Rep. Cabello: Week in Review

As you know, Illinois is in a fiscal crisis. Since changes took place, many people, including myself, were concerned that working families, seniors and Illinois’ most vulnerable would lose access to important programs.

I have maintained throughout the entire budget impasse that compromise is essential to changing the direction our state is on.  Thankfully, my efforts in demanding a compromise for the hardworking families in need have finally been heard. Most importantly, the compromise was accomplished without the need for legislation.

The compromise I speak of did several things.

1.) It restores CCAP eligibility requirements for the overwhelming majority of families by setting the eligibility level at 162 percent of the federal poverty level. This action gets at the heart of the overall budget issue by leading people to work together to create a reasonable compromise that protects child care for our most vulnerable while curbing excessive spending that could put the program at future risk.

2.) Instead of Increasing the DON score used to determine eligibility for long-term care, the State will use the existing DON score of 29 to ensure Illinois’ elderly and most vulnerable citizens receive appropriate care.

3.) HB 4305 authorizes the distribution of motor fuel tax (MFT) receipts to local governments. These funds are vitally important to municipalities and townships for local road projects and public safety. House Republicans successfully persuaded the Governor to join us in our support for providing this essential funding for MFT, 9-1-1 services and additional public safety funds.

After reaching an agreement to pass HB 4305, the legislation was overwhelming approved by the House on November 10. However, Speaker Madigan used his draconian House Rules to put a hold on forwarding the bill to the Senate, with Majority Leader Currie filing a motion to reconsider the vote. This parliamentary hold means MFT receipts and 9-1-1 funds will not be distributed until the Speaker removes his blockage and the bill can be passed by the Senate.

News from around Illinois:

Dynegy announces plans to close major coal-burning power station.  The 465-megawatt Wood River Power Station, located by the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois, is scheduled to close in mid-2016.  The coal-burning generating station, which employs about 90 people, began operations in 1954 for Dynegy’s predecessor, Illinois Power.  The owner-operator stated that the operations of the plant, which served as a mainstay of the electricity needs of the Metro-East area for more than 60 years, cannot be reconciled with the current marketplace for wholesale electricity in central and southern Illinois.

The marketplace for electricity throughout much of Downstate Illinois is coordinated by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), a consortium of deregulated electric utility generators, buyers, and resellers.  MISO has come under criticism in recent weeks as an entity that is allegedly associated with sharp increases in the price of Downstate Illinois retail electricity.  In some cases, these increases have been traced to changes in the spot prices of electricity bought and sold through MISO, especially during peak summer consumption months.  The consortium operator is expected to approve Dynegy’s plans to close the Wood River generating plant.

Illinois Commerce Commission approves Grain Belt Express transmission line.  On Thursday, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct, operate and maintain a 600 kV, 4,000 MW capacity, high voltage electric transmission line.

The 780-mile Grain Belt Express Clean Line transmission line will span from Kansas to Indiana. The proposed line spans much of south-central Illinois, including right-of-way in Pike, Scott, Greene, Macoupin, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Cumberland, and Clark Counties. The project will provide direct access for high capacity wind generation to the electricity markets.

The ICC’s order requires that Grain Belt Clean Line secure funds to cover total project costs before construction commences, prohibits project expansion without Commission approval, and requires further Commission approval prior to recovery of any project costs from Illinois retail ratepayers through regional cost allocation. The ICC also directed Grain Belt Clean Line to take specific actions to address landowner concerns that included potential impacts from the construction of the line on irrigation operations, soil compaction and erosion, wetland areas, and timber land.

All documents related to the case, including the Commission’s Final Order, can be viewed under docket number 15-0277 via the ICC’s e-docket system at www.icc.illinois.gov.

Easter Seals leads private-sector push to improve jobless numbers for Illinois veterans. 
Nationwide statistics show that post-9/11 U.S. veterans have a higher unemployment rate than nonveterans who are also members of the nationwide labor force.  Numbers like these weigh even more heavily in Illinois, which has a jobless rate (currently 5.4%, as of September 2015) that is higher than the nationwide rate.  Issues facing jobless veterans were discussed by WLS-TV/Channel 7 and Easter Seals on Sunday, November 8.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reports fall soybean harvest numbers; Illinois takes #1 position again.  The USDA reported this week that American farmers are expected to bring in a record soybean crop for 2015.  The bean harvest, much of which is used for animal feed and soybean oil, is expected to total 3.98 billion bushels.   More than 550 million of these bushels will have been cut and harvested in Illinois, which will once again be the nation’s #1 soybean producing state.  The nation’s third-largest corn crop ever counted, 13.7 billion bushels, will further swell Midwestern grain elevators and harvest bins.  At least 93% of both crops had been harvested nationwide as of this week.

November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month.  The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, acting in cooperation with the National Weather Service, is highlighting winter preparedness activities for homeowners and motorists throughout November.  Useful items include a flashlight with spare, powered batteries; a first-aid kit; and nonperishable food and water.  A checklist of recommended items for home and car can be found at Ready Illinois. You should visit www.gettingaroundillinois.com for current road conditions before traveling long distances.

As always, you can reach me or my staff at 815/282-0083 or email us at cabello@ilhousegop.org. You can also visit my website at johncabello.org or follow me on Facebook.