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Duckworth, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Improve Water Quality & End Sewage Dumping into Great Lakes

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PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation today to end the dumping of untreated sewage waste into the Great Lakes Basin. The Senators’ Great Lakes Water Protection Act would improve water quality in the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of America’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America. The bill would also create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and require the public be immediately notified when sewage is discharged. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and supports 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year, threatening the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will help fix this problem by banning discharges of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes to protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.” 

“The Great Lakes are precious natural resources and it’s our duty to protect them. In Illinois, we depend on Lake Michigan as a critical source of drinking water for millions of people. Lake Michigan also provides a huge economic benefit to the state, and is a place of recreation for countless residents and tourists,” Senator Durbin said. “This bill will end sewage dumping and ensure we have clean and healthy Great Lakes for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

“My bill and the legislation Senators Duckworth and Durbin introduced in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” added Representative Lipinski. “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

An estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year. That’s because inconsistent rules allow sewage treatment facilities in some states to divert wastewater around secondary treatment and discharge the untreated water directly into the Great Lakes when the treatment facilities are overloaded due to heavy storms, wet weather events or power failures, creating a public health hazard. The Senators’ legislation would create a uniform policy across the entire Great Lakes Basin that ends this practice. It would also authorize The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund to provide up to $250 million each year from 2020 to 2024 to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending. 

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

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Illinois Govt

Illinois pot legalization splits both parties in House, but is poised for governor’s signature after passage

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Illinois lawmakers celebrate after Illinois House approved a bill to legalize recreational marijuana at the State Capitol

A bill to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use in Illinois is on to the governor despite there being bipartisan opposition.

Sponsors of the measure say allowing adults to legally buy from state licensed sellers and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana is not just about revenue for the state, it’s about reversing the impacts of the War on Drugs.

“I have said repeatedly, however, this is not about the money,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. “It can’t be about the money. States that have passed legalization and have gone about it as if it’s a magic ATM machine have failed doubly. They have not cut into their illicit marketplace and they’ve gotten less revenue.”

Cassidy said the tax rates have been set at the lower end of what other states tax. With all the taxes for cannabis in House Bill 1438, from the state excise tax, cultivation privilege tax and even local tax on top of the state sales tax, the most THC potent form of the product will have a 41 percent tax.

The measure found support from state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris. He said the provisions for local control over sales and the ability for businesses to do random drug testing were good provisions.

“I’m a father of three from a rural district and I’m standing before you supporting this bill because I do not believe the current policy that we have out there right now is working,” Welter said. “Prohibition doesn’t work and we see that. Putting safeguards in place, taxing, regulating it I believe provides a better market and a safer market for our state.”

Many other Republicans, however, stood in opposition to the bill, citing various statistics of increased psychosis, traffic fatalities and youth access in states that have legalized it. Supporters of the bill said correlation doesn’t mean causation, but opponents said it’s an area that should be investigated further.

House Democrats were also split on the measure.

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, talked about the negative health effects of the drug. He brought out props to the House floor: An egg and a pan.

“This is your brain,” DeLuca said as he cracked an egg into a frying pan. “There it is folks. This is your brain on drugs. So today for my family, for my children, for your family, of your children, and especially for African American and Hispanic communities, vote no.”

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, immediately stood in support of the measure and to “refute some of the what I call nonsense that we heard including wasting eggs that should have been used to make a souffle or something instead of making a ridiculous point that has been outdated for over 30 years.”

The House Black Caucus was split on the issue with some speaking in favor, others in oppositions.

State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said he at first didn’t trust the process, but now he does.

“This is so important to me,” Evans said. “I’ve seen what happens when an individual is restricted. I’ve seen the men cry when they lose their jobs because they didn’t want to put on there they had a felony conviction. I’ve seen the young folks who were rejected for financial aid because they have a background because they had possession of marijuana and I’ve seen the destruction that’s caused to a generation.”

He said he’s happy to join others in rolling back the War on Drugs.

State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, opposed the bill.

“Our community is still being used for people to make a profit and to get rich and give nothing back to the community,” Flowers said.

The measure passed 66 to 47. It passed the Senate previously and will now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Pritzker called the bill a historic step for the state.

“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” the governor said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance. In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.”

The governor also praised the sponsors of the bill and others who worked to get the legislation passed.

