Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Governor Pritzker has had a busy summer signing and vetoing bills passed from the general assembly. See below for the latest. Also, the most recent news on federal funding as we near the deadline for action. Finally, the first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign is tonight.
As a reminder, 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*
Governor Pritzker vetoes energy omnibus bill, makes recommendations for amendment
Governor JB Pritzker vetoed House Bill 3445, which is an energy omnibus bill that would make changes to the Adjustable Block Grant program to make it more available to public schools.
Pritzker said he is returning the bill because it would “raise costs for ratepayers by giving incumbent utility providers in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region a monopoly over new transmission lines.” He followed by saying if competition is eliminated, rates would increase in the MISO region, where there is already over $3.6 billion in planned transmission construction in the Ameren service territory.
If there was no competition, Ameren ratepayers would end up paying for the transmission projects at a higher cost, which Pritzker said would put corporate profits over consumers. “I cannot support legislation that puts corporate profits over consumers,” Pritzker said in a written statement.
He recommended that the Illinois House omits Article XXIII, “Transmission and Cooperation Law,” which would give an “incumbent electric transmission owner the right to construct, own, and maintain an electric transmission line that has been approved for construction in a transmission plan and that will connect to facilities that are owned by that incumbent electric transmission owner and are or will be under the functional control of the MISO.”
Governor Pritzker said he will approve the bill once the changes he recommended are made.
Governor Pritzker Signs Legislation to Address Food Deserts Across Illinois
Governor JB Pritzker signed Senate Bill 850, which establishes the Illinois Grocery Initiative – a multi-pronged policy designed to address food deserts across the state. It will support existing grocers and encourage new grocery stores to open through incentive opportunities. The legislation also allows grocery stores receiving grants as part of the program to be designated as High Impact Businesses, providing them the opportunity to receive tax credits and other incentives.
“The Illinois Grocery Initiative is the latest expansion of our holistic approach to ensuring Illinois families can reach the big building blocks of a good life,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “When our residents struggle to keep a roof over their head, can’t put food on the table, or have to choose between paying for basic medical care and keeping the lights on—that’s a failure of the system. That’s why I’m proud to sign into law the Illinois Grocery Initiative—a first of its kind $20 million investment to open or expand grocery stores in underserved rural towns and urban neighborhoods.”
Through the Illinois Grocery Initiative, $20 million will be invested in addressing food deserts, with the majority supporting grocers in these areas. The program will provide wrap-around support to local governments and independent grocers opening grocery stores in food deserts, which includes providing technical assistance, feasibility studies and marketing, support with operational costs and access to capital funding for the acquisition of land, facilities, or equipment. Up to 20 percent of program funding may be used for grants for energy-efficient equipment upgrades to existing independently owned, cooperative, and for-profit grocery stores.
In order to gather a full understanding of the proliferation of food deserts and food insecurity in Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will commission a study to explore reasons for market declines, historical disparities for access to food, potential policy solutions, geographic trends, the role of independent grocers, and more. The study is designed to inform potential future iterations of program resources.
Grocers receiving grant support from the Illinois Grocery Initiative will be eligible for the High Impact Business Program to bring down their costs of operations. This includes tax exemptions on utilities and building materials.
“Nobody should have to drive hours to access healthy produce, and the Illinois Grocery Initiative will provide reliable food access to families living in food deserts,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “Investing in new and existing grocery stores will spur economic development in the communities that need it the most.”
Governor Pritzker Announces Recipients of Megasites Investment Program
Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today announced the recipients of the Megasites Investment Program funded through Rebuild Illinois Capital Funds. Through the program, the state will leverage $23 million in grants to generate $144 million total investments in 9 projects across the state.
“Major job creators are always looking for investment-ready sites they can get up-and-running in a short amount of time—and we are proud to boast some of the largest such sites in the nation,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Six months since my administration first launched the Mega Sites Investment Program, I couldn’t be happier to announce that we have selected nine projects across the state to receive a total of $23 million in grant funding—bringing business investment and economic opportunity to every corner of our state, from Chicago and Hennepin to Bloomington-Normal and Carrier Mills.”
Megasites are large, developed sites ready for occupancy for manufacturers, distribution centers, industrial centers, and more. Investing in megasites develops underutilized areas and former industrial sites, while making the State more competitive for large-scale industrial investments.
“The State is having a record-setting year for economic development and investing in megasites will help Illinois gain even more momentum for investment,” said DCEO Director Kristin Richards. “The thousands of acres of megasites across Illinois will encourage businesses to pursue investment-ready sites, spurring economic development throughout the state.”
With sectors like clean energy and manufacturing rapidly expanding in the U.S., major job creators are looking for large, investment-ready sites to locate their growing businesses. By providing grants that enable entities to create investment-ready sites, Illinois is increasing its competitiveness for large-scale investment.
Through the competitive grant opportunity, the State is awarding $23 million in project funds for a variety of site development expenses, including infrastructure expenses such as roads, water, sewer, and other utilities; site development expenses like rehabbing existing structures; remediation and cleanup; as well as land acquisition and related expenses.
The megasites program recipients were selected through a competitive Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that was open to private entities, non-profits, or local governments. Grants range from $1,250,000 to $5 million. In addition to the $23 million in megasites funding that was awarded, DCEO plans to deploy available funds for additional site development opportunities in the future.
One of the goals of the Megasites Program is to attract jobs creators and revitalization for areas that are underutilized, such as former industrial sites, brownfields, and agricultural sites. Whether it’s an industrial park featuring various businesses, or a large facility dedicated to manufacturing soup to nuts, megasites are designed to spur development and create jobs in Illinois’ communities.
