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Sen. Bush won’t run again; Cannabis Czar Hutchinson leaving administration

Wednesday, Dec 15, 2021

* I am really going to miss her…

Today, State Senator Melinda Bush announced she will not seek re-election to the Illinois State Senate. First elected in 2012, Senator Bush has built an unparalleled record of fighting for women’s rights and equality in Illinois, from enshrining women’s reproductive health rights into law to passing strict anti-harassment protections and advancing women running for elected office at all levels of government.

“Serving the residents of the 31st District for the last nine years has been the honor of my life. It’s not a place I ever expected to be, but I’m so grateful to all of the amazing people I’ve met as I have traveled across our district and our state working to make Illinois a better place for all who call it home,” said State Senator Melinda Bush. “I’m immensely proud to have helped advance policies that have moved our state forward: making Illinois the most pro-choice state in America; passing landmark legislation to make Illinois a global leader in the fight against climate change; changing the way our state funds education to ensure all students, regardless of zip code or economic status, receive a quality education; and so much more. While I will not be seeking re-election, I will remain an engaged voice on behalf of my community and am committed to lifting up the voices of women throughout Illinois.”

Senator Bush has successfully championed women’s rights and equality throughout her time in office. She was the chief sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act in 2019, which ensures abortion will remain legal in Illinois if Roe vs. Wade is overturned at a time as states across the country continue to enact restrictive abortion policies. She also led efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois, an important step toward bringing equal justice to women.

At the height of the #MeToo movement, Senator Bush chaired the bipartisan Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention. The task force resulted in the passage of some of the strictest sexual harassment and discrimination protections in the country, keeping Illinoisans safe for decades to come and fundamentally changing both the way the legislature and private businesses operate in the state of Illinois. As a member of the Anti-Harassment, Equality and Access Panel, Senator Bush traveled across Illinois and heard women tell their stories about sexual harassment, discrimination, and the way political parties excluded them from the process. As a result, she started the Lake County Democratic Women, which has trained, supported and funded more than 45 Lake County women at the state and local level in the last five years.

Senator Bush has also built a long record of advocating for environmental justice, fighting to combat the opioid crisis and standing up for Lake County citizens and their communities. She’s sponsored critical legislation, including:

    • The Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act, landmark legislation to replace the state’s lead pipes and ensure clean drinking water for our children
    • The nation-leading Clean Energy Jobs Act to ensure Illinois achieves 100% renewable energy by 2050
    • Numerous pieces of legislation to address the opioid crisis, expanding access to the life-saving heroin antidote Naloxone, strengthening prescription monitoring to prevent the over-prescription of opioids, and providing resources and treatment options to those struggling with substance abuse
    • Legislation to bring millions of dollars in infrastructure funding to the 31st district

“Of all our accomplishments, I am most proud of the work that my team and I have done in our 31st District communities. From day one, we wanted to provide the best services and assistance to those we represented, and I sincerely believe we have done just that,” added Senator Bush. “When I first went to Springfield, I used to carry a frog necklace in my pocket to represent the old adage about a boiled frog, reminding me to be hyper-aware of how your environment can change you. I’m confident that during my time in office, I’ve been able to stay true to my ideals and values as we’ve worked to make life better for thousands of Lake County families.”

Senator Bush was born and raised in Lake County. Prior to running for Senate, she was a small business owner and a Lake County Board Member. She lives in Grayslake with her husband Andy.

* Ditto for her…

Today, the Marijuana Policy Project announced that Toi Hutchinson will join the organization as its new president and CEO. Hutchinson, a former Illinois state senator, most recently served as senior advisor to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on cannabis legalization implementation.

For the past year, MPP Executive Director Steven Hawkins has led both MPP and the United States Cannabis Council (USCC). Hawkins will now exclusively focus his efforts on federal cannabis reform at USCC. MPP will remain a member of USCC and continue to share staff, board members, and resources.

“Toi’s unique resume is perfectly suited to lead MPP as we finish our reform work state-by-state across the country,” said MPP Board Chairman Sal Pace. “Toi worked alongside MPP as one of the initial authors of the Illinois adult-use cannabis legislation to ensure that the law contained a strong social justice framework that included decriminalization in addition to legalization. MPP has always been focused not only on legalization but also on doing it right and ending the war on drugs.”

“I am proud of what we have accomplished at MPP and look forward to working alongside Toi in the fight to end cannabis prohibition,” said Steven Hawkins, president and CEO of USCC. “MPP played a pivotal role in incubating USCC, and we are now taking that work to the next level. Toi is an incredible leader, and I know that our organizations will work tirelessly to advance our shared goals.”

“The MPP Board is thrilled with the work Steve accomplished during his four-year tenure. These past four years have been the most productive years yet for marijuana reform. MPP will continue to work with Steve as a member organization of USCC, including continuing to share some staff between the two organizations,” said Sal Pace, MPP Board Chair.

“I’m pleased to be joining the team at MPP, where I will continue my years-long effort to develop and support cannabis legalization legislation that centers on equity and repairing the harms of the past,” said Toi Hutchinson. “We are incredibly proud of the hard work and lessons learned in Illinois, standing up programs to invest in equity entrepreneurs, reinvesting in communities, and clearing hundreds of thousands of arrests and criminal records.

