By PETER HANCOCK

Capitol News Illinois

phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Despite opposition from Republicans as well as reform groups, Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed into law the revised state legislative district maps that lawmakers passed in August, opening the door to almost certain court challenges.

“These legislative maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will help ensure Illinois’ diversity is reflected in the halls of government,” Pritzker said in a statement.

But not everyone agrees that the maps do reflect the state’s diversity. The political action arm of the reform group CHANGE Illinois issued a statement arguing that they actually dilute minority voting power.

“Many major groups agree the new maps reduce the numbers of majority Black voting age population districts and majority Latino voting age population districts,” the group said in a statement. “The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s lawyers have said they believe the state representative and Senate maps dilute Latino voting power. The Latino Policy Forum asked Pritzker to veto the maps for the same reason. Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting also said the maps do not create enough Black majority voting age districts.”

Lawmakers initially adopted maps during the spring legislative session in order to meet the state constitution’s June 30 deadline, despite the fact that they didn’t yet have the official, detailed U.S. Census data needed to draw districts with nearly equal population.

Republican leaders, as well as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, quickly filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago arguing that they were unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from survey data rather than official census numbers.

When the official numbers finally came out in mid-August, they did in fact show that population variances between districts were far outside what is allowed under U.S. constitutional law, prompting Democratic leaders to call a special session to adjust the new maps.

Republicans argue, however, that those maps were passed well after the state constitution’s June 30 deadline and, therefore, the task should be given to a bipartisan commission, a process in which Republicans would have a 50-50 chance of gaining a partisan advantage.

That decision will ultimately be up to the courts.

There have been efforts in the past in Illinois to establish a permanent nonpartisan commission to redraw maps every 10 years, an idea that Pritzker and many Democratic lawmakers have said they support. But no such plan has gotten through the General Assembly.

“Governor Pritzker’s signing of the legislative maps sends a clear picture of the severity of his ‘retrograde amnesia’ and efforts to deceive Illinois citizens,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said in a statement. “The governor now joins the multitude of Democratic legislators who lied to voters by campaigning for and promising ‘fair maps.’”

“Rarely do politicians get the chance to break a campaign promise twice,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods. “I am deeply disappointed that Gov. Pritzker has turned his back on the many minority organizations that have asked him to protect their voting rights outlined in the constitution and Voting Rights Act by vetoing this gerrymandered map.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Read more

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By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Despite opposition from Republicans as well as reform groups, Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed into law the revised state legislative district maps that lawmakers passed in August, opening the door to almost certain court challenges.

“These legislative maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will help ensure Illinois’ diversity is reflected in the halls of government,” Pritzker said in a statement.

But not everyone agrees that the maps do reflect the state’s diversity. The political action arm of the reform group CHANGE Illinois issued a statement arguing that they actually dilute minority voting power.

“Many major groups agree the new maps reduce the numbers of majority Black voting age population districts and majority Latino voting age population districts,” the group said in a statement. “The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s lawyers have said they believe the state representative and Senate maps dilute Latino voting power. The Latino Policy Forum asked Pritzker to veto the maps for the same reason. Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting also said the maps do not create enough Black majority voting age districts.”

Lawmakers initially adopted maps during the spring legislative session in order to meet the state constitution’s June 30 deadline, despite the fact that they didn’t yet have the official, detailed U.S. Census data needed to draw districts with nearly equal population.

Republican leaders, as well as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, quickly filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago arguing that they were unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from survey data rather than official census numbers.

When the official numbers finally came out in mid-August, they did in fact show that population variances between districts were far outside what is allowed under U.S. constitutional law, prompting Democratic leaders to call a special session to adjust the new maps.

Republicans argue, however, that those maps were passed well after the state constitution’s June 30 deadline and, therefore, the task should be given to a bipartisan commission, a process in which Republicans would have a 50-50 chance of gaining a partisan advantage.

That decision will ultimately be up to the courts.

* * *

STATE INVESTMENTS: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday, Sept. 23, that the state will award more than $40 million in workforce training grants, focusing on communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and youth who are particularly at risk of violence.

That includes $40 million in Workforce Recovery Grants that will go out in two phases over the next year, plus another $4.4 million in career training grants that have already been awarded to 20 training programs that focus on at-risk youths. Funding for both programs comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.

