Terry Steczo and Maureen Mulhall
Legislation Finally Be Approved?
one time it looked like it was just a matter of time before legislation to set
guidelines for hydraulic fracturing would be approved and on its way to the
Governor for his signature. But, as often happens in the legislature, the
wheels came off and the plan is now apparently stuck in neutral. But tracking any proposal in the General
Assembly is like watching the weather in Chicago, wait ten minutes and it will
mid-March, just as the euphoria of a tentative fracking deal was subsiding, an
unanticipated amendment was filed to the bill that not only dampened spirits
but could threaten the ultimate outcome. After almost two years of negotiations
among business, legislators, the Attorney General, environmental and industry
groups an agreement on fracking legislation was announced early last week. The
provisions of the agreement are:
- A requirement
that chemical-laced water used in fracking must be stored in tanks, not
on venting and flaring of natural gas;
requirement that chemicals be disclosed before fracking begins;
- A requirement
that water be tested before, during and after fracking;
- The right for
citizens to petition for public hearings regarding proposed permits and to
be able to appeal permits;
- An allowance
for the State to deny a permit during drought conditions;
- A requirement
that a public website list and post drilling applications;
presumption that oil and gas drillers are liable for contamination near
fracking operations unless proven otherwise; and
requirement for a review process for investigating complaints; and
3% per barrel extraction fee for the first two years of operation that
could expand to 6% after the initial two-year period depending on a well’s
average monthly production.
apparent problem that arose was a provision that would provide strict licensing
requirements on contractors. Fracking contractors contend that this would add
time and money to their operations, especially at the outset, and have
indicated that this provision negates the prior agreement that was reached
among most of a vast majority of the stakeholders.
is a "magical” month in the General Assembly, where proposals vanish into thin
air and others come to life out of nowhere, while new life can be breathed into
legislation that is lying dormant. And "new life” is what is expected by many
to be what ultimately occurs with the fracking legislation before the General
Assembly adjourns on May 31.
proposals were introduced this session to place a moratorium on fracking; and,
for the most part, they are dead. That doesn’t mean they can’t be revived in a
moment; but, even as moratorium advocates are working tirelessly every day in
Springfield, the prevailing thought is that the something similar to the broad
agreement that was reached by business, legislators, the Attorney General,
environmental and industry groups will ultimately pass before the May 31 gavel
comes down. Downstate Illinois desperately wants the jobs, economic development
and revenues that will be derived from these operations, and the State does
The unanticipated amendment attempts to impose strict licensing
requirements on contractors who have indicated that the added time and costs
could place the entire deal in jeopardy. There is still great optimism that a
final deal will be worked out prior to the May 31 adjournment.
the other side of the coin, two bills have been introduced that call for a two-year
moratorium on fracking. Both of those bills have been stalled in the General
Assembly because of the progress made on fracking requirements.
A Legislative Scorecard
By the time this issue of SPLASH is published, the legislative
session will be just approaching, or will just have completed, its spring
session. So, what happens to those thousands of bills that are introduced every
year? How many of them actually move through the process?
At the beginning of every session, legislators are filled with vim
and vigor and are brimming with ideas that they think of themselves, are given
by others, or are responses to news items that they feel warrant legislative
attention. And every year, notwithstanding the thousands of bills introduced,
the average number of proposals that reach the Governor’s desk hovers at about
Late April marked the halfway point through the legislative
process because the deadlines for acting on bills introduced in the chamber of
origin were reached. In the past, somewhere around 10% of all legislative
initiatives were sent to the Governor for consideration. So, how do those
numbers look this year?
In the Senate, for instance, there were a total of 2,579 bills
introduced this session. How many passed over to the House as of their 3rd
Reading deadline? 329, or 12.65%. The House numbers were similar. Of 3,624
introductions, 443, or 12.3% were approved. When you take into consideration
that some of the bills that passed from one chamber to the other were
duplicates and only one of those will be sent to the Governor, that some others
were shell bills that may or may not be utilized for anything, and that others
may not fare well in chamber number two, the final result will probably be
close to that 10% mark once again.
One reason for the small number of bills that pass is, simply,
there is a finite amount of time that each chamber has to devote to hearing
bills. It might be a different story if the legislature was a full-time body
and devoted more time to discussing issues. But the Illinois Constitution
embraces the "citizen-legislator” and session dates and rules reflect that, and
so do the number of proposals that are able to receive legislative attention.
A second reason is that not every bill is in shape to become law
on the date of introduction. Some proposals are complex and need a wealth of
conversation, debate and amendment before they are ready for prime time.
Legislators will often spend as much time as necessary to try to find agreement
among all issue stakeholders if an issue is important to them. When (or if) an
agreement occurs then that legislation is able to take its place among the
Thirdly, legislators my introduce legislation solely at the
request of a constituent, or to point out a state or local problem in order to
create discussion or get the attention of a state agency.
Legislators also have an option of extending deadlines for their
proposals to give them a bit more time to try to put together compromise
language. Some of these bills will ultimately make it through the process in
the next few weeks, but most will not.
There are some that look at the potential of 600-700 new laws each
year and say it’s way too much. Others think that the legislature should do
more. The reality is that with the time that they have available to them and
the difficult of moving legislation through the process, the numerical outcome
is probably just right.