Friday, May 14, 2004

Environmental victory and loss in state Senate

Courtesy of the Illinois Environmental Council email newsletter:

The Energy Efficiency Building Act (HB 4099, see it here), sponsored by Julie Hamos in the House and Denny Jacobs in the Senate, passed the Senate yesterday, 45-11-0 (roll call vote is here). The bill requires new commercial properties to adhere to an energy efficiency code, which is smart for everybody (including the building owner). The less energy we use, the better.

Like most bills with bith that make it into law, this one was amended quite a few times along the way, but that's how legislation is supposed to get made. Congratulations to Representative Hamon, Senator Jacobs and the environmental groups and lobbyists that worked on this one.

Unfortunately, the Wetlands Protection Act did not survive this week. After Representative Karen May worked hard to pass it out of the House in 2003 with a lot of support from environmental groups, it died this week in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. The bill is HB 422 (read it here).

The General Assembly website doesn't show this (which is a transparency problem which ought to be fixed -- committee votes should be recorded, and not just shown as 'held in committee'), but according to the Illinois Environmental Council, the vote in committee (here are the members) was 3-5-1.

I'll just cut from the e-newsletter for the committee vote:

After several weeks of last minute negotiations aimed at reaching a politically acceptable compromise, the Wetlands Protection Act (HB 422) was voted down by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee 3-5-1. Voting 'Yes' were Senators Collins, Sandoval and Welch; voting 'No' were Senators Clayborne, Haine, Jacobs, Rutherford and Sullivan; with Senator Hendon voting 'Present'. Senator Dillard (a co-sponsor of the bill) and Rauschenberger were not present at the hearing to vote. At the hearing the bill was amended to add a sunset provision, which would cause the program to expire in 2007. This is a legislative technique used to force the General Assembly to revisit an issue after a few years. Typically the program is reenacted after another round of negotiations. While several legislators appreciated this approach, it was rejected by the opponents of the bill, and therefore did not add any supporters.

Many thanks to Senator Terry Link, the bill sponsor, who gave an impassioned speech urging his colleagues to support the bill. While the vote ends attempts for this session to create a statewide program for the protection of isolated wetlands, it was a major victory for environmentalists to pass the bill in the House last year after two years of trying. In addition, much weaker legislation backed by the opponents failed to be considered at all. This issue will no doubt be back again next year.


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