Coal Plants to Close; Bills Passed; U of I Vaccinations; Vaccine Lottery

Two Coal Plants to Close

Two coal-fired plants in Romeoville and Waukegan, Illinois, will soon be closing according to NRG Energy, the operator of the two plants. Decisions by state and federal law, and policy changes by electric grid operators, have affected one coal plant after another. Due to updates in the 2021 pricing of electric power, the plants now create less cash flow than what the plants need to operate. The Houston-based company stated that the Romeoville and Waukegan units would close down in June 2022.

Coal-fired electric power, once the industrial backbone of Illinois life, has become increasingly marginalized in recent years as “green” energy is pushed into the marketplace. At the state level, negotiations over a new energy bill have stalled. The longer this drags out, the greater the effect on Illinois’ energy sector, businesses, and families. 

Over 660 Bills Pass Both Chambers

The headlines will not always show it, but members of both parties in the Illinois House and Senate worked hard on many pieces of legislation this past Session. