SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon’s effort to correct ambiguous language in the Rauner administration’s massive Exelon bailout bill could have a profound positive effect on Illinois’ economy – to the tune of at least $2.2 billion in the short term.
By striking seven words in the Exelon bill, Illinois can clear the way for continued investment in wind energy in the prairie state – projects already permitted but that are on hold because of the murky language. That investment includes:
- $2.2 billion in Illinois wind farms,
- 650 new wind towers, and
- 1 million hours in construction work.
Significant additional projects await the permitting process if the ambiguity in state law can be eliminated through Senate Bill 71, said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and a longtime proponent of renewable energy and clean jobs. The legislation represents the kind of sensible, business-friendly legislation that can spur economic investment in Illinois.
“The Exelon bill created significant uncertainty that prevented investment in Illinois by the wind industry, which makes no sense,” Harmon said. “Once we learned of the problem, I knew we would need to resolve it as quickly as possible because we want Illinois to retain its place as a national leader in wind energy.”
The legislation has bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee last week. Proponents include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Laborers’ International Union Midwest Region, the Citizens Utility Board, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and others.
Twenty-five Illinois wind farms supply power to about 1 million homes. The first wind installation in the state went online in 2003.
According to a 2016 report by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, wind farms support about 870 permanent jobs in rural Illinois, generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes and produce $13.86 million in yearly income for landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. Wind farms have a total economic benefit of $6.4 billion over their lifespans, according to the analysis.
“Economic development isn’t as difficult as Gov. Rauner wants people to believe it is. As we watch demand for renewable energy increase in the coming years, it’s important that lawmakers foster the industry’s growth in Illinois and seize opportunities to protect it from unnecessary government meddling,” Harmon said.
“These are the kinds of things that will make Illinois a business-friendly state and help us to get the economy ‘boomin’,’ as Gov. Rauner likes to say. I look forward to his support on this legislation.”
CHICAGO – Immigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws.
That’s the thrust of a proposal co-sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that could be heard in the Senate Executive Committee next week.
“This legislation sends an important message about Illinois – about who we are and the principles we hold dear in this state of 12.8 million diverse people,” said Harmon, who is among the state lawmakers and supporters who will appear at a news conference Monday morning at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights office in Chicago to promote the measure.
Senate Bill 31 creates the Illinois Trust Act, which would:
- clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
- prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
- prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
- establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.
The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.
The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor does it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid warrants.
Harmon noted that many of his constituents support policies to protect immigrants and local authorities from overreach by the federal government. For example, the Oak Park village board in February unanimously passed a “welcoming ordinance” that bars Oak Park authorities from collaborating with federal immigration officials to identify and apprehend undocumented citizens without a criminal warrant.
“It is important that undocumented immigrants are able to talk with local police officers to report and help solve crimes without fear of being deported. We want all people to be able to pick up their children from school or seek medical help without being terrified that someone will ask them their immigration status and turn them over to government officials,” Harmon said. “That’s what this bill helps to accomplish, and that’s why it has broad support, including from law enforcement groups.
“Fearful immigrants are withdrawing into the shadows because of the Trump administration’s dangerous policies,” he continued. “State lawmakers can help to restore trust between immigrants and the local authorities who are there to help and protect them, not round them up and detain them on behalf of the president of the United States.”
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois requires less accountability be a gun dealer than a dog groomer, Senator Don Harmon said Tuesday while defending a commonsense proposal to license gun dealers at the state level in an effort to curb Chicago violence.
Harmon’s Senate Bill 1657 would allow Illinois to license gun dealers and encourage better business practices while holding corrupt dealers accountable as authorities try to get a handle on the violence epidemic that continues to plague Chicago neighborhoods. Gun dealers also must be licensed by federal authorities.
The proposal passed out of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday in a 7-5 vote after a great deal of debate about whose responsibility it is to monitor gun dealers and find solutions to gun violence.
“Gun violence in Chicago is a huge problem. For people to sit around in the Capitol and say, ‘Let someone else take care of it and enforce the laws on the books,’ is incredibly frustrating,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “Twenty-six other states license gun dealers. This is not breaking new ground. It’s a modest proposal. It’s harder to be a dog groomer or a hair stylist in Illinois.”
Senate Bill 1657 would establish two types of licenses: dealer and dealership. A dealer would be any person engaged in the business of selling, leasing or otherwise transferring firearms; a dealership would be a person, firm, corporation or other legal entity that does the same.
Applicants for each license would have to meet a series of requirements before receiving a state license. Violating the terms of the license can resulting in penalties.
The legislation also would establish a gun dealer licensing board to recommend policies, procedures and rules under the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which would license gun dealers.
“I want to be clear: There is no evidence that the gun violence problem is being caused by law-abiding gun owners. We need to focus on the real problem, which is illegal guns getting into the wrong hands,” Harmon said. “Somewhere between a gun manufacturer and a crime scene is a person who is pretending to be a law-abiding gun owner but is not. That is the problem this legislation seeks to address.
“Senate Bill 1657 does nothing more than impose industry standards for best practices that should be observed by every gun dealer already but unfortunately aren’t.”
A recent study showed that 40 percent of guns used in crimes between 2009 and 2014 came from Illinois and that nearly 17 percent – or roughly 3,000 – of all guns used in crimes in Chicago were sold by just three of the Illinois’ more than 2,400 gun dealers. All three are near Chicago.
The Gun Dealer Licensing Act would sunset on Jan. 1, 2027, under Senate Bill 1657.
SPRINGFIELD – As the Trump administration rolls back important environmental oversight, such as a ban on the use of lead-based ammunition on federal lands, it will be up to state and local leaders to ensure wildlife, public lands and people continue to be protected, Senator Don Harmon said Thursday.
Harmon is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1985, which would bar the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting in state parks and natural areas in Illinois to curb the accidental poisoning of wildlife.
“I am pleased to help Illinois lead the way on this reasonable and very important public health initiative,” Harmon said. “Research indicates that bans on lead-based ammunition have a positive impact on wildlife and human health.”
In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration outlawed the use of lead ammunition and fishing sinkers on 150 million acres of federal lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges and other public property.
However, the Trump administration overturned the ban last week.
Research shows that a single shotgun pellet can cause organ failure and brain damage that affect an animal’s neuromuscular, auditory and visual responses. Furthermore, there is evidence that lead poisoning causes lethargy, blindness, paralysis of the lungs and intestinal tracts, seizure and death in animals.
An estimated 10 million to 20 million animals are killed every year by ingesting lead shot.
In addition, experts say lead-based ammunition causes elevated lead exposure in gun users and can be incorporated into processed meat for human consumption.
Senator Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore
Years served: 2003 - Present
Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.
Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.
Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly