Illinois Democrats Advance New Legislative Districts With Little Public Consideration | Chicago News

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Democrats have a stranglehold on the Illinois General Assembly, and on Tuesday they passed legislation that will help the party maintain power for the decade to come despite objections from community organizations and Republicans that the process continues to be partisan redistribution has become completely unscrupulous.

In an extraordinary session, the legislator approved a new map (SB927 and HR443) borders for the legislative constituencies of the states.

This is the second time that the legislature has gone through the redistribution process this year.

In June, Governor JB Pritzker had already promulgated a new map, but those districts were drawn before the latest census data arrived in mid-August, which critics at the time said would cause problems.

READ: Pritzker signs the legislative map challenged in law

The population changes – and the lawsuits – forced the Democrats’ hand to redo, given that when using census data, the number of people per district in the original version was out of balance.

“You can’t have one district that is much bigger or smaller than another,” explained political consultant Frank Calabrese. “The map that was adopted by the committee today, all districts are basically the same at 108,000 and are changing.”

Democrats have championed the new cards as improved.

“The card fitted in front of you today is a card you can be proud to support,” said Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Sponsor, D-Cicero. “(The map) is consistent with the diversity and values ​​of our great state.”

But there was little time for anyone to verify this claim.

Iterations of the new map (see them here and here) were made public on Monday evening. It was amended on Tuesday morning. And the final version wasn’t made public until just before it was voted on in the House on Tuesday night.

These kinds of last-minute gimmicks prompted Jay Young of Common Cause Illinois to call the process “undemocratic.”

“From the start, we have pleaded with lawmakers to keep the redistribution process open, transparent and accessible to no avail,” Young said in a statement. “At every opportunity in this redistribution process, it’s as if lawmakers are doing all they can to ensure that the creation of these maps has as little public input as possible. Rejecting an independent bipartisan redistribution commission, politicians chose to draw maps themselves. They did so behind closed doors, with a series of hearings attempting to add a public access veneer. “

The current cards are the subject of lawsuits by both Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

Incomplete clean energy package, the ethical bill tumbles

There have also been iterations of energy proposals (various amendments to HB3666) before the Senate proposes a new version (SB18) which passed 39-16 just before 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

The complex measure changes the way electricity rates are set, boosts funding for solar and wind energy companies, creates programs to bring people of color and ex-criminals into the workforce energy work, and aims to convert Illinois to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

It also demands the closure of all coal and natural gas power plants by 2045.

The future of the Prairie State Energy Campus in Marissa and the City, Water, Light and Power plant in Springfield had been key sticking points as environmentalists and Pritzker said they would not agree to any action that did not not force the closure of carbon-emitting factories. on a certain date. Factories, the state chamber of commerce, and unions representing factory workers are fighting “premature” shutdowns and want to be able to operate longer if they are able to use technology to sequester carbon emissions.

The package also adds fees to taxpayer bills that will go to Exelon in exchange for keeping nuclear reactors in operation at Byron, Dresden and Braidwood – the factories, according to Exelon, are currently losing money.

Exelon’s nuclear fleet in Illinois accounts for the majority of the state’s carbon-free power, and supporters argue the state will struggle to meet its clean energy targets if nuclear power plants go down. disconnect.

Critics are reluctant to give handouts to revolving companies, in addition to Exelon, given that it is a profitable company and the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, which admitted in a federal deferred prosecution agreement. a long-standing corruption program linked to the old great energy laws, including one that gave Exelon a grant to keep its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power plants open.

“I want to say at the outset that his bill was not drafted by utility companies. There are no behind-the-scenes deals or insiders unduly influencing this process, ”said sponsor Senator Mike Hastings, D-Frankfort.

The Pritzker administration, which has threatened to veto previous attempts by Senate Democrats, released a mixed assessment of the latest plan on Wednesday morning.

“The governor’s office looks forward to working with members of the House to finalize an energy package that puts consumers and the climate first. The governor’s office is in talks with stakeholders to ensure that the closure of Prairie State and the CWLP in 2045 includes real interim emission reductions in line with previous bills, and has committed to work with the General Assembly to correct some drafting errors in the Senate bill that the governor raised in today’s talks because they could have unintended legal consequences, ”Pritzker’s office said in a statement.

Pritzker said Tuesday morning that an energy deal was “closed”.

If an agreement were to finally come to fruition after years of negotiations, the legislature would soon have to return for another special session.

They may need it anyway in order to save an ethics bundle.

Following an ethics scandal involving several Springfield insiders close to former House Speaker Michael Madigan, Pritzker had promised one.

Rather than signing the measure (SB539) the legislature passed, he used his amending veto to make a minor amendment, sending the proposal back to the General Assembly.

While the Senate accepted Pritzker’s changes, in a surprise gesture the House rejected them – Republicans were upset that Pritzker ignored calls from advocates of good government to use his veto pen to bolster this. which they say are lackluster reforms, and a few dozen representatives did not vote at all, indicating that by the time the House took action on Tuesday night, some members had already returned home.

That, for now, leaves the ethics bill dead.

But the House has two weeks to try again, getting the package back before next year’s election.

House and Senate overturn veto

The lawmaker also used this time in Springfield to do something rare: override a veto issued by Pritzker.

The governor recently rejected a measure (HB684) that would allow private ambulance companies to bill for non-emergency transportation across the state rather than through managed care organizations contracted by Illinois to coordinate patient care on Medicaid, the program of state health insurance for the poor.

Pritzker said the billing change could hurt vulnerable Medicaid patients, making it harder for them to get by ambulance to doctor’s appointments and other services.

READ: Amid paramedic shortage, Pritzker is likely to veto bill promoted by ambulance companies

First the House, then the Senate, easily and massively overrode Pritzker’s veto.

The ambulance industry has said that managed care organizations are so far behind in reimbursing trips and are so overwhelmed financially that they are unable to pay emergency medical technicians enough money, which contributes to a shortage of drivers and ambulance technicians.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Note: This story was originally posted on Tuesday, August 31. It was updated Wednesday morning to include late night developments.




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