“Steve Hawkins’ work at MPP was stellar, and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity along with legislators and partners across the country to advance the goals and mission of MPP by harnessing our collective power to advocate for changes to federal cannabis policies.”

In addition to her position as senior advisor to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Toi also served as an Illinois state senator and an attorney at the law firm of Chapman and Cutler. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences (English) from the University of Illinois and a Juris Doctor from Northern Illinois University College of Law.

Toi is a member of the Chicago Federation of Women, the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, Links, International, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Since MPP was founded in 1995, it has spearheaded most of the major state-level reforms that have occurred over the past two decades.

MPP played a leading role in 10 of the 18 adult-use legalization laws, starting with the historic 2012 Amendment 64 initiative in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize cannabis for adults. MPP also led the coalitions that passed initiatives to legalize and regulate cannabis in Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, and Montana between 2014 and 2021.

In addition to managing ballot initiative campaigns, MPP has also enacted numerous policies by passing laws through state legislatures. MPP spearheaded the advocacy campaigns that made Vermont and Illinois the first two states to legalize cannabis for adults through the legislative process and played a critical role in enacting the most recent legalization law to pass via state legislature—in Connecticut earlier this year.

…Adding… Terry Cosgrove…

Filling the shoes of Senator Melinda Bush will be close to impossible. Elected and re-elected from a district that was never considered “safe,” Bush fought for what she believed in time after time, knew standing up for what was right and just, being unafraid to tell people why she took the positions she did, was not only good policy, but good politics. The Illinois General Assembly is losing a pro-choice hero, a champion of justice, and one of the greatest examples of what the people of this state deserve in an elected official. Thank you Senator Bush for staying in the fight with us in the years to come as we will need you more than ever!

- Posted by Rich Miller        

16 Comments
  1. - don the legend - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 9:55 am:

    To paraphrase Sonny Corleone: There’s a lotta money in that ‘marijuana’.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 9:57 am:

    Looks like the Food and Beverage Chairman is leaving, this time to work for another part of the casino business.


  3. - Left of the Lake - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 10:14 am:

    Senator Bush will truly be missed. I had the opportunity to see first hand her love and advocacy for the communities in D-31. I hope her and Andy have an amazing retirement.


  4. - SaulGoodman - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 10:20 am:

    These are two of my very favorite people in Springfield. They’re both really going to be missed.


  5. - Artful Dodger - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 10:26 am:

    Hutchinson declaring victory on social equity, then leaving the administration for the CEO role of a national cannabis company before a single Black person is issued a dispensary license is wildly on brand for team Pritzker.


  6. - The Real Downstate - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 10:36 am:

    There had been talk of Bush retiring since the late summer, but it’s still depressing news now that it’s official. A great legislator and advocate for her community.


  7. - walker - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 10:46 am:

    Please read more carefully. MPP is a national policy advocacy organization, not a profit making company.


  8. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 11:06 am:

    Senator Bush had a major political/cultural impact on the entire General Assembly (not just the Senate). Always a little sad when impactful legislators plan to end their service.


  9. - Re-visiting - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 11:32 am:

    Revolving door.
    A policy organization that benefits and is involved with what in Illinois?

    Close to the razor’s edge…


  10. - Yiddishcowboy - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 11:35 am:

    People gotta do what people gotta do. I don’t begrudge Hutchinson for making this jump and bettering herself and her family. And, frankly, I say good for her. MPP is getting a solid, competent, stand up person to head it up.


  11. - Yiddishcowboy - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 12:31 pm:

    @Re-visiting: You mentioned revolving door. The question to be asked is if Hutchinson played a personal and substantial role in (1) awarding contracts (defined very broadly) valued at $25K to MPP or (2) making any regulatory or licensing decisions affecting MPP, within the past one-year “look-back” period. I don’t know that the Gov’s Office (or any state agency under the Gov’s jurisdiction) would be in a place to award a contract, including a grant, to MPP or if any state agency under the Gov actually regulates or licenses MPP. I do wonder if Hutchinson is on the “c-list” or “h-list.” Definitely valid questions to ask.


  12. - Disgruntled Lake Co Voter - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 12:58 pm:

    I was never much of a fan of Senator Bush and her departure is a win for the Stop Eto Community. It’s hard for me to wish her a happy retirement while my community is still being poisoned by Eto. She tanked that bill and was in the pocket of the chemical industry. I hope whoever replaces her is not.


  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    ===Close to the razor’s edge===

    Nah. She ran it thru OEIG. Won’t be working in Illinois.


  14. - stateandlake - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 1:16 pm:

    Sen. Bush is a neighbor. She has served the community honorably — I will miss her. Wonder if Yingling seeks to move to the Senate given this development…


  15. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 2:42 pm:

    Well Hutchinson sure was a disappointment if you cared about social and economic equity.


  16. - Thick and Through - Wednesday, Dec 15, 21 @ 3:46 pm:

    Sen. Bush is the most principled, hardest working legislator I have ever worked with. She took the tough votes, sponsored the tough legislation despite those who told her it was politically problematic. She knew that if she served the people in 31, they would trust her judgment, even knowing opponents would use her principled stances against her. The Senate will not be the same without her. I hope she, Manar & Steans continue to make a difference in Illinois long after their Senate careers are over.


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