Senate Week in Review: August 14-18, 2023

SPRINGFIELD – A bipartisan bill that would have eased Illinois’ four-decade-old ban on building new nuclear reactors has been vetoed by the Governor, setting up a potential override showdown.

In other news, legislation targeting the gun industry was signed by the Governor over the weekend, but the new law now faces a federal legal battle.

With the deadline approaching for the Governor to act on legislation that passed the General Assembly this spring, two measures signed into law establish higher education scholarship programs.

Governor vetoes bipartisan nuclear legislation

On Aug. 11, Gov. JB Pritzker issued a full veto of Senate Bill 76, which would have ended Illinois’ decades-old ban on the construction of advanced nuclear reactors.

Senate Bill 76 garnered strong bipartisan support, receiving a 36-14 vote in the Senate and an 84-22 vote in the House of Representatives.

In response to the Governor’s veto, proponents of Senate Bill 76 pointed out that the legislation was amended before its final passage to narrowly define what constitutes an advanced nuclear reactor using federal law with the intent that only small modular reactors could be built.

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) says this legislation would also have assisted in Illinois’ ongoing energy goals to build a cleaner, stronger, and more robust power supply. “We know wind and solar are not the solution and will never be able to provide enough reliable or affordable energy,” Syverson said. “Nuclear is clean, green, and provides the reliable energy the state needs to attract and keep employers.” 

Syverson says he hopes Senate and House leaders will allow the bill to be called for an override vote during the upcoming fall Veto Session.

Legislation targeting gun industry signed into law, but faces legal challenge

Over the weekend, Gov. Pritzker signed House Bill 218, which allows the Attorney General, counties, and private citizens to sue members of the firearm industry for vaguely defined so-called “unlawful business and marketing practices.”

Proponents claim the new law is intended to clarify that the gun industry is subject to Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for marketing firearms and related products.

Opponents of the new law note that the gun industry is already subject to the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, like every other business. Syverson, who opposed the legislation, said, “It is very clear House Bill 218 was intentionally written with broad language to make it easier for the Attorney General and anti-gun groups to target gun manufacturers and Federal Firearms Licenses in an attempt to put them out of business”.

Two days after the Governor signed House Bill 218, opponents of the law filed a lawsuit in the federal Southern District of Illinois that claims the new law violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process. The lawsuit also claims that the law imposes liability in Illinois for actions committed by other individuals or in other states and is preempted by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Higher education scholarship bills become law

On Aug. 11, the Governor signed bills directed at establishing scholarship programs to attract talented high school graduates to attend Illinois universities and colleges.

House Bill 301 permanently establishes Illinois’ Aspirational Institutional Match Helping Illinois Grow Higher Education (AIM HIGH) Grant Pilot Program. AIM HIGH was originally a statewide pilot program that provided merit-based scholarships to Illinois high school graduates to incentivize more high-achieving students to attend Illinois public universities, rather than them taking out-of-state offers with the chance they never return.

House Bill 1378 establishes the Illinois Graduate and Retain Our Workforce (iGROW) Tech Scholarship Program to award scholarships that can be used to recruit and train individuals to work in technology jobs that have a high demand for new employees and offer high wages. Scholarships may be made through the 2029-2030 academic year for a maximum of eight academic semesters.

Syverson says both scholarship programs should help the state deal with the ongoing “brain drain” of young, talented high school graduates and help ensure that Illinois’ workforce remains full of strong and qualified candidates.

Dave Syverson

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