Senate Week in Review: September 13-17, 2021

SPRINGFIELD – A revised energy bill passed by the House of Representatives last week was approved by the Senate Sept. 13 and signed into law less than 48 hours later. The controversial legislation includes the largest utility rate increase in Illinois history, provides subsidies to wind power and solar power systems, and sets a date when carbon-based plants must close.

Also during the week, Senate Republicans questioned the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on Sept. 14 about the authority they believe they have to strip recognition status away from public and private schools that do not adhere to the mask mandate handed down by Gov. JB Pritzker.

In other news, the Senate Republican Caucus is embarking on a statewide listening tour, and Senators will be hosting town halls and teleforums in their districts to gather input from residents and answer their questions.

Revised energy legislation passes in Senate and is signed into law

With one swift stroke of his pen, this week Gov. Pritzker imposed the largest utility rate increase in Illinois history, took property rights away from land owners and cherry-picked which utilities are subject to new ethics regulations.

After two years of back-and-forth between Democrats, environmentalists and representatives of labor, the final version of a comprehensive energy bill was passed by the Senate Sept. 13. The final language, which was built off of several elements of legislation the Senate passed earlier in month (Senate Bill 18), was added as an amendment to Senate Bill 2408.

State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) said he supports a cleaner energy future for Illinois, but feels the provisions of Senate Bill 2408 go too far and place the needs of labor and environmentalists ahead of ratepayers, who will have to absorb a significant rate hike. The ultimate amount of the rate hike is unknown, and ranges from the Governor’s estimate of 80 cents per month, to an AARP analysis, which estimated monthly increases to be as high as $15 per month.

Other concerning elements of the energy bill signed on Sept. 15 include:

  • Eliminates the use of fossil fuels with no plan to backfill that energy source so that blackouts/brownouts can be prevented in the future.
  • Closes the Prairie State Coal Plant seven years earlier than the date listed in Senate Bill 18. This places municipalities in the Prairie State consortium on the hook for remaining debt service payments for energy they will not be receiving from Prairie State while having to also purchase energy from another source.
  • Gives private companies the power to invoke eminent domain in nine counties, stretching from Pike County to Clark County, to build out new transmission lines. This sets a dangerous precedent.
  • Provides nearly $700 million in ratepayer funds to bailout Exelon.
  • Excludes wind power and solar power systems from the same ethical standards that traditional energy must follow.

Most elements of the new law take effect immediately.

Senate Republicans on JCAR push for clarity from ISBE on school recognition revocations

After questioning ISBE representatives about their authority to revoke a school’s recognition status and withhold state funding for non-compliance with mask mandates, Senate Republicans who serve on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) joined other members of the panel Sept. 14 in asking ISBE to place their policies for mask enforcement in administrative rule. Specifically, ISBE was asked to provide clarifying rules that outline processes the agency will utilize prior to the revocation of a school’s recognition status. ISBE was asked to update JCAR within 30 days.

As ISBE representatives were questioned and prior to the JCAR ruling, Kristen Kennedy, Deputy Legal Officer for ISBE, said the agency did not plan to participate in JCAR’s rulemaking process, and instead would rely on authority she believes exists through a court decision that found that executive orders for mask mandates at school were lawfully issued and are enforceable.

Senate Republican Caucus launches listening tour

The Senate Republican Caucus is kicking off a statewide Listening Tour with September dates set in Dixon, Peoria, Morton, and Quincy. Other regional listening tours are scheduled for October and November across the state.

Illinoisans will have an opportunity to attend a regional event in or near their home town, and will also be offered an opportunity to participate in a regional teleforum featuring Senators from their area.

Stewart will be hosting a town hall meeting in Dixon on Sept. 23, and will also be a guest in town hall meetings Oct. 13 in DeKalb and Nov. 15 in Harvard. Stewart will also co-host a teleforum on Oct. 19. For more information, visit https://senatorstewart.com/ (check Upcoming Events at bottom of page). Click https://www.ilsenategop.org/stewartrlt to RSVP for Stewart’s Sept. 23 town hall meeting and click https://www.ilsenategop.org/teleforumregion4 to RSVP for Stewart’s Oct. 19 teleforum.

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