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Springfield Highlights

Springfield Highlights – May 3, 2018

Senate Blocks New Federal Environmental, Labor Policies

Legislation attempting to block any federal changes in worker safety and environmental laws and regulations passed the Senate on the second try. Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), SB 2213 would require that state or local environmental or labor laws must remain as strict, or more stringent, than federal laws that were in place before January 19, 2017, when President Trump assumed office.

Clearly politically-motived, the bill notes that “beginning in 2017, a new presidential administration and United States Congress are controlled by one party that has signaled a direct challenge to these federal laws.” If the bill becomes law, it is only in effect for three years.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, there are more than 297,000 federal restrictions on manufacturers that stifle job creation and reduce capital spent on innovating new technologies that improve the environment. Since taking office, President Trump and Congress have repealed several costly and burdensome regulations that cost manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars. If SB 2213 becomes law, Illinois manufacturers would face different regulations than competitors in other states.

The legislation even seeks to repeal part of current law that governs how state law functions after a federal court rules against the United States EPA on certain regulatory issues. It would apply to environmental laws impacting water, air, and land. On the labor law issue, there are constitutional issues that will arise because federal law clearly does not allow states to supersede their authority.

The IMA opposed SB 2213 and it initially failed to pass the Senate last week, losing by a single vote, but the sponsor used a parliamentary procedure to keep it alive. This week, Senator Biss called the bill again and it narrowly passed on a vote of 32-21-1 and it now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration where the IMA will continue battling this precedent.


Project NextGrid Public Comment Session

Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Brien Sheahan and study facilitators will host the first Project NextGrid Study Update with a public comment session on June 14. Space is limited so please RSVP if your company would like to attend. They are also requiring companies to register in advance in order to testify and time limits will be enforced.

Project Next Grid is an eighteen-month study designed to address critical issues facing Illinois’ electric utility industry in coming decades. It is supposed to “study the use of new technologies to improve the state’s electric grid while minimizing energy costs to consumers. The study will focus on innovation, technological advancements, economic development, environmental considerations and education.

The IMA and several member companies are members of NextGrid and one of the seven working groups. Only three of the groups have met and information on New Technology Deployment and Grid Integration; Metering, Communications and Data; and Reliability, Resiliency, and Cyber Security are available online.

According to the ICC, NextGrid will not present “recommendations” but rather outline concepts that may be used for future policy decisions. Energy is a huge cost for manufacturers and the IMA will continue to engage in meetings to ensure representation. However, companies are encouraged to review the working groups and their information in order to help provide feedback to the IMA.


Bag Tax Proposal Discussed

Senator Terry Link convened another meeting of stakeholders including manufacturers, retailers, environmental activities, and sold waste agencies this week to discuss the concept of a five-cent tax on all paper and plastic bags in Illinois. The legislation (SB 1597) would exempt reusable bags while imposing the tax in an effort to reduce the use of disposable bags. In exchange for the tax, Senator Link has proposed exempting bags and auxiliary containers from any form of regulation or taxation by local governments so manufacturers and retailers do not have to fight these at the local level. Revenue from the tax would be split between the state and local government for the purpose of funding Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) programs and solid waste management plans.

At the meeting, numerous concerns were raised by various stakeholders including the differential between paper and plastic bags. The environmental community, led by the Sierra Club, is opposed to the pre-emption of local control and suggested that the pre-emption language should be (1) eliminated, (2) narrowed, (3) sunset after a few years, or (4) funding should be dedicated for a statewide program dealing with auxiliary containers.

The IMA expressed concern about the broadened scope of how the funds would be spent. Using revenue for programs outside of HHW would then lead to future fees on manufacturers through extended produce responsibility models.

Chicago (seven cents) and Oak Park (10 cents) currently have bag taxes and would be grandfathered under this proposal. Some stakeholders argued that these municipalities should be able to increase their taxes above the current levels.

Discussions will continue but this legislation is unlikely because lawmakers are reticent to enact a tax on paper and plastic bags in an election year.