“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
A lot has happened since the last publication of the GA Roundup as I skipped a week for a vacation. Governor Pritzker joined Senators Durbin and Duckworth along with many others for the official opening of Lion Electric. See below on a number of announcements out of the Governor’s office as well as a ruling on no cash bail.
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Governor Pritzker Focuses on Business Development, Clean Energy Jobs at Joliet Assembly Plant Opening
Governor J.B. Pritzker has spent much of his time in recent weeks promoting the state’s electric vehicle industry and touting the impact of his signature Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, or CEJA, including during a weeklong trade mission to the United Kingdom.
On Friday, Governor Pritzker was in Joliet where he joined other elected officials and local dignitaries to celebrate the grand opening of a new Lion Electric assembly plant, the first new automotive factory in the greater Chicago area since 1965.
Lion Electric announced plans to build its new facility in May 2021, just as state lawmakers were negotiating the final details of CEJA. The Canadian-based company specializes in medium and heavy-duty all-electric vehicles, including electric school buses. The 900,000 square foot facility in Will County is expected to employ about 1,400 people and have a production capacity of 20,000 buses and trucks per year.
The Lion Electric factory opening came on the same day that the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced $38 million in funding availability to develop 13 regional “CEJA Workforce hubs,” a training program that’s intended to prepare people for entry-level jobs in the clean energy industry.
Speaking at the Lion plant Friday, Pritzker outlined some of the state’s EV manufacturing and workforce development programs included in CEJA, the 2021 law that will require 100 percent carbon-free energy production in the state by 2045.
“This is about more than just cars on the road. It’s also about making sure that we have the buses, the community experience of the new clean energy economy,” Pritzker said, directing his comments toward younger people in the audience. “Because while all of that is very important, it’s predicated on having a planet that’s environmentally sustainable for your generation and beyond.”
The event came on the heels of a weeklong trade mission that Pritzker led to the United Kingdom, where he and 41 other state government and business officials spent much of their time promoting Illinois’ electric vehicle industry and its clean energy initiatives.
Among the events they attended in the U.K. was the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an annual motorsports festival in southeast England, where Pritzker said the delegation met with officials from many auto manufacturing companies, including some in the EV industry.
“Goodwood attracts the senior executive teams from, really, all of the major automotive companies across the world,” Pritzker said during a virtual news conference just before leaving the U.K. “So it’s a great place to go to meet everybody all at once, everybody from Mercedes to Toyota to Ford, and all the other companies that you can think of, and also some of the startup companies as well, many of the EV suppliers.”
In addition to promoting the state’s clean energy industry, Pritzker said the U.K. trip was also an opportunity to tout Illinois’ assets in the emerging field of quantum computing, as well as more traditional industries such as financial services, hospitality, manufacturing and food processing. But he said the state’s clean energy initiatives, and CEJA in particular, have become big selling points when marketing Illinois to an international audience.
“Don’t underestimate that here in the U.K. and across Europe, the idea that we are focused on (being) fossil fuel-free by 2050 … is quite important to them,” he said. “When they think about states – Mississippi or, you know, I could name lots of states that don’t have climate policy – they know that their customers expect them to be producing products using clean energy, and that can’t be done, or at least not enough of it, in those other states.”
The delegation that travelled to the U.K. included Pritzker and his wife MK, several members of his staff, several officials from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, higher education officials and executives from several Illinois-based companies.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the Pritzker’s paid for their own travel and the state paid the expenses of state employees. But a final cost of the trip was not yet available because not all participants had yet submitted their expense reports.
Governor Pritzker Announces $38 Million for CEJA Workforce Hubs
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $37.9 million in funding for the Illinois Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program or “CEJA Workforce Hubs.” The program represents the largest training component of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), establishing a network of 13 community-based hubs across the state offering training, job placement services, barrier reduction support and more. The organizations that will run CEJA Workforce Hubs will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
“It’s been our priority since day one that as Illinois moves into the clean energy future, we make sure to continue to build strong career paths for those breaking into this growing industry,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Investing in these workforce hubs is a cornerstone of that commitment, working in collaboration with educational institutions and businesses to build on our successes as we move towards a greener and more equitable state.”
The CEJA Workforce Hubs are at the core of a highly interconnected set of statewide clean energy workforce development and community support programs. The Hubs will provide training and certification in alignment with the Clean Jobs Curriculum Framework to prepare people for entry-level clean energy jobs, including an introductory bridge training program and at least two job-specific training programs in the clean energy space, which will be selected by each Hub based on the local clean energy workforce needs. Participants can attend free of charge, receive a stipend, and access support services through barrier reduction funding.
