Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”

Chamber members:

A short update today. A group from our Government Affairs committee will be planning a trip to Washington, D.C. at the end of October to meet with elected officials. Please share any topics/issues facing your business that you would like to see us cover in our meetings. You can email or give me a call to discuss.

*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*

Gov. Pritzker vetoes legislation that would have allowed new nuclear construction and others
Governor JB Pritzker vetoed the following legislation:

Senate Bill 76 – Veto
Senate Bill 76 would have removed a 1980’s moratorium on new construction of nuclear power plants to allow for the construction of both advanced and traditional large-scale nuclear reactors in Illinois. The bill passed in May with three-fifths majorities in both legislative chambers, meaning that if all of the members that voted for it also support an override of the governor’s veto, it still could become law. Its Senate sponsor, state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she has already filed paperwork to bring the bill up in the legislature’s fall veto session scheduled for late October and early November.

The governor said in a message to lawmakers explaining his veto that he did it “at the request of the leadership team of the Speaker of the House and advocates.” While Pritzker said he saw “real potential” in small modular reactors, or SMRs – a type of “advanced” nuclear reactor that proponents tout as a path forward for the industry – he also said he doesn’t think the legislation goes far enough in regulating the nascent technology.

“This bill provides no regulatory protections for the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors,” Pritzker wrote. “My hope is that future legislation in Illinois regarding SMRs would address this regulation gap.”

The governor also cited an “overly broad definition of advanced reactor” in the bill that he said could “open the door to proliferation” of large-scale nuclear power plants, like the reactors at the state’s six existing generating stations. Pritzker said these traditional reactors are “so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts.”

The bill would have allowed for the construction of reactors that meet the federal government’s definition of “advanced reactor,” which requires that fission reactors have “significant improvements” to things such as safety features and waste yields. Rezin, in a phone interview, said Pritzker’s characterization of the bill allowing construction of traditional reactors is “just not true.”

“This is a pattern of a governor that is bending to special interests,” Rezin said. Rezin also noted the limitation in the bill to only apply to advanced reactors came out of bipartisan negotiations. “Advanced nuclear reactors would help supplement the flaws that wind and solar unfortunately have by providing reliable power 24/7, because wind and solar alone don’t have the infrastructure or technology to provide our state with the reliable, affordable and efficient energy it needs,” Rezin said in a news release.

Rezin’s claims about advanced nuclear reactors are contentious, particularly among some environmental advocates that have been leading voices in the push for carbon-free energy in Illinois. On Tuesday, a pair of influential advocacy groups sent a letter to Pritzker asking him to veto the bill. The Sierra Club Illinois Chapter and the Illinois Environmental Council’s joint letter outlined several concerns, including waste disposal, costs and a lack of up-to-date regulation.

“Nuclear power comes with significant safety risks and results in highly hazardous wastes that threaten our drinking water, with no safe, permanent waste solution in sight,” IEC Executive Director Jen Walling said in a Friday news release. “Rather than abandon all safeguards, Gov. Pritzker recognized that such substantial risks merit the highest protective guardrails our state can offer.”

Waste was the central concern of the original moratorium, which will end when the head of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency finds the federal government has “identified and approved” a method for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste, a responsibility the federal government has failed to successfully act on.

Currently, nuclear waste is stored on-site at the plant that produced it. But in the 1970s and 80s, a facility outside of Morris, Illinois, became home to waste from California, Minnesota, Nebraska and Connecticut, making Grundy County the nation’s only de facto high-level storage site.

Rezin defended her proposal on the subject of waste as well, pointing out in an interview that companies building nuclear reactors must submit plans for waste management when they apply for permits. “This is a very heavily regulated industry by the federal government,” Rezin said.

Beyond waste, environmental advocates also say that focusing on nuclear power diverts attention and resources away from the development of wind, solar and battery storage technology. “SB76 would have opened the door to increased risk, negative environmental impacts, and higher costs for consumers while jeopardizing our progress toward Illinois’ clean energy future,” Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin said in a Friday news release.

