Eye On Illinois: Task force work can be building blocks for consequential action

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Don’t get taken by surprise.

One of the frequent complaints about state government is how action seems to materialize at the last minute, before rank-and-file lawmakers have had a chance to vet details or solicit constituent feedback. While that’s certainly been the case – and likely will be again this week as session barrels toward a needlessly early close – it also is true that some subjects tend to fly under the radar via a deliberate, perhaps tedious process.

On Thursday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1004 on a 32-15 vote, the first step toward creating the Illinois Regional Generation Reliability Task Force. According to Capitol News Illinois, that body would include 33 people – unpaid positions – to study how state laws are affecting energy prices and broader power grid issues.

The task force’s first annual report would be due Feb. 1. The General Assembly could turn its ideas into laws or regulations.

It’s worth noting the creation of a task force guarantees nothing. Consider the legislative ethics and lobbying reform commission that blew past its report deadline by several months in 2020, or the current task force charged with figuring out how to end the cash bail system that didn’t approach its deadline before calls to undo the changes it hasn’t yet proposed.

Opposition to creating this task force comes in part from a concern it would lead to rolling back portions of the 2021 Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.

“That’s not the intention of this task force,” said state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, who sponsored SB 1004, “but more so to remain focused on testing the reliability of what we did, and to monitor the grid reliability and to develop the tools to evaluate the impact of those proposed policies.”

Other opposition is rooted in the force’s composition, as groups such as the Sierra Club think it should include more than just lawmakers and industry groups. Those concerns are valid and should get fair attention during House debate. But from a big picture standpoint, it’s important to have groups like this to make sure major efforts like CEJA fulfill their goals without unexpected consequences.

Democrats who passed CEJA noted its provisions for studies every five years to make sure nuclear and renewable energy sources can sustain the power grid if fossil fuel plants are decommissioned, which the Sierra Club said renders the task force duplicative. But pulling the plug has such significant consequences it’s easy to sell a task force as checks and balances, not simply red tape.

Should the task force come to fruition, its meetings and reports will generate building blocks of further significant legislative action. Voters (and lawmakers) should pay attention now so they’re not taken by surprise later.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

via Shaw Local

April 6, 2022 at 10:18AM

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