Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017

Pope Francis made global headlines nearly two years ago with his encyclical, Laudato Si', which calls for individuals to adopt an "integral ecology" in their approach to care of the environment. The Illinois legislature can now show support for such policies by resolving to safeguard state monies earmarked for solar energy developments.

House Resolution 234 and Senate Resolution 353 each propose an identical statement backing an environmental justice agenda for the state that also calls for cash in the Illinois Solar-for-All program be protected from any so-called "fund sweeps" that may be used to pay for state operations. State funds designated for specific purposes are sometimes "swept" to pay for other purposes, especially during dire financial times. Illinois has not had a budget since June 30, 2015, and currently has a backlog of overdue bills totalling more than $12 billion.

The Illinois Solar-for-All program is part of the Renewable Energy Resource Fund, and offers incentives to poor communities and nonprofit organizations — such as the Catholic Church — to install solar panels on their buildings. The fund is financed through fees paid by Illinois electric customers.

Both resolutions call for the state to develop an environmental justice agenda that creates clean-energy jobs, eliminates gender inequities and income inequalities, reduces prison inmate recidivism, and helps poor communities to better deal with the effects of climate change.

A resolution is an official statement of support. It does not carry the power of law.

The Senate adopted SR 353 on May 31, and the House adopted HR 234 on June 22.