SPRINGFIELD, IL – This week marks the calendar deadline to file bills in the Illinois Senate. As such, I have introduced several pieces of legislation with local significance. Among those of local interest is a bill to protect the drinking water in the Mahomet Aquifer, a bill to address Ameren’s proposed high-voltage transmission lines, and a pair of bills designed to promote economic growth by fostering a pro-job creation regulatory climate in Illinois.
It goes without saying that we need more jobs in Illinois. I have sponsored a pair of bills to begin to change Illinois’ confiscatory regulator climate and encourage job creation. SB 1593 will increase the number of enterprise zones in Illinois by 10. Currently, there are 92 Economic Zones in Illinois and many larger communities like Champaign and Decatur have such areas for easy economic development, however, there are a number of counties that do not. Five counties in the 51st Senate District do not have an EZ: Piatt, Douglas, Edgar, Shelby and Moultrie. My bill would be targeted to areas of under 50,000 in population to try and jump start downstate Illinois’ economy.
Similarly as I tour the 51st District and talk with local employers and economic development officials, there is one unifying message no matter which of the ten counties I am in: fix Illinois’ worker’s compensation system. Illinois workers compensation rates are some of the highest in the country and are a clear impediment to job creation. This week I joined State Senator Kyle McCarter (R – Lebanon) in introducing legislation to clean up our state’s broken litigation system and drive down rates.
Fixing workers compensation would be the single biggest regulatory boost we could give to the private sector and small businesses to create jobs and get our state working again.
Mahomet Aquifer – PCBs legislation
Over 500,000 central Illinoisans consume water from the Mahomet Aquifer. As such, it is important that we protect a major source of our livelihood. A number of years ago, the DeWitt County board passed local ordinances to allow the Clinton landfill to store PCBs above the watershed. This proposal has since been soundly rejected by the population of DeWitt County. A number of other counties and communities, which lie over the Mahomet Aquifer, have also expressed their displeasure at the continued practices.
In a very real sense, this is analogous to the practice of “taxation without representation” – except in this case it is pollution without representation. While the DeWitt county board may have authorized the acceptance of these PCB’s over the strenuous objections (and a resounding vote of a countywide referendum), those of us who do not live in the county and thus had no input still have to drink the water.
This week, I introduced Senate Bill 1868 which will require the other central Illinois county boards and municipalities sitting on the aquifer to have the same veto authority as Dewitt County. Given that most of these have joined in a lawsuit to stop the PCB’s from being accepted, it is anticipated that they would also vote to stop the siting process, if my bill passes. Thus, the legislation will allow the rest of us who drink from the aquifer the chance to protect our water supply.
Ameren Transmission Lines
As many of you in east Central Illinois are aware, there is a proposal by Ameren to run a 330 mile-long, high-voltage transmission line throughout half of the counties in the 51st Senate District. The proposed path stretches from Hannibal, Missouri to the outskirts of Terre Haute, Indiana. Ameren took advantage of the Illinois Commerce Commission’s (ICC) “fast-track” permitting process to allow for an expedited building process.
As a result of this “fast track,” many land owners feel shut out of the ICC process. Land owners in parts of Macon, Edgar, Champaign, Shelby and Moultrie Counties are on the proposed pathway for Ameren. I have been joined by State Reps. Adam Brown (R-Decatur) and Wayne Rosenthal (R-Morrison) to file legislation that would stop the transmission project.
Senate Bill 1874 and the House measure would stop any transmission projects longer than 5 miles that seek to use the ICC’s “fast track” process. The bill also provides for a 1 mile buffer around many categories of public and private lands. Protections would be extended to certain agricultural lands, schools, airports, Amish religious and education sites, archaeological sites, cemeteries, churches, commercial use areas, communications towers, conservations lands, designated critical habitats, recreational use areas, open spaces and preserves, residential uses areas, geologically sensitive areas, day cares, National Historic Landmarks, nursing/assisted living facilities, planned developments and residential areas, protected species areas, scenic highways, state, regional and local parks, traditional cultural property, trees, water well sites and wetlands.
The bill has not been assigned to a committee yet as it was just filed and I will keep you up-to-date on its progress.