Illinois EPA Invests Over a Half Billion Dollars in Drinking Water and Wastewater Projects in Fourth Quarter of FY23
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) Director John J. Kim is announcing the issuance of more than $571 million in water infrastructure loans to local governments and water districts for the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2023 (April – June 2023). The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund (SRF) Program provides low-interest loans which fund wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water projects. More than $53 million in loan forgiveness was also provided to those recipients meeting the loan rules for either the Small Community Rate or Hardship Rate. In total for fiscal year 2023, Illinois EPA issued over $803 million in low-interest loans for water infrastructure. In addition to the SRF loans, Illinois provided nearly $54 million in funding for lead service line replacement over the last 12 months.
“Clean water is a right—not a privilege. And here in Illinois, we are utilizing every resource at our disposal to ensure our communities have the modernized and safe water infrastructure they deserve,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Thanks to my administration’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan, we’ve increased state funding for the Illinois EPA’s Water Pollution Control Loan Program and Public Water Supply Loan Program—providing low-interest loans for wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water projects, all while creating and supporting good-paying jobs. Here’s to a cleaner and more sustainable future for all Illinoisans—no matter their zip code.”
“In Illinois, we are working to ensure families and communities have access to clean water because it is a matter of justice,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “With these investments from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, we will continue to build on sustainable solutions that address the critical needs of Illinoisans, so they have the resources to live and be well in every corner of our state.”
“The Illinois EPA’s robust State Revolving Fund allows us to provide communities with the essential funding needed to upgrade, repair, or replace aging water infrastructure,” said Director John J. Kim. “This funding represents clean drinking water for Illinois residents, technology to reduce environmental impacts from stormwater and wastewater, and the creation of good paying local jobs.”
Illinois EPA’s SRF includes two loan programs, the Water Pollution Control Loan Program (WPCLP) which funds both wastewater and stormwater projects, and the Public Water Supply Loan Program (PWSLP) for drinking water projects. Both programs provide funding at a low interest rate of just 1.24 percent for State FY23. These SRF programs receive federal capitalization funding annually, which is combined with state matching funds, interest earnings, repayment money, and periodic bond sale proceeds, to form the source of financing for these infrastructure projects. The state matching funds for State FY2020-2024 are being provided through Governor Pritzker’s bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan thus increasing the funding capacity of both loan programs.
A complete list of FY23 fourth quarter loan recipients is attached. For more information about Illinois EPA’s SRF, visit https://epa.illinois.gov/topics/grants-loans/state-revolving-fund.html
Government Shutdown Update
The House Freedom Caucus’ Monday announcement that it would oppose a “clean” short-term spending fix leaves Kevin McCarthy with two options on the spending fight: a government shutdown or enlisting Democrats’ help. The conservative group’s demands — namely that any bill that continues current funding levels must also include their priorities related to the southern border, the Department of Justice and “woke” policies at the Pentagon — are all non-starters in the Democratic Senate.
For now, some lead Republicans are convinced that lobbying Democrats for help is the better play. “It’s a mistake to stumble into a shutdown. It’s just simple. Politically that’s not a good place to be,” appropriator Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who is also the chair of the House Rules committee, said in an interview. He added that he believes Democrats might get on board a stopgap funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR.
“In terms of getting the votes for a CR, I mean if it’s an agreed-upon CR, that’s usually not a problem,” Cole said. Of course, appropriators aren’t personally the ones with a problem if a government funding deal passes with Democratic votes. McCarthy is the one it puts in a bind. We probably don’t need to remind you that members of the House Freedom Caucus were the ones who threatened to call for a vote stripping the speaker of his gavel during the debt deal — because he compromised with Democrats.
The conservative group actually hurt their own priorities with their Monday statement, according to one influential appropriator, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. Disunity in the GOP conference gives Senate Democrats the upper hand on a government funding deal, the Republican cardinal said. There’s at least one member of leadership who sounded open to the Freedom Caucus demands — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. The Louisiana Republican said late last week that he supports conservatives who are looking to tie border security measures to the appropriations process.
“I agree with the concerns Chip [Roy] and many others have that we have to secure the border,” Scalise told Huddle. “I want us to keep pushing language. And obviously in the appropriations process in the Homeland Security bill is one place we would do that.” Contrary to the messaging of some of his colleagues, Scalise said he has greater concerns than the government shutting down. “I’m more concerned about us not getting control over spending and not putting limits on the damage that the Biden administration is doing to our country,” he said.
Illinois Secure Choice Webinar: What Small Business Owners Need to Know about the IL State Law
Date & Time: Sept. 13, 2023, 02:00 PM
Description: Illinois state law now requires that every private-sector employer that has been in business for at least 2 years and that had 5 or more Illinois employees last year must offer their own qualified retirement plan or facilitate the Illinois Secure Choice retirement savings program.
In this session, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office will cover the specifics of the state law and provide an overview of how Illinois Secure Choice works and how easy it is for businesses to facilitate retirement savings for their employees.
This session, led by Christine Cheng and Jaimee Niles, is open to chamber professionals and chamber members.
Christine Cheng serves as Director of Secure Choice for the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office. In her role, she oversees implementation and expansion of Illinois Secure Choice to improve retirement savings access for private-sector workers, helping to ensure that more Illinoisans can retire with dignity.
Jaimee Niles is the Illinois relationship manager for Ascensus, the third-party administrator for the Illinois Secure Choice program. In her role, she is the key point of contact for employers as they learn about and facilitate the Illinois Secure Choice program. Her focus is to both educate and support employers throughout the onboarding and administration process of the program and be a resource to employees who want to better understand their savings opportunities so they can make an informed decision about their participation in the program.
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry