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UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
(UUSJ) OF GREATER CHICAGO

ORGANIZING FOR JUSTICE LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY

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Action Alerts

 

 

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in August 22, 2021 to IL Senators Durbin and Duckworth to cosponsor PFAS Action Act to require the EPA to establish national drinking water standards

I am writing to urge you to cosponsor the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467), which passed the House with bipartisan support and is now pending in the Senate. The bill would require the EPA to establish national drinking water standards for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).


Mounting research links PFAS to a wide range of health problems, such as to kidney and testicular cancer, as well as endocrine disruption in humans.  Drinking water is one of the most common routes of exposure, as PFAS have so far polluted the tap water of at least 16 million people in 33 states, as well as groundwater in at least 38 states.  PFAS contaminates water supplies through two main sources: firefighting foam and industrial discharges.  PFAS are also found in items touted as nonstick or having waterproof qualities, plus in many beauty products.


Though federal regulators have been aware of the PFAS crisis for some time, they have only issued advisories, rather than regulations.


Under this Act the EPA would have 180 days to add PFOA and PFOS to the Clean Air Act’s hazardous pollutants list and would need to develop effluent limits for PFAS under the Clean Water Act.  The EPA Administrator would need to mandate “comprehensive toxicity testing” on all PFAS by sorting compounds into tiered categories and adjusting testing accordingly.  A final rule on testing would occur within two years.  Finally, the bill would give the EPA five years to determine whether all PFAS should be designated as hazardous and to submit a review of the agency’s PFAS cleanup efforts.
I look forward to hearing about your position on this legislation and hope you will chose to cosponsor it now that it is in the Senate.

                                                          Sincerely,

The UUSJ Economic Justice and HomelessnessTask Force issued this Action Alert on July 15, 2021 to Senator Durbin urging him to Orchestrate the 50 Democratic Senators for the American Families Plan

President Biden has presented to Congress his American Jobs (Infrastructure) Plan and his American Families Plan.  I have written to you previously regarding the former.  Today I am writing to appeal to you, as one of the leaders of the Senate Democrats, to act to orchestrate the 50 Democratic Senators getting behind some version of the President’s American Families Plan, since the Parliamentarian has ruled that this legislation can pass with a simple majority under budget reconciliation rules.
          The President’s American Families Plan would provide:

To help fund these measures, the President has proposed a set of measures to make sure the wealthiest Americans pay their share in taxes, while enduring that no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up.
To date, no American Family Act has been introduced in the Senate, and the American Family Act introduced in the House does not include most of what the President proposed.  What will you do to see that the American Family Plan proposed by the President gets introduced in the Senate and some version of it gets the 50 Democratic votes needed to pass the Senate?

Sincerely,

 

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in June 23, 2021 to IL Senator Durbin to support S. 1072, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2021.

I am writing to urge you to join Senator Duckworth in co-sponsoring S. 1072, the Climate Stewardship Act of 2021.  S. 1072 is a bill to provide incentives for agricultural producers to carry out climate stewardship practices that 1) sequester carbon, 2) preserve soil, 3) protect biodiversity, and 4) protect water systems.

This legislation would also invest in programs that bolster local food systems, such as urban farms and community gardens in low income communities.  In addition, S. 1072 authorizes planting over 16 billion trees by 2050, with many going to urban neighborhoods.  It would also restore or protect over 2 million acres of coastal wetlands by 2030 – to sequester carbon emissions and to reduce coastal floodling.

I look forward to your thoughts on this legislation, which I hope you will chose to co-sponsor.

 

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in May 15, 2021 to IL Senators to please support HB 3739 the Lead Service Line Replacement and Line Notifications Act

The CDC has found there is no safe level of lead exposure.  In addition to the danger that lead poses to infants and children, in 2017 1,470 Illinoisans died prematurely from heart disease related to lead exposure.  There may be as many as 730,000 lead service lines in Illinois.  Roughly 390,000 of these are in Chicago alone; however many of our state’s small and mid-sized towns also have lead service lines.

I am writing to urge you to support and to consider co-sponsoring H.B. 3739, the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act.  That bill has passed the IL House and is currently pending in our state’s Senate.

          H.B. 3739 amends the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.  It requires the IL EPA to establish procedures for the collection of a lead in drinking water protection fee to be collected by all community water suppliers.  The Act creates the Lead Service Line Replacement Fund to be used to finance and administer programs and activities specified under the amendatory provision of this legislation.

          This Act creates the Lead Service Line Replacement Advisory Board within the IL EPA to perform specified duties.  Within one year after this amendatory Act’s effective date, the Board shall design a program with specified requirements for the purpose of administering the lead service line replacement funds.  This Act also requires the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to establish a comprehensive low-income water assistance policy and program with specified requirements.

          I look forward to hearing your views on this legislation.

                                                                   Sincerely,

The UUSJ Interfaith Criminal Justice Task Force issued this Action Alert in May 13 2021 to IL reps regarding SB 2129 the State Resentencing Motions Act

I am writing in reference to SB 2129, referred to as the State Resentencing Motion Act.  It has passed the Illinois Senate and is now pending in the Illinois House. I encourage you to support this legislation and to consider being one of its House cosponsors.

SB 2129 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. It provides that at any time upon the recommendation of the State's Attorney of the county in which the defendant was sentenced, the State's Attorney may petition the sentencing court or the sentencing court's successor to resentence the offender if the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice.

The State Resentencing Motion Act further provides that the sentencing court or the sentencing court's successor may resentence the offender if it finds that the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice. Also, upon receipt of a petition for resentencing, the court may resentence the defendant in the same manner as if the offender had not previously been sentenced; however, the new sentence, if any, may not be greater than the initial sentence.

This Act provides that the court may consider post-conviction factors, including, but not limited to, the inmate's disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation while incarcerated; evidence that reflects whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, if any, have reduced the inmate's risk for future violence; and evidence that reflects changed circumstances since the inmate's original sentencing such that the inmate's continued incarceration no longer serves the interests of justice. The Act provides that credit shall be given for time served; that victims shall be afforded all rights as outlined in the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act; and that resentencing shall not reopen the defendant's conviction to challenges that would otherwise be barred. It further provides that nothing in the new provisions shall be construed to limit the power of the Governor under the Constitution to grant a reprieve, commutation of sentence, or pardon.

I look forward to your reply and your sharing your views on SB 2129.

                                                                             Sincerely,

The UUSJ Interfaith Criminal Justice Task Force issued this Action Alert in May 6, 2021 to IL reps regarding HB 1727 for the police officers who are "bad apples" and abuse individual rights

Dear Representative

Our country and state have a long history of having police officers who abuse their authority and subject persons to a deprivation of individual rights and in some case their life.  The public is told that this abuse is because some police officers are “bad apples”. To address and hopefully help reduce the frequency of such abuse by police officers, and to help compensate persons who have been the victims of such abuse, H.B. 1727, the Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act of 2021, has been introduced.

H.B.1727 provides that a peace officer subjecting another person to the deprivation of individual rights is liable to the person for appropriate relief. Excludes sovereign immunity, statutory immunity, and statutory damages for claims brought under this provision. Provides that qualified immunity is not a defense to liability under this provision. Allows attorney's fees and costs to be awarded to the plaintiff. Provides that civil actions brought under this provision must be commenced within 5 years after the cause of action accrues. Requires units of local government to make public disclosures regarding judgments or settlements awarded under this provision. Determines what information is not required to be disclosed by the unit of local government.

I urge you to support and consider joining as a co-sponsor of H.B. 1727.  I look forward to your sharing your views on this proposed legislation.

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in April 30, 2021 to IL US Senators to Support President Biden's Infrastructure Bill

Dear Senator [Durbin/Duckworth],

I am writing you to urge you and your Democratic colleagues to defend the President’s proposed infrastructure plan against Republican Senators efforts to narrow its scope and consequent cost. Negotiations should only go so far as what is required to secure a majority for passage.