 

Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

 

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Illinois Govt

Pritzker guarantees Illinois lawmakers pay increase with biggest budget in state history

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While Illinoisans will be paying higher taxes, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he’s going to give state lawmakers at least a $1,600 pay increase because they’re hard workers.

Pritzker said he’ll sign the budget bills being sent his way, despite the ire from taxpayers that lawmakers gave themselves a raise while doubling the state’s gas tax.

Pritzker was asked multiple times in Chicago Tuesday if he’d line-item veto more than $280,000 in lawmaker pay increases when he gets the budget that was passed in overtime session.

“Look, this was a highly negotiated budget,” Pritzker said. “We had the Republicans and Democrats coming to the table back and forth on this and so I’m going to sign the budget that we put forward.”

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said if the budget was highly negotiated, why was the Senate unanimous in wanting to keep their pay flat? He said in the House there were Republicans and Democrats ready to vote to freeze their pay.

“Effectively the will of the people and the legislators want to forego raises,” Skillicorn said.

Illinois lawmakers are the highest paid state legislators in the region, making a base pay of $67,836 with a $111 a day per diem. That’s going to go up.

The measure to keep lawmaker pay flat passed the Senate late Friday but when the bill got to the House, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, put a non-concur motion on it, holding the measure from a floor vote. He hasn’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Multiple lawmakers have called on the governor to line-item veto the pay raises. Pritzker was insistent he’s going to sign the budget as is. He even defended lawmakers.

“They’re working night and day, Republicans and Democrats, I credit them all,” Pritzker said. “Many of them are taking on much more than people expect. They’re also away from their families for days, sometimes a week at a time.”

Skillicorn said said taxpayers shouldn’t have sympathy for lawmakers.

“We haven’t had a balanced budget in over a decade,” Skillicorn said. “We have over $6 billion in backed bills. Clearly the legislators haven’t done a good job.”

Illinois’ backlog of bills isn’t the only debt. Illinois also has $136 billion of unfunded pension liability, among the worst credit rating in the country, the second-highest property taxes and more problems.

Before leaving town, lawmakers approved the biggest spending budget in Illinois state history without addressing some of the main cost drivers like the increased pension debt.

 

Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

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Illinois Govt

Gambling expansion pieces still coming together, but supporters bet on passage

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Sponsors of a measure to expand gambling in Illinois said Tuesday that they’re confident a package that includes new casinos, sports wagering and increased taxes for video gambling will be approved by Friday’s deadline.

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, said allowing more gambling in Illinois is a win for taxpayers.

“It’s a user fee,” Link said. “If you want to go in and you want to gamble, you pay. But all the residents of Illinois gain from it without a tax increase.”

Supporters said the expansion bill to be filed for Senate Bill 516 will include more casinos, sports betting and increased taxes on video gambling. They said they didn’t how much those taxes would be increased.

Jimmy Centers, spokesman for the Bet on Main Street coalition opposed to higher taxes for video gambling, said there’s a lot of talk about fair taxing in Illinois, but video gambling operators already pay 30 percent tax.

“[Gambling machine operators] keep main streets vibrant, they create jobs, they reinvest in their community, all of which is going to be jeopardized if a massive video gaming tax increase is passed here at the end of Illinois’ legislative session.”

On the sports betting component, there’s discussion still going on about a “penalty box” provision that organizations like fantasy sports operators FanDuel and DraftKings have opposed. A “penalty box” provision could keep FanDuel and DraftKings from taking part in sports betting for a period of time. Matt King with FanDuel has said the penalty box is an effort by wealthy and connected casino operators to protect their turf.

“If we don’t pass something, we’ll all be in the penalty box,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford.

The measure will also include new casinos for Rockford, Walker’s Bluff and other locations, but not Springfield.

AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said it’s time to act on creating new casino because it will create construction jobs.

“Gaming expansion has been discussed over and over and over again here at the statehouse,” he said. “The pros vastly outweigh the cons in getting this done.”

Syverson said the effort underway is about more than just jobs, it’s also about positioning Illinois to be ahead of neighboring states.

“[This] will help the state retain some of the $1.5 billion that leaves Illinois and goes to our five surrounding states every year,” he said. “Now we know that Wisconsin and Indiana are planning major casinos right on the border as well.”

Supporters said they anticipate getting the gambling measure approved by the end of the week.

 

Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

 

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