On this Memorial Day weekend, I want to encourage you to take some time to pause, pray, and reflect on the service and sacrifice of the members of the United States military that have given their lives in defense of our great nation. America is an exceptional place, and a beacon of hope and freedom in a troubled world. Our military remains the strongest force for good on the entire planet, and we must honor our fallen heroes at this critical moment in our history. We owe a debt of gratitude that can never truly be paid. Thank you to all who serve and to those families who have lost a loved one serving our country, we honor you on Memorial Day and every day.
House Task Force Meets on Public Safety and Violence Prevention
This past week I was a participant in the House Public Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force. The members of the Task Force heard testimony from various interest groups, the Department of Human Services, and legislators regarding the ongoing effort to stem the rising tide of violence and mental health issues in communities across the state.
I have been a strong advocate for increasing police funding, and a strong opponent of the flawed SAFE-T Act, legislation that was signed by Governor Pritzker that hampers the ability of law enforcement officials to properly and effectively prosecute criminals. I agree that to a degree, some community programs and improved mental health services will help in the overall effort to reduce violence. But, we cannot take tools away from law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and our court system that keeps dangerous people behind bars where they belong. I favor repealing the SAFE-T Act and starting over working with all interested parties to build a stronger criminal justice system and safer communities across Illinois.
The Public Utilities and Energy & Environment Committee held a joint hearing on Thursday, May 26 to hear testimony and address serious concerns about energy rate hikes for Ameren customers and rolling blackouts expected across much of Illinois this summer.
Ameren Illinois customers received an email Wednesday warning about higher prices on the horizon this summer. State lawmakers had the opportunity to ask energy leaders why this is happening and what they could do to help Thursday.
“The primary reason you will see an increase in your monthly bill is because of the increase in the electric supply costs, which are collected on your utility bill and paid directly to power generators,” the utility wrote to customers. “Ameren Illinois does not profit from these charges.”
Jim Blessing, the vice president of regulatory policy and energy supply, told lawmakers this hike was caused by inflation, the Russian war in Ukraine, and coal plants closing.
Ameren customers can expect a $58 increase from June to September. They will also pay $49 more during the non-summer months. 1.2 million customers will be impacted by the hike that could cost $430 more annually.
“A customer who uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year will see a $626 annualized increase on the power supply side of their bill or an increase of approximately $52 per month,” Blessing said. […]
Many people are already preparing for the possibility of brownouts and blackouts. Rep. Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) has a generator for backup power on his farm, but he knows that many homeowners don’t have that option.
“I had to spend close to $20,000 last week to make sure that my livestock will be able to survive if I’m not there to turn on the generator,” Meier said. “All of our small businesses and our farms are going to have to do that because we’re living in a state where we’ve taken our destiny away from ourselves.”
Experts from MISO Energy say there is a gap between when fossil fuel facilities close and when there is enough replacement capacity online to power communities.
“We’re seeing a lot more retirements coming quicker, for whatever reason, than we’re seeing generation be able to get online,” said Melissa Seymour, vice president of external affairs for MISO. “The gap could be filled with numerous things. It could be filled with wind and solar. It could be filled with hydrogen in the future.”
Seymour says MISO believes it will become worse before it gets better. Several downstate lawmakers have been telling Democratic leaders that Illinois needed to prepare for this type of crisis over the past several years.
“Our constituents are worried, and they should be worried,” said Rep. Amy Elik (R-Alton). “Reliability is the most important factor. It means nothing if we don’t have reliability.”
“We are facing an immediate crisis,” said State Representative Dan Caulkins, (R-Decatur). “This starts next week, June first. Our electric bills will soar.”
Electricity costs will soar beginning in June in central and southern Illinois, due to inadequate power supplies following coal-fired plant closures. Ameren Illinois is within the MISO grid covering much of downstate Illinois.
Critics of policies phasing out coal and natural gas in favor of renewable power are seeing their doomsday forecasts start to come true far faster than even they thought. The price shock downstate also hands Republicans who didn’t support Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s sprawling, costly Climate & Equitable Jobs Act, or CEJA, last year an issue in the upcoming election.
The statute requires the closure of all fossil fuel power plants in Illinois no later than 2045. Effectively, it’s made the usual method of addressing power-supply shortages—construction of new natural gas-fired plants—uneconomic and significantly reduced the tools available to address the shortage that’s emerged.
Need help with utility bills, including natural gas, propane, and electricity? Applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are due by May 31, 2022. Find out how to apply through your local administering agency: https://bit.ly/2WPvuwt
Rep. Batinick proposes solutions for high gas prices in Illinois
In response to skyrocketing gas prices in Illinois, my friend and colleague State Representative Mark Batinick produced a new video proposing solutions to alleviate this problem for middle and lower income Illinoisans. His video highlighted his recently introduced legislation on this issue, House Bill 5723, in particular.
“Illinoisans are being hurt by high gas prices we are experiencing today,” said Rep. Batinick. “What is not helping is Illinois’ current system of charging a percentage-based additional sales tax on top of a per-gallon gas tax. I introduced House Bill 5723 to provide immediate relief for those who are disproportionately hurt by the current system. This legislation will provide more lasting, meaningful relief than the motor fuel tax increase pause we passed during our spring session. We need to debate and consider this legislation to provide needed relief for Illinoisans.”