The nuclear moratorium does not affect research reactors, like the one under development at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

House Bill 2507 – Amendatory Veto
House Bill 2507 addresses many issues surrounding property taxes, including important property tax relief for surviving spouses of first responders and other more technical changes that the Pritzker Administration supports.

The Governor has issued an Amendatory Veto due to a change that was added to give private nursing home owners in Cook County a property tax break. That break passes the tax burden to Suburban Cook County homeowners and small businesses, with the most impact felt in the South Suburbs. That change to property taxes on homeowner’s risks driving up costs for residents and threatens local school funding.

House Bill 2878 – Amendatory Veto
House Bill 2878 addresses procurement issues important to the Pritzker Administration. But, because the bill allows for the creation of public private partnerships (P3s) with counties, municipalities, and any other unit of local government without proper oversight in place, the Governor has issued an Amendatory Veto.

The Governor has removed this provision through an Amendatory Veto that creates a local pathway for private industry to enter P3 agreements that skirts transparency and anti-corruption requirements established in state statute, including ethics, BEP, campaign finance, and procurement laws. It also puts the state at greater risk of project failure by decreasing competition and reducing the opportunity for public input currently required under state law during the P3 project planning and implementation process.

Activists to pitch legislation to alter state ban on rent control
Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair is today and reports were that we would see a little legislative action as a coalition of progressive groups planned to announce a new bill that would give communities a potential opt-out from the state’s ban on rent control.

The Lift the Ban Coalition planned to announce the Let the People Lift the Ban Act (HB 4104) on Wednesday morning at the State Fair. If enacted, municipalities would be able to put the matter before voters, allowing them to choose whether to exit the state’s blanket ban via a local referendum.

In a press release ahead of the news conference, the coalition said of the state’s current housing situation: “With pandemic-related rent relief funds drying up and eviction moratoriums sunsetting, Illinois is spiraling back into a housing affordability crisis. Nearly half (48.1%) of Illinois renters are rent burdened under federal standards, paying more than a third of their income on rent. Evictions have reached pre-pandemic levels and are rising.”

The bill, the coalition said, would “put power in the hands of everyday Illinois residents who have been disenfranchised to lift the ban on rent control.” A spokesperson for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said that the governor hasn’t reviewed the bill since it was filed after the spring legislative session.

Why a stopgap funding bill could face a rocky road in the House
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), facing a tricky path to passing government funding bills in the face of pressure from the GOP’s right flank to cut spending, is signaling that lawmakers will turn to a short-term stopgap funding bill when Congress returns in September. But the move to buy more time comes with its own complications.

Demands from conservatives regarding Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security funding, a White House request for supplemental aid for Ukraine and right-wing skepticism about the length of a continuing resolution (CR) could all threaten to sink Congress’ move to avoid a shutdown after Sept. 30.

McCarthy told Republican lawmakers on a Monday evening conference call that he expects to move a continuing resolution, but does not want it to last so long that it jams up against the winter holidays, according to multiple sources on the call. McCarthy stressed that he does not want a year-long continuing resolution and wanted to get spending bills signed into law that include policies preferred by Republicans, one source stressed.

The need for a CR had been widely expected. The House GOP passed just one of the 12 regular appropriations bills before leaving for the August recess and was forced to delay plans to pass another last month by conservative demands to slash spending and moderate unease with an abortion provision. But McCarthy’s remarks this week were his most definitive yet that GOP leadership will turn to a stopgap.

GOP leaders have downplayed the internal disagreements about the spending bills, arguing that their decision to go through the regular appropriations process rather than using a large omnibus like in years past will naturally result in disagreements.

Still, the calculus is further complicated because any spending measures will have to make it through negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which crafted its bills at the higher spending levels agreed upon in the debt ceiling deal. Those bills received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee.

In one sense, Congress has incentive to complete its funding work by Jan. 1, due to a provision in the debt limit bill passed earlier this year to automatically cut a continuing resolution across the board by one percent if Congress does not approve all its funding measures.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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