Applications for the first round of Workforce Recovery Grants totaling $20 million opened Thursday. Information about how to apply for those grants is available on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website. A second round of applications is expected to open in the spring.

Pritzker made the announcement at a training center on Chicago’s west side, Revolution Workshop, which is partnering with one of the youth grant recipients, BUILD Chicago Inc.

The Workforce Development Grants will be used to expand access to training, job placement and other services that prevent people from gaining employment, the administration said in a news release. Funding is also available for individuals with emergency costs for basic needs that prevent them from participating in training programs or employment.

The administration expects roughly 1,500 individuals in areas disproportionately impacted by the pandemic will receive services.

The youth training grants are being distributed to organizations throughout the state that provide education and training in career pathways for youth who may be at risk of dropping out of school or experiencing violence.

Thursday’s announcement came just days after Pritzker announced that another $327 million would be made available this year to help low-income individuals pay their utility bills and meet other expenses. That includes the Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, and the Community Services Block Grant Program, which offers expanded services to help residents pay rent, utilities, food and other household expenses, regardless of immigration status.

In addition to those measures, Pritzker also announced Thursday the formation of a new Commission on Workforce Equity and Access, which will study ways to diversify existing training programs to promote equity and inclusion across all industries.

The commission will be headed by Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford and Deputy Gov. Andy Manar.

* * *

EVICTION MORATORIUM: The state’s moratorium on enforcement of residential evictions will expire on Oct. 3, according to Gov. JB Pritzker’s latest COVID-19 executive order issued Friday.

Pritzker had extended the order each month with minor to substantial revisions since March 2020. The extensions have come in 30-day windows, coinciding with his monthly reissuance of a disaster proclamation in response to the pandemic.

The most recent iteration of the moratorium, which will expire Oct. 3, allows for court proceedings but prevents law enforcement from carrying out an eviction. It also allows for evictions in health and safety circumstances, and for “uncovered persons,” which include those who refuse to fill out paperwork for assistance, who can’t prove loss of income from COVID-19 or who earn more than $99,000 individually or $198,000 as a joint-filing household.

In a statement, Pritzker’s office pointed out that Illinois remains one of the top states in distributing emergency rental assistance funding from the federal government. Illinois has distributed almost $330 million of $630 million allotted, placing it sixth out of all states, according to a database maintained by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

A state Supreme Court order preventing certain judgments in covered eviction cases was extended Tuesday to Oct. 3 as well, coinciding with the governor's order.

Last week, the Supreme Court announced a court-based rental relief program received $60 million in funding to provide a “safety net for litigants who are on the brink of eviction,” according to the court. That program is available outside of Cook County, which is expected to launch its own court-based assistance program sometime in October.

Per the latest Supreme Court order, any summons in an eviction case must be accompanied by a form informing the tenant and landlord of the court-based program. It includes information on the program, what documentation is needed and the web address for the court-based aid, ilrpp.ihda.org. The Illinois Housing Development Authority call center can be reached at 866-454-3571.

Those who have lost income due to COVID-19 may be eligible for up to 12 months of past due rent and three months of future rent to prevent eviction, per the program. The check would be paid directly to the landlord, who would be required to agree not to evict the tenant for nonpayment of the rent that is repaid.

Assistance may also still be available in certain areas through the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the two state agencies overseeing disbursement of federal funding, at https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org/providers.

Free legal assistance may be accessed through Eviction Help Illinois by visiting evictionhelpillinois.org or calling 855-631-0811.

* * *

RIVER PORT PROJECT: Cairo, Illinois, on the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, is the county seat of Alexander County, which once boasted a population of more than 25,000. It is now down to just 5,240, according to the 2020 U.S Census. That was a drop of 36.4 percent just in the past 10 years, the biggest population decline of any county in the nation.

Alexander County is not alone among its southern Illinois neighbors in seeing dramatic population declines in recent years. In fact, all five counties that border the Ohio River saw significant declines. Pulaski, Pope and Hardin counties all saw declines of more than 15 percent, while Massac County lost about 8.2 percent of its population.

Throughout America, the 2020 census revealed a sizeable shift from rural counties to more urban and suburban areas. But the dramatic drop in Alexander County – and Cairo in particular, which is now down to just more than 1,700 people – is unique.