In particular, I urge you to stand firm for the following elements of the plan:

Moving toward zero-emissions transportation. The plan is proposing to invest billions of dollars in clean buses, ports, and rail systems. The plan also calls for the construction of half a million electric vehicle charging stations and electrifying postal trucks and the rest of the federal fleet.    

Accelerating our clean energy transition. The proposal would invest in a modern and resilient electricity grid. It would set a standard requiring utilities to move toward 100% clean energy by 2035.

Acknowledging that clean water is a basic right. The proposal provides sorely needed funding for water infrastructure, including for the removal of every lead service line in the country.

Holding polluters accountable. The plan requires polluters to help fund the cleanup of toxic sites. It also puts people to work cleaning up and restoring abandoned wells and mines.

Laying the foundation for a more just future.  The proposal targets 40% of the benefits from investments in climate and infrastructure to disadvantaged communities, and addresses the cumulative impacts of pollution in frontline communities.

I look forward to hearing your views on these elements of the plan and how they can be kept in the final legislation.

Sincerely,


The UUSJ Economic Justice and HomelessnessTask Force issued this Action Alert in April 27, 2021 to both IL US Senators urging some economic amendments to the Minimum Wage $15/hr law so it can be passed by reconcilation

If the U.S. House passes the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 (H.R. 603), to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, I don’t doubt that you would support that economic justice legislation in the U.S. Senate.  The reason that I am writing is that, in order to pass that legislation it needs to be amended so that it has a budgetary impact, so that it can be considered under Budget Reconciliation rules.

I ask that you and/or Senator (Durbin/Duckworth) explore with reasonable Republican Senators what type of amendment, such as some partial-cost-offsetting tax credits for small businesses during the transitional years, could get them to come on board and support the Raise the Wage Act of 2021.  This would lead to the type of budget related amendment that would allow the legislation to be considered under Budget Reconciliation, while concurrently bringing some needed additional votes, to offset the one or two Democratic Senators who are unlikely to support the Raise the Wage Act.

I look forward to you feedback on this requested course of action, which could help nearly 32 million low wage American workers get a much needed series of raises that would bring their compensation closer to living wage levels.

                                                          Sincerely,

 

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in April 18, 2021 to IL Senators to please co-sponsor SB 1718, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA)

I am writing to ask you to join in co-sponsoring S.B. 1718, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).


This bill, sponsored by Sen. Christina Castro, would increase development of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar power, by committing Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, cutting carbon from the power sector by 2030, reducing pollution from gas and diesel vehicles in the transportation sector, and creating jobs and economic opportunity across the state.

The Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016 made clean energy one of the fastest growing job sectors in the state and laid the foundation for the future of energy efficiency in Illinois by creating renewable energy credits, among other provisions. CEJA is an attempt to build on that existing legislative framework.

Another main focus of CEJA is on the transportation sector, considering that the transportation system is the largest source of carbon emissions. If CEJA passes, there will be more activity in terms of the electrification of the transportation sector in all communities across the state.

CEJA would push for a "just transition" to renewable energy for communities affected by the closure of coal and nuclear plants that not only provide jobs, but act as a tax base for school districts.  It would do so in part by creating Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs.
This year’s version of the bill contains stronger language in response to the deferred prosecution agreement in which ComEd admitted to a years-long bribery scheme aimed at influencing the state's former House Speaker.  It also features a restitution piece, specifically for ComEd, which would require a majority of the profits it made through its admitted criminal activity be refunded back to ratepayers. The refund amount would be determined by an assessment conducted by the ICC.
Illinois, if we implement CEJA, will stop paying $1.8 billion on fossil-emitting coal plants. The bill would remove Illinois from a multistate capacity auction conducted by the federally regulated PJM regional transmission organization, instead giving the Illinois Power Agency the authority to procure capacity. The IPA could then emphasize the purchase of renewables, rather than fossil fuels, in its capacity auctions.

CEJA would replace automatic rate hikes with a performance-based rate setting, meaning the ICC could only approve utility investments, programs and rates that are cost-effective and contribute to the greater goal of a renewable energy electric grid.

I look forward to hearing your position on this legislation.

