Eye On Illinois: Republican candidates opposed bill that saved nuclear plants in GOP districts

Although it’s too early to fully understand long-term implications of the energy legislation that was ratified Monday, it’s certainly appropriate to examine short-term political fallout.

The House passed Senate Bill 2408 on Thursday on a bipartisan 83-33 vote. Two GOP representatives were absent. House Democrat Mary Flowers voted against, while 11 Republicans voted with Democrats. Soon after, Gov. JB Pritzker announced he would sign the legislation. The Senate passed the bill, 37-17, on Monday afternoon. Two GOP senators, Sue Rezin and John Curran, voted in favor. Democrat Rachelle Crowe voted against, and three Democrats voted present.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, one of four men who want the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, crystalized his well-known position with a tweet right before the Senate returned from executive to regular session, urging followers to call his colleagues and “tell them to reject Pritzker’s job killing and rate-raising Illinois Green New Deal. This irresponsible and activist-driven legislation allows for eminent domain and will have Illinois importing energy and exporting jobs while working families pay the price. The madness has to stop. We must support Illinois energy and jobs and this woke-activist-bill is terrible for both.”

Thin partisan rhetoric aside – only a small subset of detractors call it the Illinois Green New Deal, and “woke” long ago lost all practical meaning – Bailey has been a leader among the primary field in consistently challenging the legislation.

Venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan just joined the race and hadn’t declared a position. Former state Sen. Paul Schimpf didn’t address the topic online except for a Facebook post after the House vote decrying “sweeping legislation passed late at night after a closed-door process where representatives don’t know the full contents of what they are voting on. When I am your governor, I will veto any legislation passed in this manner.”

Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine issued a late June statement accusing Pritzker of pushing “a gift to extremists who want to close coal plants before we have any realistic energy alternatives. Our commitment to clean energy should not come at the expense of affordability and reliability. We need to give companies time to adjust to the transformation to clean energy.”

Surely the topic arises as these candidates meet with voters, so they can’t be judged solely by online activity. As their campaigns continue, each will address Republican supporters in districts where a nuclear plant sustains the local economy. The eventual nominee will have to weigh in on things such as the commitment to increasing electric vehicle usage or five-year grid reliability studies to ensure coal and gas shutdown schedules are feasible.

Whether they objected procedurally or substantively, how these candidates frame their opposition should significantly define their candidacies and indicate how they intend to govern.

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