Larry Klein, a lifelong resident of the area, believes a new development project which is getting a big boost from the state with $40 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital improvements program will help turn things around. Klein serves as chairman of the Alexander Cairo Port District, which is in charge of the project to develop an enormous river port along the Mississippi River at Cairo.

It’s estimated that about 80 percent of all the barge traffic in the United States passes by or through the confluence of the two great rivers. The river port at Cairo is envisioned as a facility where barges, as well as larger “river vessels,” would unload cargo containers that come upstream from New Orleans onto rail cars and semis for distribution throughout North America.

The site where the river port is planned is about five and a half miles upstream from the confluence along the Mississippi. The land is owned by the Cairo Public Utility Company, a nonprofit company that serves the community and, oddly, also operates the town’s only hardware store. The plan is that when the port is operational, the revenue would be split between Alexander County, the city of Cairo and the utility.

The hope is that the project will spur hundreds of construction jobs, and then hundreds more permanent jobs for workers at the port – workers who, it is hoped, would buy homes in the area and provide an economic base for the redevelopment of grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations and other basic amenities lacking in the town.

The port district recently signed a project labor agreement, ensuring that an estimated 500 construction jobs will be filled by union labor, a key element in securing state funding from the Rebuild Illinois program.

Still, the project is not a done deal. Klein noted that more than 20 state and federal permits must be obtained, including environmental permits as well as an OK from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the rivers.

“They are willing to bend over backwards,” Klein said of the Corps of Engineers. “In our conversations we've had with them, they've never told us no.”

Assuming the permits all fall into place, Klein said construction could begin in 2022 and the port could be operational in 2024.

* * *

SUPREME COURT DEFAMATION CASE: A case before the Illinois Supreme Court centers on whether a former Super Bowl MVP has a right to learn the identity of a woman who accused him of sexual harassment, allegedly leading to the termination of contracts between his energy services company and a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation.

Richard Dent, a Pro Football Hall-of-Famer and Chicago Bears defensive lineman from 1983 to 1993, is the proprietor of RLD Resources LLC, a business specializing in energy products and services, according to its website. RLD had several energy supply and marketing contracts with Constellation NewEnergy Inc. and related companies, according to court documents. Constellation is a subsidiary of Exelon.

But Dent’s lawyers alleged that those contracts were terminated on Oct. 1, 2018, after Dent was informed in a Sept. 14, 2018, meeting with two of Constellation’s lawyers that he was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint by a female employee of Constellation.

A letter sent from Constellation to Dent’s lawyers in December 2018 concluded that “although Mr. Dent denied the allegations, his denials were not credible and the investigation concluded that the reports accurately described behaviors that were, at a minimum, in violation of Exelon's code of business conduct, completely outside the norms of socially acceptable behavior, and demeaning to Constellation employees.”

Now, the court is asked to decide whether the employee – identified in Dent’s court petition as Person A – and a witness to separate “drunk and disorderly” conduct by Dent at a different location than where the alleged harassment occurred – identified as Person B – are protected by the court principle of “qualified privilege,” allowing for their anonymity in a sexual harassment case.

Dent’s lawyers argued that he’s entitled to know the identities and locations of Person A and Person B through the pre-suit discovery process because their statements were false and defamatory. The individuals, not Constellation, are the publishers of the defamatory claims, his lawyers argued.

Constellation’s lawyers argued the employees should remain anonymous because their statements were made as part of a privileged confidential workplace investigation of sexual harassment. 

Dent’s petition is also seeking the identity of Person C, which his legal team identified in the court filing as an “investigator” examining the harassment claims on behalf of Constellation.

The case started in 2019 in Cook County Circuit Court, which sided with Constellation. But the 1st District Court of Appeals sided with Dent, which led Constellation’s legal team to bring the challenge to the Supreme Court.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

  Read more

By JERRY NOWICKI

Capitol News Illinois

jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate put the final legislative stamp on an energy regulation overhaul bill Monday, sending it to Gov. JB Pritzker, who says he will sign it.

It’s the culmination of years of negotiation, and it marks a policy win on one of Pritzker’s biggest outstanding first-term campaign promises as the 2022 campaign heats up. The measure passed by a 37-17 vote, with Republicans Sue Rezin, of Morris, and John Curran, of Downers Grove, joining Democrats in support.