The CEJA Workforce Hubs will align with the needs of clean energy employers, provide students with nationally recognized certifications, and provide a pathway to long-term careers in the renewable energy, electrification and energy efficiency industries. The program will also provide access to educational and career counseling along with hands-on learning that will reinforce foundational professional skills taught in the classroom. The program is anticipated to enroll 1,500 participants during its first year, with capacity increasing over the course of the program.
“The CEJA Workforce Hubs are key to the state’s transformative clean energy workforce efforts,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “With a key focus on equity, the 13 Hubs will open up opportunities and serve as a critical launchpad to obtain jobs in Illinois’ growing clean energy sector.”
The program is bolstered by Barrier Reduction Program funding, which will provide services for participants to address common barriers for underrepresented populations such as transportation, childcare, supplies, and other expenditures that often amount to roadblocks to success. $22.9 million is allocated for the Clean Jobs Workforce Network Program and $15 million is allocated for the Energy Transition Barrier Reduction Program.
Each Hub will also closely coordinate with Energy Transition Navigators and other community partners to recruit individuals for the training programs. Hubs will develop partnerships with employers to help meet workforce needs and provide transition services following the completion of the training programs to help participants find jobs.
Through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), qualified entities can apply for grants, with awards ranging from $1 million to $5 million (inclusive of CEJA Workforce Hubs and Barrier Reduction Program funding). Applications will be accepted until September 1, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance.
Qualified entities include community-based organizations such as non-profits, community colleges, and local governments that provide employment skills, training or related services located in the 13 geographic areas designated as hub locations by statute: Alton, Aurora, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago (South Side), Chicago (Southwest and West Sides), Danville,
Decatur, East St. Louis, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Waukegan. DCEO anticipates identifying at least one grantee to administer the program in each of the 13 locations.
The CEJA Workforce Hubs Program is one of several workforce programs established by the landmark CEJA legislation intended to move Illinois to a 100% carbon-free future. Under CEJA, DCEO will administer $180 million per year in workforce and community support programs designed to build Illinois’ clean energy economy and prepare the state’s workforce and communities for the jobs of the future.
Training Programs Launched
|Description||Locations (defined in Statute)||Status of Program|
|CEJA Workforce Hubs||Provides training, barrier reduction services, transition services, creates employer partnerships and more||Alton, Aurora, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago (South Side), Chicago (Southwest and West Sides), Danville,
Decatur, East St. Louis, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Waukegan.
|Accepting applications for qualified community-based providers through September 1, 2023.|
|Climate Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program||Provides pre-apprenticeship training and certification, barrier reduction services and transition support for clean energy opportunities in the trades||Chicago metropolitan area
Northern /Central Illinois Southern Illinois
|Applications under evaluation as of July 20, 2023.|
|Energy Transition Navigators Program||Primarily supports with outreach & recruitment efforts for priority populations for CEJA programs||Alton, Aurora, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago (South Side), Chicago (Southwest and West Sides), Danville,
Decatur, East St. Louis, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Waukegan.
|Accepting applications for qualified community-based providers through August 15, 2023.|
Additional CEJA training and community investment programs administered by DCEO:
- Clean Energy Contractor Incubator Program (20 ILCS 730/5-45)
- Clean Energy Primes Contractor Accelerator Program (20 ILCS 730/5-55)
- Returning Residents Clean Jobs Training Program (20 ILCS 730/5-50)
- Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Initiative Fund (20 ILCS 3855/1-75)
- Energy Transition Community Support Grants (20 ILCS 730/10-20)
- Jobs and Environmental Justice Grant Program (20 ILCS 730/5-60)
Governor Pritzker Announces $10 Million for Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched $10 million in funding for the third round of the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program provides training opportunities, expands the talent pipeline, and boosts diversity in the construction industry and building trades. Grantees will be selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) process.
“Since we first launched the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program two years ago, hundreds of underrepresented Illinoisans have learned new skills and advanced their careers—further strengthening our world-class workforce that is as diverse as our great state,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “As we continue to Rebuild Illinois—from roads and bridges to airports and transit systems—my administration is committed to ensuring that every resident, no matter their background, has the opportunity to take part in our bustling trades and construction industries. This $10 million in additional funding for the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program achieves exactly that—all while centering equity at every turn.”
The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program launched in 2021 with the goal of increasing diversity and access to apprenticeship programs. Comprehensive pre-apprenticeship programs can help participants gain admission to apprenticeship programs, which provide a greater opportunity to obtain employment in the construction trades.
