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Castro establishes joint ethics commission

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2019 04:26 PM

scales ethics 111419SPRINGFIELD – A 16-member ethics commission will be formed after a resolution sponsored by State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) passed the Senate this week.

“Legislators and lobbyists absolutely must be held to high standards,” Castro said. “No one should be able to profit from their public service.”

House Joint Resolution 93 creates the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying. The commission will be comprised of 16 members appointed by the Senate president, the Senate minority leader, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the House minority leader, the governor, the secretary of state and the attorney general.

In ethics reform bill, Steans moves to increase lobbying transparency

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2019 03:53 PM

steans 111419SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans is pushing for new ethics reforms in the wake of scandals surrounding numerous Springfield lawmakers in recent months, passing legislation out of the Senate today.

“Today we took the first steps to reform the disturbing, unacceptable behavior that has rocked state government in recent months,” said Steans, (D-Chicago). “Raids, arrests and indictments are not what people expect of their elected officials. While they mean that the ethics laws we already passed are working, and law enforcement is doing its job, it also means we need to change the culture in Springfield, close loopholes, and eliminate grey areas. We need to earn back your trust.”

Cunningham makes it easier to access senior property tax break

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2019 03:24 PM

cunningham 111419SPRINGFIELD – A requirement forcing Cook County seniors to reapply annually for a tax break will soon be eliminated under a measure co-sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham.

House Bill 961, passed by the Illinois Senate Wednesday, would eliminate the need for residents of Cook County residents aged 65 or older to reapply annually to receive the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, a property tax exemption designed to assist senior citizens financially.

Seniors would be required to reapply once more for the exemption in 2020, and would then be grandfathered into the program through 2024. Similar legislation, House Bill 833, was signed into law this summer, but required seniors to reapply in both 2020 and 2021.

“Seniors shouldn’t be forced reapply for the Homestead Exemption an extra time. It’s just common sense,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “You only turn 65 once, and there’s no reason to put seniors through a confusing reapplication process for this exemption when they’ve already proved that they qualify for it.”

Currently, every county in Illinois other than Cook may allow seniors to receive the exemption without reapplying.

The measure also requires Cook County agencies to record events that would end the exemption, such as property transfers, to ensure that ineligible property owners do not accidentally take advantage of the tax break.

House Bill 961 passed the Senate without opposition. It will now head to the governor’s desk.

Bennett strengthens coal ash pollution protections

Published: Thursday, November 14, 2019 02:00 PM

bennett 050219SPRINGFIELD – To continue efforts to protect Illinois communities from toxic coal ash pollution, State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) addressed unresolved issues with the legislation passed in the spring.

Senator Bennett passed legislation to keep coal ash out of our water earlier this year. This new law directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to begin a rule-making process to require power plant operators to safely dispose of coal ash or ensure that pits are properly enclosed, impose fees on coal ash pits to pay the costs of hiring IEPA staff to oversee enforcement, and require power plant operators to set aside money to pay for cleaning up pits in the event a plant is shut down or a company goes bankrupt.

“The bill itself was about being proactive for our future generations,” Bennett said. “It provides the protections, regulations and financial assurances to prevent coal ash crises from happening in Illinois.” 

Numerous negotiations took place between labor and industry, as well as the IEPA and environmental organizations. It was agreed that a trailer bill would be introduced to address some lingering issues with the bill regarding insurance and training provisions. This trailer bill indicates who is responsible for conducting cleanup in the event of a coal ash spill – and how those involved in cleanup will be protected from exposure to toxic chemicals.

“The thing that concerned me about the original coal ash bill was that there were no protections in place for clean-up crews,” Bennett said. “The improvements to this bill will create a training program that includes instruction in the operation of heavy equipment and excavation, ensuring safety for those doing the physical clean-up of the toxic sites.”

Under this measure, more insurance options are available for those that maintain the coal ash pits to allow for coal ash plants. In addition to the insurance option, a trust fund, surety bond guaranteeing payment or performance, an irrevocable letter of credit or insurance that is not self-insurance are also acceptable forms of finance assurance.

The trailer bill is Senate Bill 671, and passed the Senate 39-12-1 Thursday. The legislation moves to the House for consideration.

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