“After years of debate and discussion, science has prevailed, and we are charting a new future that works to mitigate the impacts of climate change here in Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement after the bill’s Senate passage. “(Senate Bill) 2408 puts the state on a path toward 100 percent clean energy and invests in training a diverse workforce for the jobs of the future. Illinois will become the best state in the nation to manufacture and drive an electric vehicle, and equity will be prioritized in every new program created.”

The final proposal forces fossil fuel plants offline by 2045, spends billions of dollars to subsidize renewable and nuclear energy to prevent plant closures, incentivizes the adoption of electric vehicles, funds workforce training programs, and requires union labor on the installation of renewable infrastructure.

Advocates hailed it as a nation-leading climate bill, while downstate Republicans warned of its impact on consumer bills and energy grid reliability.

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said it sets the state on an “aggressive and progressive” path toward decarbonization and renewable energy adoption, while leaving pathways for future General Assemblies to reassess the state’s energy needs through follow-up legislation.  

“Our goal all along was to enact reliable renewable and affordable energy policies that put Illinois in a position as the nation's leader. That's exactly what we're doing here today,” Harmon said in closing floor debate. “Now, don't get me wrong, there will be more votes, there will inevitably be changes. Innovations that we can't even imagine today will happen tomorrow and we or some other future group of legislators will act accordingly.”

 

Investments, cost increases

The measure, Senate Bill 2408, aims to put Illinois on a path to a carbon-free energy future by 2050 by doubling the state’s ratepayer investment in renewable energy and further subsidizing the state’s nuclear fleet. It aims to increase the portion of the state’s energy produced by renewables from less than 8 percent to 40 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2040.

The main provision in the bill that would push the state toward those ambitious goals is a massive increase of more than $350 million annually to the pot of money funding renewable projects. It also provides that more than $300 million already collected for renewables will be spent for such projects instead of being refunded to ratepayers despite previous deadlines having passed.

The bill also provides $694 million in total over a five-year period to subsidize three nuclear plants owned by Exelon Corporation, preventing the closure of a plant in Byron that Exelon said it would take offline Monday in the absence of legislative action. It issued a statement after the bill’s passage saying it would begin the refueling process.

Other expenditures include a $180 million annual investment in equity-based and “just transition” programs aiming to diversify the renewable industry and to provide out-of-work fossil fuel employees with a pathway to renewable energy jobs.

The bill also provides subsidies to convert coal-fired plants to solar or energy storage facilities at about $47 million annually starting in 2024.

While the subsidies and investment programs are staggered in their implementation dates, the Citizens Utility Board estimates that it will cause an increase to ratepayer bills of about $3 to $4 a month over the next five years.

In terms of percentages, bill sponsor Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, said residential electric bills would increase by about 3-4 percent, commercial bills by about 5-6 percent, and industrial bills by about 7-8 percent.

The senior advocacy group AARP estimated that number could be as high as $15 monthly for ratepayers, but advocates for the bill cite estimates in the CUB range.

Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles, cited the AARP estimate and a Crain’s Chicago Business analysis which showed the increase could be between $7 and $8 monthly. 

“The fact is, no one knows how much this piece of legislation is going to cost Illinois ratepayers,” he said.  “What we do know is that it will be borne by all ratepayers in the state. I guess what we're seeing and hearing today is that we'll just have to watch our friends across the aisle pass this legislation, and then we'll find out.”

The CUB analysis, meanwhile, said the investment in cheaper, renewable solar and wind energy could lead to lower costs for consumers over time.

 

Decarbonization, compromise

Large-scale renewable projects will be required to have project labor agreements to employ union labor, and non-residential labor projects, with the exception of small churches, will be required to pay a prevailing wage.

That stipulation was part of the final compromise that brought union and environmental groups together on the bill, along with decarbonization provisions for municipal power plants.

Specifically, two municipally-owned coal-fired power plants – a City, Water, Light and Power facility in Springfield and the Prairie State Energy Campus facility in Marissa – had caused a stalemate, as the plants and the lawmakers within their districts pushed back on the hard 2045 decarbonization date.

The final bill provides that the facilities must be carbon-free by 2045, and must reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2035. If they can’t, they have three years to comply or shut down part of their generation capacities to come into compliance.

Other fossil fuel plants are required to go offline between 2030 and 2045, depending on the energy source and the level of carbon emissions.

