime’s spot as one of Chicago’s staple restaurants. To learn more about this story, read this Chicago Sun-Times article.

You can find more about Soul Prime on their Instagram page @soulprimechicago or by visiting their website.

If you know of a small business or nonprofit that deserves a shoutout next month, please let us know!

PAWS Chicago Partnership

We have a new PAWS Chicago pal to introduce for February: Meet Thunder!

Thunder is a 13-year-old domestic shorthair cat that is looking for her forever home! When she’s not exploring every nook and cranny of her home, she enjoys spending her free time sitting on the windowsill bird watching and daydreaming. Although she can be a more independent cat, a good shake of the treat bag is sure to get her attention and send her running your way. Give her some time to warm up and she will make a great companion. Thunder would do best as the only cat in a nice, quiet home.

If you’re interested in adopting Thunder or another furry friend, visit PAWS Chicago for more information!

Please remember that my office and I are here to serve you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.