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in February 25, 2021 to IL Representatives (who had not sponsered it) in favor of HB 804 or the Clean Jobs Equity Act

Dear Representative

I am writing to ask you to join in co-sponsoring H.B. 804, which is titled the Clean Jobs Equity Act, but commonly is referred to as the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams, would increase development of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar power, by committing Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, cutting carbon from the power sector by 2030, reducing pollution from gas and diesel vehicles in the transportation sector, and creating jobs and economic opportunity across the state.

The Future Energy Jobs Act of 2016 made clean energy one of the fastest growing job sectors in the state and laid the foundation for the future of energy efficiency in Illinois by creating renewable energy credits, among other provisions. CEJA is an attempt to build on that existing legislative framework.

Another main focus of CEJA is on the transportation sector, considering that the transportation system is the largest source of carbon emissions. If CEJA passes, there will be more activity in terms of the electrification of the transportation sector in all communities across the state.

CEJA would push for a "just transition" to renewable energy for communities affected by the closure of coal and nuclear plants that not only provide jobs, but act as a tax base for school districts.  It would do so in part by creating Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs.
This year’s version of the bill contains stronger language in response to the deferred prosecution agreement in which ComEd admitted to a years-long bribery scheme aimed at influencing the state's former House Speaker.  It also features a restitution piece, specifically for ComEd, which would require a majority of the profits it made through its admitted criminal activity be refunded back to ratepayers. The refund amount would be determined by an assessment conducted by the ICC.
Illinois, if we implement CEJA, will stop paying $1.8 billion on fossil-emitting coal plants. The bill would remove Illinois from a multistate capacity auction conducted by the federally regulated PJM regional transmission organization, instead giving the Illinois Power Agency the authority to procure capacity. The IPA could then emphasize the purchase of renewables, rather than fossil fuels, in its capacity auctions.

CEJA would replace automatic rate hikes with a performance-based rate setting, meaning the ICC could only approve utility investments, programs and rates that are cost-effective and contribute to the greater goal of a renewable energy electric grid.
I look forward to hearing your position on this legislation.

                                                Sincerely,

The UUSJ EnvironmentalTask Force issued this Action Alert in February 14, 2021 to Chicago Mayor Lightfoot to Stop General Iron from Moving its Recycling to Chicago's Black & Brown Southeast Side

Mayor Lori Lightfoot
121 N. LaSalle St., Unit 507
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Mayor Lightfoot,
Scrap metal recycler General Iron, now owned and operated by RMG, is still planning to move to Chicago's Southeast Side. This community has been subjected to environmental racism for years and already faces disproportionately high rates of air pollution and respiratory illnesses. There are at least 6 other nearby permitted facilities that continue to operate, negatively impacting the health of the residents and pollute the community.
General Iron, now RMG, is a serial polluter that has consistently violated environmental law, with a fire in 2015, a city-ordered shut-down in 2016, and a citation for air pollution in 2018. The facility’s current pollution control equipment remains insufficient to curb the problem, yet they plan to keep the same equipment at the new site.
The City of Chicago still has the chance to deny a recycling permit and shut down the move for good.  I urge you to listen to the community voices and act to protect the health of lower income people, the majority of whom are people of color, by denying the one permit General Iron/RMG still needs.  If that last permit is issued you will have sided with corporate profits over the health of Chicago residents and will have become the Queen of Environmental Racism, a status that won’t be helpful to a re-election effort.

                                                Sincerely,

The UUSJ Economic Justice and HomelessnessTask Force issued this Action Alert in February 2, 2021 to President Biden to revise the federal poverty level

Dear President Biden,

I am writing to urge you to have the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) draft regulations to update how poverty is measured and where the official federal poverty line is set.  The concept of a poverty level was established by President Johnson in the mid-1960s to measure the success of that Administration’s War on Poverty programs.  Since then there have only been small, national cost of living adjustments each January.  The official poverty line needs to be 1) adjusted to take into consideration what is a basic necessity in modern America, and 2) the cost of living differences that exist within the contiguous 48 states.  Currently, only Hawaii and Alaska are recognized as having higher costs of living.