With those plants going offline, nuclear energy, which provides more than half of the state’s energy mix, would become even more important.

But with only one nuclear plant in the MISO electric grid region which serves most of downstate Illinois south of Interstate 80, some Republicans warned of reliability issues.

Sens. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said if the state’s fossil fuel plants are driven offline, Illinois will end up buying energy for a higher price from carbon-emitting power plants across state lines.

But Democrats say SB2408 specifically provides that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Commerce Commission and Illinois Power Agency conduct a study at five-year intervals to determine whether renewables and nuclear are doing enough for grid sustainability.

If they’re not, Rep. Robyn Gabel, an Evanston Democrat who was one of the lead negotiators in the House, said the agencies could decide to leave some of the coal- or gas-fired plants online.

“The first wave of plants to close would be 2030, and so 2025 we’ll start the planning process in terms of grid reliability,” Hastings said in a news conference following the bill’s passage. “And through that we’ll determine, based on the planned closures, what's the baseload generation going to be for the state of Illinois and we'll make an assessment at that point whether or not we have to extend certain timelines, or put other measures in place.”

Hastings said inaction on an energy bill would have led to the closure of at least one nuclear power plant, driving up energy prices far beyond any increase included in the bill.

Republicans on the floor, including Sen. Dave Syverson, of Rockford, said they would have preferred a more targeted bill to prevent nuclear closures, but Democrats, including Harmon, said there wasn’t enough legislative support for such an action.

“For a Republican legislator to say vote ‘no’ to this legislation would cause, in essence, at least, one-third to two-thirds of our nuclear fleet to go offline,” Hastings said. “That would cause an import of energy.”

 

Equity, electric vehicles

The bill directs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to create the Clean Jobs Workforce Network program, which establishes 13 hubs in different communities across the state that rely on community-based organizations to provide job training and a career pipeline for equity-focused populations.

It also establishes a “Climate Bank” within the Illinois Finance Authority to help fund renewable projects, as well as a Jobs and Justice Fund, run by a nonprofit entity, aimed at ensuring “the benefits of the clean energy economy are equitably distributed.” Another program aims to train individuals recently released from incarceration for careers in the renewable energy field.

It also creates a Displaced Energy Worker Bill of Rights, requiring the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to give advance notice of power plant or coal mine closures and to notify workers of available assistance programs. 

The bill also sets a goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on Illinois roads by 2030, aiming to do so through incentives, such as offering rebates on the installation of charging infrastructure in certain communities, provided prevailing wage is paid on the construction labor.

It offers a $4,000 rebate for electric vehicle purchases starting in 2022, but Hastings said that’s only in counties covered by the preexisting Alternative Fuels Act, meaning Cook and collar counties, because they pay into a fund from which the rebates will be paid.

While Republicans objected to rebates not being available downstate, Hastings said he’d work with them to identify a revenue stream to fund rebates in those areas.

Supporters said the bill also makes it more difficult for utility companies to raise consumer rates year after year by ending a formulaic rate increase process and instead taking into account “reliability, resiliency, peak load reduction, supplier diversity, affordability, request response time, customer service performance, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions,” and other factors when a company seeks a rate increase.

The citizen advocacy group PIRG, however, opposed the bill, saying it was still too easy for utility companies to guarantee profits under the new bill language.

The measure also prohibits utilities from charging late fees to low-income residential customers, and from charging a credit card fee on any consumer’s bill.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, also voted in favor of the bill.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Read more

Friday, September 10, 2021

In our latest Capitol Cast, Jerry Nowicki and Peter Hancock analyze the massive energy overhaul bill that passed out of the House during a one-day return to session. Plus, a tribute to the heroes of 9/11. Read more

Thursday, September 09, 2021
Wednesday, September 08, 2021
Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday, Sept. 15, signed into law a sweeping energy regulation overhaul that aims to phase out carbon emissions from the energy sector by 2045 while diversifying the renewable energy workforce. Read more

Thursday, September 02, 2021
Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Lawyers for a Latino advocacy group told a panel of federal judges Wednesday that the new legislative district maps passed by the Illinois General Assembly the night before still dilute the vote of Hispanic citizens in the state, and they intend to proceed with a lawsuit in hopes of having them overturned. Read more

This is part of the Daily Journal's ongoing series following the 102nd General Assembly. This year's session resulted in more than 660 bills being sent to Gov. JB Pritzker to either be signed or vetoed, whether outright or via inaction. Read more

The Economic Alliance of Kankakee County is working in conjunction with the state of Illinois to offer the Back 2 Business Grant Program to small businesses in the county affected by COVID-19. Read more

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

By PETER HANCOCK

Capitol News Illinois

phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Democrats in the General Assembly unveiled yet another set of proposed new legislative district maps Tuesday morning, just hours before the start of a special session to consider them, sparking the ire of Republicans and voting rights advocates alike.