House Bill 5723 caps the sales tax on gas at 18 cents per gallon for motor fuel. During this recent spring session, the bill was not released from the House Rules Committee, preventing debate on it. According to AAA, the Chicago Metro area experienced the highest regular unleaded gasoline price on May 22nd at $5.203 and the highest diesel price on the same day at $5.313.
CHILDREN – Efforts in Illinois to counter baby formula shortage.
Many families have been advised by their medical professionals to feed their babies with bottled formula, a nutritional food that should be made in a secure, sterile factory setting. After a key Michigan factory was contaminated with bacteria, U.S. baby formula production dropped sharply. Since the start of 2022, parents have been searching for this essential family food product. A recent congressional hearing has implicated the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an arm of the Biden administration, in the lack of government response to the factory incident and shortage.
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has posted a fact sheet on the baby formula shortage, which includes a hotline, 1-800-843-6154, for Illinois residents seeking further advice. The formula shortage has been exacerbated by well-meaning demands by infant nutritionists that special formulas be created for the specific needs of infants diagnosed with various metabolic conditions. Not only is baby formula short overall throughout the U.S., but specific kinds of formulas needed by specific infants are even shorter. This specialization of formulas is one of the reasons that the overall distribution pipeline has become brittle and inflexible.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS – Illinois tornado season underway; residents urged to be prepared.
Tornado preparedness includes clearly distinguishing between a tornado “watch,” which is a relatively common event that signals the approach of a powerful thunderstorm, and a “tornado warning,” which is what officials issue when a tornado has actually been sighted or tracked on weather radar. Today’s weather radar systems have computer algorithms that can see when air and water are whirling in a tight cylinder.
Authorities broadcast a single-tone warning sound by public siren and cellphone when a tornado warning is issued. Upon hearing a tornado warning on your pocket phone or through other means, Illinois residents are advised to seek shelter. Typical shelter areas include a basement or non-windowed room indoors. After a storm has passed over a residential area, local roads and sidewalks may be unsafe due to downed electric wires or floodwaters. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has posted a fact sheet on Illinois tornado preparedness.
SUMMER EVENTS – IDNR reminds boaters to wear life jackets, boat sober.
As the summer boating season approaches, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources conservation police are reminding people to wear life jackets anytime they’re on the water and to only operate boats while sober.
The message to “Wear It!” is timed with National Safe Boating Week, May 21-27.
“The ‘Wear It!’ message is a simple and easy message to understand,” said Illinois Conservation Police Lt. Curt Lewis, who is the state’s boating law administrator. “Wearing a life jacket isn’t just a reminder for everyone on a motorboat; it’s also important for everyone who enjoys paddle sports, such as kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards.”
In 2021 there were 93 reportable boating accidents on Illinois waters, resulting in 28 injuries and 16 fatalities, according to statistics compiled by the conservation police. In 2020, there were 81 boating accidents with 21 fatalities and 36 injuries. And in 2019, there were 72 accidents with 14 fatalities and 42 injuries. (Annual boating accident statistics are compiled based on the federal fiscal year Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.)
“With Memorial Day weekend approaching and boating season getting underway, everyone enjoying the waterways needs to make safety their priority,” Lewis said. “Wearing a life jacket can save your life, and staying sober while operating a boat is not only common sense, it’s the law.”
As part of the Illinois Conservation Police boating safety enforcement effort, officers also strictly enforce laws regarding operating under the influence (OUI) for boat operators.
Operating a boat under the influence is in some ways riskier than operating a motor vehicle under the influence, Lewis said. On waterways, there are no lane markers, boats have no seatbelts, and there is little protection for occupants should a collision occur.
In 2021 Illinois Conservation Police officers arrested 65 boaters for operating under the influence (OUI), a 36% decrease from 2020. Four of the 16 boating-related fatalities in Illinois in 2021 involved alcohol or drug impairment. The other 12 who died were not wearing life jackets or vests.
Illinois law requires that personal floatation devices, or PFDs – which are life jackets or life vests – be available for each person aboard a boat or other watercraft.
Effective June 1, 2022, no person may operate a watercraft unless everyone under the age of 13 on the deck or in an open watercraft is wearing an approved and appropriately sized PFD. The requirement does not apply to people who are inside a cabin or below the top deck on a watercraft, on an anchored watercraft that is a platform for swimming or diving, or aboard a charter “passenger for hire” watercraft with a licensed captain.
Illinois law requires everyone to wear a PFD while operating a personal watercraft or jet ski.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources offers free boating safety courses that provide a review of boating laws and regulations, as well as instruction on the safe and attentive operation of watercraft. The department encourages boaters of all ages to take a safety course. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1998, must pass a course and have a valid Boating Safety Certificate to operate a motorboat (with over 10 horsepower). State law also requires boating safety education for people ages 12 to 17 to operate a motorboat.
Free safety courses are taught by volunteer instructors and are available throughout Illinois. Find a schedule of courses at https://bit.ly/IDNRsafeboating. For a fee, online boating safety courses are also available.
National Safe Boating Week is observed each year during the week leading up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. For more information on the campaign, visit safeboatingcampaign.com.
My office in Harrisburg can be reached at 618-294-8703 or you can reach me by email at Windhorst@ILHouseGOP.org. Check out RepWindhorst.com for more information or send me a message at RepWindhorst.com/contact.