A Sit-Down with State Representative Mike Halpin (D-72)
Your house district includes communities such as East Moline, Moline, Rock Island, and Milan. What civil legal issues do your constituents need the most help with? And how has the pandemic impacted them?
During the pandemic, the biggest issue we saw locally was applying for unemployment insurance. As we emerge, my expectation is that mortgage foreclosure and evictions will be the most pressing issues that legal aid will be helpful with. Our system of affordable housing was upended by this pandemic, and it will take many months, and even years, to bounce back.
As an attorney, what do you feel is the biggest benefit to providing people with access to legal aid?
Many disputes between individuals can be resolved amicably when the parties are represented and each side has a realistic expectation of what can happen in court. Clients that would otherwise go without an attorney can be more successful in settlement, when taking the case to court would get them nothing. When you have an attorney, that translates to feeling empowered and having a better feeling that the system is not stacked against you.
You undoubtedly hear from many advocacy groups with funding requests. What’s the most effective way organizations can communicate the importance of their issue to elected officials?
The most effective way to reach elected officials are personal contacts, by phone, email, or letter, from local residents, combined with a personal presence by organization representatives in Springfield. Legislators need to know what is important to people back in their districts, and be able to have organizational representatives flag legislation and answer questions we may have. These two things combined have the best effect on informing us of the issues.
You’ve served five years now in the General Assembly. What legislative accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of helping to pass responsible budgets each and every year I’ve been in Springfield. When I arrived, it had been nearly three years since Illinois had passed a budget. Working in a bipartisan manner, in my first year we were able to change that, and have done the same every year since, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Stability, above all else, is what Illinois needs to get back on track, and responsible budgeting is essential to that stability.