It was the second set of proposed maps introduced in as many days, which left members of the public with little time to analyze them or assess how they would affect individual communities or minority groups.

“I’m just going to reiterate what I’ve been hearing from thousands of people over the last several months. We need at least 30 days to review this map,” said the Rev. Robin Hood, of the Chicago-based United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, or UCCRO. “It would be unfair to us if we didn’t have the time to get the map out to all our people and make a decision based on expedience.”

Hood and other advocates testified virtually during a House Redistricting Committee hearing that was originally scheduled for 10 a.m., but which had to be postponed because the bill containing the new proposal, House Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 927, wasn’t released until just minutes before that time.

The committee also heard from representatives of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, a group that advocates for Jewish communities in Illinois, both of which urged lawmakers to allow more time for the public to review the latest proposal.

The bulk of the 1,268-page bill is made up of lists of census block numbers, township names and other identifiers that define each proposed House and Senate district. A separate resolution explaining how the districts were drawn was expected to be introduced later in the day but would not be the subject of any committee hearings.

The Tuesday morning hearing followed one held Monday evening, during which several advocacy groups complained about getting short notice of the meeting and little time to review the proposal.

Common Cause Illinois, a political reform advocacy group, issued a statement Monday afternoon saying it would boycott the hearing out of protest for the way in which lawmakers were conducting the redistricting process.

“Since the beginning, we’ve pleaded with lawmakers to keep the redistricting process open, transparent, and accessible to no avail,” the group’s executive director, Jay Young, said in a statement. “This latest, last-minute hearing provides almost no notice to the public. The new maps will be released less than a day before lawmakers vote on them. It’s shameful, and our organization refuses to add any legitimacy to such an undemocratic process.”

Democratic leaders called the special session shortly after the Aug. 12 release of official, detailed data from the 2020 U.S. Census that showed the maps they approved in May, and which Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law, were significantly out of balance and would likely be held unconstitutional.

Two federal lawsuits were filed challenging those maps – one by legislative Republican leaders, and another by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF. Those cases are before a three-judge panel in federal court in Chicago, which has scheduled a status hearing for Wednesday, Sept. 1, to be briefed on whatever changes are made during the special session.

Lawmakers crafted the earlier maps using population estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, arguing that it was the “best data available at the time.” It also enabled Democrats to argue that they met the June 30 deadline in the Illinois Constitution for the legislature to approve new maps, thus avoiding sending the process to a bipartisan commission where Republicans would have a 50-50 chance of controlling the process.

Republicans, however, argue that the maps approved in May were unconstitutional and, therefore, not “effective” by June 30, and they are seeking to force the appointment of a bipartisan commission.

In addition to taking up redistricting, lawmakers also continue to negotiate a comprehensive energy regulation overhaul bill that would put Illinois on a path to eliminating carbon emissions from its power generation sector.

They were also expected to take up a number of vetoes and amendatory vetoes that Pritzker issued for bills that came out of the spring legislative session.

This story will be updated with further developments.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Read more

Monday, August 30, 2021

An ethics bill that was hotly debated during the spring legislative session is headed back to the General Assembly with a request for a technical change, but not the technical change that many Republicans had hoped for. Read more

Saturday, August 28, 2021

This is part of the Daily Journal's ongoing series following the 102nd General Assembly. This year's session resulted in more than 660 bills being sent to Gov. JB Pritzker to either be signed or vetoed, whether outright or via inaction. Read more

Friday, August 27, 2021
Thursday, August 26, 2021

Voting rights advocates and minority community members urged Illinois lawmakers on Thursday to take more time in redrawing legislative district maps so the general public can have more time to study whatever new maps will be proposed. Read more

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