UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
(UUSJ) OF GREATER CHICAGO

ORGANIZING FOR JUSTICE LOCALLY AND NATIONALLY

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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,