IEC's Springfield team on the last day of regular session, pictured from left to right: Al Grosboll, ELPC; Terri Treacy, IL Sierra Club; Jen Walling, IEC; Rebecca Osland, IL Stewardship Alliance; Jack Darin, IL Sierra Club; Abe Scarr, IL PIRG.

IEC’s Springfield team on the last day of regular session, pictured from left to right: Al Grosboll (ELPC); Terri Treacy (IL Sierra Club); Jen Walling (IEC); Rebecca Osland (IL Stewardship Alliance); Jack Darin (IL Sierra Club); Abe Scarr (IL PIRG).

Regular session for the General Assembly ended on May 31, marking an important deadline because bills passed after this date require a supermajority instead of a majority vote to pass. June 30 is the end of the fiscal year. While the continuing budget impasse remains an obstacle for many of IEC’s priorities, we were happy to make progress on several key issues this session, which are highlighted below:

Prevent Lead in Drinking Water

First, some good news: a bill that would require primary schools to test drinking water sources used by kids for lead passed the Illinois Senate 48-5. This bill will also require all water suppliers to begin an inventory of lead services lines and increases notification of the risk of lead level increase during water main construction. SB550 still must pass the Illinois House, but there is strong support for addressing this serious children’s health risk in Illinois. Thank you to State Senator Heather Steans for her leadership on this bill!

Environmental Impacts of Budget Impasse

However, session ended yesterday without a budget passed for FY17 or FY16. The budget impasse impacts have continued to grown. The Southern Illinoisan recently ran a guest editorial on the flow-through of federal dollars for habitat redevelopment that is not being reimbursed in Illinois. We also recently heard from the Illinois Power Agency about issues it will have procuring renewable energy as past due bills mount. The Illinois State Museum has still not opened and is staring down possible loss of its museum accreditation. IDNR has announced the museum may open July 2 if JCAR approves a $5 entrance fee, but there is controversy surrounding a bill that would require these sites to stay open. This is in addition to the dozens of other impacts that we have outlined earlier.

Illinois Clean Jobs Bill Update

We have also reached May 31 without progress on our significant priorities, particularly the Illinois Clean Jobs bill. The IL Clean Jobs Coalition released this statement on the status of the bill.

“The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition has had constructive conversations with ComEd and Exelon aimed at modernizing the state’s outdated energy policy. While we are encouraged that we were able to find some common ground, especially in the area of energy efficiency, more progress is necessary to arrive at a final agreement, including on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and protecting Illinois consumers. We look forward to continuing these discussions, and we remain committed to ramping up both renewable energy and energy efficiency to build thousands of new jobs in every part of Illinois and save consumers more than a billion dollars on their electric bills.”

Legislation Headed to the Governor:

EJ CommissionSB2920 adds members to the Environmental Justice Commission, including new affected community members and labor. This bill was sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Senate and Rep. Silvana Tabares in the House.

Seed librariesSB3130 exempts seed libraries from industrial seed laws, protecting these exchange of seeds saved by gardeners and promoting this practice. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Tim Butler and Sen. Sam McCann.

Alligator Gar ProtectionHJR141 seeks to protect and reintroduce alligator gar, a prehistoric native Illinois species. Recent research has shown that these animals are capable of eating adult asian carp. The sponsors of this bill were Rep. Mike Zalewski and Sen. Sam McCann.

Monarch license platesHB6182 creates a decal on the universal license plate to fund the planting of milkweed to create monarch butterfly habitat. Sen. Melinda Bush and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez sponsored this legislation.

Food donationHB5530 prohibits food service contracts that restrict unused food from being donated to soup kitchens and food pantries by public agencies and schools. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Patricia Van Pelt.

Local Food, Farms, and Jobs CouncilHB5933 restructures the members of the local food, farms, and jobs council. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss and Rep. Robyn Gabel.

Food CooperativesHB5898 restructures the cooperative act to support new cooperative businesses. The sponsors were Rep. Anna Moeller and Sen. Iris Martinez.

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Partners for Parks and Wildlife

Partners for Parks and Wildlife (PPW) is a grassroots coalition that is dedicated to secure and increase funding for open space and park acquisition, natural area preservation, wildlife habitat protection and recreational opportunities in Illinois.

Learn More About Climate Change

The U.S. EPA’s website on climate change was once a great resource for basic scientific information on the topic and we look forward to the day that it is again. Until then, the City of Chicago is making sure its citizens have access to research and information.

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