Programs that use the poverty guidelines include SNAP, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Head Start, the National School Lunch Program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  A change to more realistic poverty levels would not, in itself, change how federal subsidies and benefits are calculated, but would make more people eligible for them.

This is something that your Administration can readily do to address poverty in America. So I ask that you direct the Secretary of DHHS to initiate the regulatory changes to create an updated federal poverty level, as outlined above.  This is a progressive change that your Administration should be able to have in place by the end of this year.  And many low income Americans would benefit.

                                                          Sincerely,

The UUSJ Economic Justice and HomelessnessTask Force issued this Action Alert on January 6, 2021 to IL Governor Pritzer and Leaders of the IL General Assembly for a Transaction Tax to Raise IL Revenue

Dear Governor Pritzker,
          I thank you for your strong support of the Fair Tax Amendment to Illinois’s Constitution.  Unfortunately it failed to win adoption at the November, 2020, general election.  Since our state has a severe budget deficit and needs to raise revenue in addition to looking for ways to reduce expenses without hurting the people of Illinois, I urge you and the General Assembly to take a serious look at enacting a financial transaction tax, which would be a much more progressive way to raise revenue than an increase in Illinois’ non-progressive income tax.
          The financial transaction taxation legislation introduced in the last General Assembly contained the following wording:
Creates the Financial Transaction Tax Act. Beginning January 1, 202_, imposes a tax on the privilege of engaging in a financial transaction on any of the following exchanges or boards of trade: the Chicago Stock Exchange; the Chicago Mercantile Exchange; the Chicago Board of Trade; or the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Provides that the tax is imposed at a rate of $1 per transaction for all transactions for which the underlying asset is an agricultural product, a financial instruments contract, or an options contract. Provides that transactions executed via open outcry that are physically filled on the exchange floor are exempt from the tax. Provides that the term "financial transaction" means a transaction involving the purchase or sale of a stock contract, futures contract, swap contract, credit default swap contract, or options contract, but does not include a transaction involving securities held in a retirement account or a transaction involving a mutual fund.
            I would urge that the tax be $1 (or other appropriate rate) per contract or option, rather than $1 per transaction, so that large transactions pay more than smaller ones.  The wording of the act needs to be revised to make it clear that the tax is not on the listed Exchanges, as that would likely drive such institutions out of our state, but on the individuals or entities selling the options or contracts.  The Exchanges should also be able to add a charge to cover any cost they incur to administer this financial transaction tax.  I do not believe that mutual funds that engage in options and financial contact sales should be exempted from this tax.  Last, it would be cumbersome for the Exchanges to determine whether the security was held in a retirement account, so that exception should also be eliminated.
          I look forward to your reply and thoughts on enacting such a financial transaction tax.

                                                          Sincerely,

 

The UUSJ Criminal Justice and HomelessnessTask Force issued this Action Alert in December 2020 regarding the Restorative Sentencing Act in 2021 to IL Representatives and Senators

Representative
Stratton Bldg, #
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Representative
I am writing to encourage you to co-sponsor, or at least support, the Restorative Sentencing Act in 2021.

Before 1998, individuals in Illinois prisons could proactively earn time off their sentence through good behavior and participation in prison programming. This system changed in 1998 with the passage of truth-in-sentencing (TIS) laws. Today, these laws limit the amount of time individuals convicted of certain offenses can earn off their non-life sentences. As a result, TIS laws drive mass incarceration at a considerable cost to taxpayers and prevent individuals from participating in programming that prepares them to successfully return to the community.

Restorative Sentencing bill identifiers are SB2054/HB2620 in the current General Assembly that is about to end, but new identifiers will very likely accrue in the new General Assembly.

The Restorative Sentencing Act allows individuals who were sentenced under TIS laws to earn a sentencing credit if they complete a rehabilitative program.

Incentivizing individuals to participate in restorative programming (educational programs, substance abuse programs, behavioral modification programs and life skills courses) is one of the safest ways to reduce the prison population and decrease recidivism.

I look forward to learning your position on the Restorative Sentencing Act.

Sincerely,