“The opportunities provided by the Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program are paramount to ensuring students are given the tools they need to thrive in the workforce,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “We’ve seen a great amount of success from previous rounds of Illinois Works and look forward to assisting pre-apprentices in every corner of Illinois while encouraging participation from historically underrepresented communities through this latest round of funding.”
The latest round of funding will focus on awarding grants in geographic areas without pre-apprenticeship programs, while increasing the representation of underrepresented groups that are not served or are underserved by existing programs, including Asian Americans, veterans, and women. The Illinois Works Pre-Apprenticeship Program will fund approximately 45 programs throughout the state including new and existing grantees, serving more than 1,800 residents.
Through Illinois Works, DCEO is expanding its statewide network of providers to recruit, prescreen, and provide pre-apprenticeship skills training. The program providers offer structured pathways and manage the program graduates’ transition from the pre-apprenticeship program to a full apprenticeship program in construction and building trades.
Participants of the program attend tuition-free and receive a stipend and other supportive, barrier reduction services to help enter the construction industry. Upon completion of the program, pre-apprentices receive industry aligned certifications which will prepare and qualify them to continue to a registered apprenticeship program in one of the trades.
Applications are open to all Economic Development Regions, with a focus on expanding capacity in the following areas:
• Central Region (Region 1) – Sangamon County
• North Central Region (Region 3) – Peoria County, McClean County
• Northeast Region (Region 4) – DeKalb County, DuPage County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, McHenry County, Suburban Cook County, Will County
• Northwest Region (Region 6) – LaSalle County, Rock Island County, Whiteside County
• Southeast Region (Region 7) – Marion County, Lawrence County
• Southern Region (Region 8) – Jackson County
Eligible applicants include non-profit, community-based organizations, such as industry associations, chambers of commerce, local workforce areas, community colleges, technical schools, and school districts. Experienced and new providers are encouraged to apply, along with existing Illinois Works grantees who propose to serve a different geographic area or Economic Development Region than they were originally contracted to serve. Applicants serving priority Economic Development Regions and underrepresented populations as outlined in the NOFO will be granted extra points during the merit review process.
Qualified entities can apply for grants between $55,000 to $550,000. Applications will be accepted until August 30, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit the DCEO website. Interested parties are encouraged to reach out to CEO.GrantHelp@illinois.gov for application assistance.
To help applicants prepare to apply for funding, DCEO will also be providing technical assistance in the form of webinars, regional meetings, and FAQ. More information will be posted on the DCEO website.
Governor Pritzker Takes Action to Bolster Illinois’ Hydrogen Economy
Further delivering on his commitment to make Illinois a national leader on climate action, Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill 2204, establishing a tax credit for users of clean hydrogen in the state of Illinois.
“Here in the Land of Lincoln, we refuse to deny the looming threats of the climate crisis—and we are taking tangible action to create a more sustainable, environmentally-conscious future for the next generation of Illinoisans,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This tax credit for users of clean hydrogen won’t just bolster our clean energy economy—it further sets us on a path towards reaching our ambitious goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.”
This legislation creates a tax credit of $10 million per year in 2026 and 2027 for users of clean hydrogen. At the conclusion of the tax credit, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will run a comprehensive study to evaluate both the emissions impact of the tax credit and the national landscape to recommend additional policy measures to ensure Illinois remains competitive in the clean hydrogen economy and meets the clean energy goals outlined in the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.
The tax credit was designed to keep pace with the state’s clean energy goals and includes a number of measures to ensure environmental benefit. In addition to the comprehensive study, those measures include:
- Directing funds to eligible uses that have been agreed to by environmental groups and industry to ensure hydrogen investments are made where they can have the greatest impact while also maintaining the state’s electrification goals.
- Ensuring that hydrogen projects have community input via public hearings and requiring 40% of the benefit go to equity investment eligible communities as outlined in CEJA.
The bill also contains workforce provisions in line with the nation-leading standards that were set in CEJA, including requiring a minimum equity standard and requiring Project Labor Agreements.
This action builds on the state’s landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which set a national standard for aggressive decarbonization goals by pledging to be completely reliant on clean energy by 2050. Investing in clean hydrogen is a key component of decarbonizing the transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture industries. By jumpstarting the hydrogen market in the Midwest, the state of Illinois will add to its robust number of clean energy jobs and bring down the cost of clean energy alternatives for those who reside here. Prioritizing clean hydrogen will lead to reduced pollution, enhanced energy security and improved public health conditions for all Illinoisans. Simultaneously, the status of globally competitive industries will be protected, and emerging industries will be encouraged to increase their footprint in the Midwest.
