Bills, Bills, Bills

National, state, and local legislation made headlines this week

NATIONAL: disaster relief bill passes. Despite staunch Republican opposition, Congress passed an important $19 billion disaster relief bill Monday night. The House approved the $19.1 billion disaster aid package at an overwhelming and surprising tally of 354 to 58. All opposing votes were Republicans. The bill now goes to President Trump—who has said in the past he backed the measure despite grievances concerning his proposed border wall funding—after already passing in the Senate, as well.

With Trump’s signature, the legislation would help speed relief funds to communities hit by tornadoes, wildfires, volcanoes, drought, flooding and other disasters. It also includes money for Puerto Rico, which is still rebuilding after hurricanes in 2017 devastated significant portions of the island.

It ties in neatly with the timing of last week’s latest installment of the Farm/Agricultural Aid Bill…or does it? As many have already pointed out, this creates some confusion as to which bill farmers affected by recent flooding and tornadoes in the Midwest should look to for aid. Will they receive the benefits of both? How much? And, the ultimate kicker, when? These questions remain to be answered and will only apply once the bill is signed by the President.

STATE: Illinois passes a six-year, $45 billion infrastructure bill.

CTA Your New Blue Work From2014Credit CTA

Illinois legislators concluded their spring session on Sunday, June 1, by passing a six-year, $45 billion infrastructure bill. The state has not passed a capital bill this comprehensive since 2009 and the bill will support newly instated Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan, which he said would put the state on a path toward repair.

According to Illinois State Sen. Martin A. Sandoval (D-11), the plan includes a modernization of Illinois’ motor fuel tax, which has not seen an update since 1990. The motor fuel tax will also be indexed to inflation to ensure that the state will have a sustainable revenue source to maintain its roads and bridges far into the future.

The bill includes more than $5 billion for passenger rail and mass transit systems in the state. The Regional Transportation Authority will see $3.6 billion total, which consists of $2.23 billion from the Multi-Modal 3 Transportation Bond Fund and $1.367 billion from the Regional 15 Transportation Authority Capital Improvement Fund.

RTA will be able to help fund the following:

  • $100 Million Kendall County Metra Rail Extension
  • $60 million Green Line Cottage Grove Station Repairs
  • $8 million Harvey Transportation Center Improvements
  • $31.5 million for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line O’Hare Branch improvement
  • $50 million CTA tactical traction power to the Blue Line O’Hare Branch
  • $220 million in capital upgrades for Pace

Downstate transit agencies were allocated more than $355 million to support their activities including $96 million for a Metro Link Extension from Scott Air Force Base to MidAmerica Airport.

Intercity passenger rail service and improvements include:

  • $225 million for the Quad Cities Passenger Rail Project
  • $275 million for the Chicago to Rockford Intercity Passenger Rail expansion
  • $100 million for Chicago to Carbondale Passenger Rail Improvements
  • $122 million for the Springfield Rail Improvement Project

In other rail project news, the bill provides $78 million to be used to improve grade crossing safety and the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program, which aims to improve the speed of freight and passenger rail traffic around and through the Chicago region was given $400 million.

Additional transit related projects to make mention in the legislation include:

  • $39,000 for the city of Chicago to make capital improvements to the North Park Senior bus shelter in the 39th Ward.
  • $75,000 City of Wooddale for lighting improvements at mass transit station
  • $250,000 for infrastructure improvements for Rockford Mass Transit
  • $51,000 to Village of Hazelcrest for costs associated with transit development
  • $3 million to Connect Transit for transit transfer center costs
  • $70 million to support electric vehicle infrastructure

RTA Director of Marketing and Communications Susan Massel said the details of the bill are being reviewed, but RTA is pleased to see the state legislature and Gov. Pritzker understand the importance of capital funding for transit and transportation in Illinois.

“We are heartened to see that in addition to the $2.7 billion allocated for transit capital funding through bonding, there is also annual, sustainable revenue or ‘pay as you go’ funding, allocated for public transportation capital funding . This is the type of long-term, stable capital funding that public transportation needs and riders deserve to address our long term capital need of $30 billion over the next decade,” said Massel.

Once the governor has signed the bill, it will take effect on July 1, 2019.

LOCAL: Seneca Wind update; amendment proposed. 

An amendment to a current state house bill in Ohio’s Seneca County may allow members of local communities to hold a special vote on the long-debated, large wind turbine projects slated for the area.

For the last year, the Seneca Anti Wind Union has campaigned against multiple proposed wind farms intended to be built in the eastern part of the county, which lies southeast of Toledo. Protestors and residents have long claimed that the wind farms are not wanted by the majority of property owners in the area, but are being pushed through by special interest groups.

Around 500 residents were reported to have shown up to a November 2018 protest regarding the matter…300 more heads than there were seats to accommodate them at a local gymnasium. Debates between passionate residents and lobbyists raged at more than one town hall meeting since then. However, the reported amendment would indicate the two sides are nearing a compromise. 


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