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CHICAGO – As the world adapts to unprecedented change from coronavirus, a bipartisan group of legislators is urging state regulators to strengthen consumer protections to keep the lights on for residents and businesses turning to recovery in Illinois.
The Illinois Senate Energy Working Group, led by Chairman Michael E. Hastings, has sent a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission urging the commission to adopt several reforms that would protect small and large energy consumers once Illinois emerges from the coronavirus shutdown.

The ICC has approved an emergency order preventing utilities from shutting off electric, natural gas, water and sewer service during the public health crisis, and it currently is considering proposals for protecting consumers for the following recovery period. The 13-member Senate working group, assembled to work on essential energy legislation from the pandemic, unanimously signed the letter supporting several proposals:

  • Delayed shutoffs – Recommending a grace period of at least 60 days after the stay-at-home shutdown order is lifted before a utility can shut off a customer’s electric service.
  • Delayed payments – Recommending a standard deferred payment arrangement between utilities and customers. All DPAs should be at least 12 months and extend to 18 months or up to two years after a certified financial hardship. If a customer defaults, they should be able to enter a DPA, the group suggests.
  • Strong communication – Recommending following the end of this pandemic and any future public health emergency that utilities send clear, concise information in a letter to customers with past-due account balances. They should outline customer payment options and other programs to offer financial assistance.

“Our working group has discussed legislation filed in the 101st General Assembly and has determined that consumer assistance to residential, business and industrial customers post-moratorium is of the utmost importance,” the group wrote in its letter. “Understanding that residents of the State of Illinois will endure financial hardship following this pandemic, we ask that the Commission give strong consideration to the following topic areas before your administrative body.”

Hastings, D-Frankfort, said the letter affirms the consensus opinion of the bipartisan working group that policymakers must do all they can to support consumers during the challenging months ahead, and protecting them from electric shutoffs and payment defaults is an important step – one that could be taken legislatively if not acted on by the Commerce Commission.

“Our state has been thrown into chaos over the past two months, and our role as legislators is to step up and provide support that our constituents need in these uncertain times,” Hastings said. “I want to thank Sen. Sue Rezin, the Republican spokesperson, and the 11 other members of our working group for setting partisan squabbling to embrace these protections that will make a difference for Illinois consumers.

“We hope the ICC moves quickly to stand with us and give consumers the assurance the lights will be on as we all work to rebuild our lives and livelihoods.”

More information and resources to help people navigate the coronavirus pandemic can be found at coronavirus.illinois.gov.

Category: Featured Stories

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 SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) partnered with Southwest Airlines employees to hold a press conference advocating for the expansion of sick leave for airline employees Wednesday.

“The fact that hardworking individuals are unable to use their earned sick time to care for their loved ones is unacceptable,” Hastings said. “Since this is an issue with federal law, we’re doing what we can at the state level to demonstrate that in Illinois, we put workers and their families first.”

Hastings was joined by Corliss King, a flight attendant for Southwest, who was affected by this in 2017 after her husband was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. He was hospitalized several times and received various surgeries that left him in need of care at home. Corliss was able to use her own accrued sick time to help care for her husband and children until 2017, when a law was passed that removed coverage for airline employees.

“Airline workers in Illinois are often forced to choose between caring for a sick family member or earning their paycheck,” King said. “Even if a worker has sick days available for use for themselves, there is no requirement that companies allow these days to be used to care for other sick family members. We should not be forced to choose between our job and our loved ones, nor should we be subject to discipline simply because of a family emergency.”

Senate Bill 2294 would expand the Sick Leave Act to permit airline employees the use of earned sick time to care for sick family members.

This legislation awaits a hearing in the Senate Labor Committee.

Category: Featured Stories

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SPRINGFIELD – With school districts making up a large portion of property tax bills in the South Suburbs, State Sen. Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is proud to announce new state funding is on the way to support our schools and help provide local taxpayers a break.

Property Tax Relief Grants (PRTG) were recently issued to local school districts across the South Suburbs. The PRTG was enacted as a part of the education funding reforms enacted into law in 2017. The grants aim to help school districts with high tax rates by giving them an opportunity to lower the property tax burden on local taxpayers.

“This grant program is a step in the right direction as we continue to seek solutions to the sky-high property tax rates in our state,” said Sen. Hastings (D-Tinley Park). “Because of this program, hardworking families across the South Suburbs should see an off-set their property taxes without reducing their schools’ funding.”

Local school districts that are eligible for the grant include:
• Matteson Elementary School District 159
• Matteson Elementary School District 162
• Rich Township High School District 227

Eligible school districts must submit an abatement resolution to their county clerks by March 30 to receive the grant.
More information on the Property Tax Relief Grant and a listing of each eligible school district can be found at www.ISBE.net/proptaxrelief.

Category: Featured Stories

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SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) offered the following statement after Gov. JB Pritzker’s State of the State address:

“We must continue to invest in what makes Illinois a great place to live. Our roads, schools and other critical infrastructure must be modernized. Last year, we took huge strides and I look forward to working with Governor Pritzker to continue rebuilding Illinois.

“In particular, I am pleased by his administration’s commitment to working on improving our energy infrastructure to ensure that carbon emissions are reduced and clean energy sources are increased. I am also encouraged by his commitment to investing in our children’s education. All our schools, from early childhood to community colleges, must be strong if we want a robust, well-trained workforce.

“Most importantly, I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass comprehensive ethics reforms. We should hold each other to the standards our constituents should expect of us.

“The next several years will be challenging. I am excited for the future of our state and ready to work to make it a reality.”

Category: Featured Stories

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CONTACT SENATOR HASTINGS

Welcome to the official website of Senator Michael E. Hastings. Please fill out our contact form to contact Senator Hastings directly or you may call any of our offices. We look forward to hearing from you.

Springfield Office:
118 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-9595

East Office:
813 School Ave
Matteson, IL 60443

District Office:
20855 South LaGrange Road
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 464-5431

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