Governor Pritzker, AFSCME Council 31 Announce Contract Ratification
Governor JB Pritzker’s administration and AFSCME Council 31—the largest union of frontline Illinois state employees—have announced the ratification of a new contract after membership voted overwhelmingly in favor.
The agreement was tentatively reached by negotiators for the state and the union in the early morning hours of July 1. Over the past two weeks, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 attended local union meetings throughout the state to review and vote on its terms. The four-year agreement is now in effect.
“Illinois is a pro-worker state—and when it comes to workers’ rights, my administration is committed to ensuring that every Illinoisan has access to good-paying opportunities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This contract represents a partnership that won’t just expand our pool of state employees—it will strengthen our state’s workforce and provide opportunity for employees and their families. I’m thankful for a productive negotiation that led to a contract which recognizes the valuable contributions of state employees and makes government more efficient.”
“AFSCME members care deeply about serving their communities. They go above and beyond to meet challenges like the COVID pandemic and staff shortages,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “This contract helps to address the toll that inflation has taken on state employee incomes and keeps health care affordable.”
The agreement provides for a 4.0% pay increase retroactive to July 1. In all, base wages will rise 17.95% over four years. Other provisions include expanded parental leave to 12 weeks and new joint efforts to improve workplace safety.
The agreement also includes a number of significant actions to expedite the filling of vacancies and improve strategies to recruit, hire, and retain workers, such as:
- Modernizing how vacancies with State agencies are filled by updating the contract language to reflect the state’s transition to an electronic hiring process.
- A commitment to work together to streamline the State’s hiring process to improve the pace at which vacancies are filled.
- Increasing hiring and retention of current employees by forming a joint labor-management committee that will meet to identify roadblocks to hiring.
- Implementing a pilot program for recruitment bonuses for positions that have high vacancy rates.
- Ensuring that employees on Parental Leave may still bid on vacancies during their leave.
AFSCME represents some 35,000 state employees who work to provide the essential public services our communities need in every part of Illinois, every day. They protect children, care for veterans and people with disabilities, help struggling families, keep prisons safe and much more.
Illinois Supreme Court upholds no-cash bail law to take effect in 60 days
In 60 days, cash bail in Illinois will be no more after the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the Pretrial Fairness Act portion of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act. The sweeping criminal justice measure narrowly passed in early 2020 and had been amended multiple times, including in December 2022 with a law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed to clarify that criminal defendants charged with violent crimes can be held pretrial while those charged with nonviolent crimes can be let go without bail.
The no-cash bail provision was supposed to go into effect statewide Jan. 1, 2023, but was put on hold by the Illinois Supreme Court after a Kankakee County judge declared the law unconstitutional.
The challenge from state’s attorneys across Illinois claim the measure violated the constitution’s separation of powers. They argued if the legislature wanted to change the surety portion of the pretrial process, they should have posed the question to voters.
“The Illinois Constitution of 1970 does not mandate that monetary bail is the only means to ensure criminal defendants appear for trials or the only means to protect the public,” the majority opinion said. “For the reasons that we have stated, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. Sixty days after the filing of this opinion, on September 18, 2023, this court’s stay of pretrial release provisions in Public Acts 101-652 and 102-1104 shall be vacated.”
The majority opinion came from Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis and was concurred by Justices P. Scott Neville, Joy Cunningham, Elizabeth Rochford and Mary O’Brien. In a dissenting opinion, Justice David Overstreet said the state’s high court should have struck down the law.
In a statement, Pritzker, currently in the United Kingdom, said of today’s ruling, “We can now move forward with historic reform to ensure pre-trial detainment is determined by the danger an individual poses to the community instead of by their ability to pay their way out of jail.”
For those who are currently jailed and cannot afford bail, the new law also establishes a process for petitioning for review, Grace added.
“Some of those petitions for review could be filed pending Sept. 18 or they could be filed on Sept. 18,” Grace said. “I think those are going to be a lot of individual decisions and individual legal judgments that are made by attorneys across the state.”
Pritzker signed the controversial bill in 2021, but the elimination of cash bail wasn’t due to be implemented until Jan. 1, 2023. Anticipating potential legal challenges to that provision, state Democrats passed a bill that tweaked the law during the 2022 fall veto session.
But just days before that was supposed to go into effect, a Kankakee County judge ruled that the cash bail provision violated the state’s separation of powers. Because that ruling applied to only about two-thirds of state’s counties, the Illinois Supreme Court halted the cash bail provision so it could review the challenge and apply a final decision across all counties in Illinois. Arguments were heard in March ahead of Tuesday’s ruling.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry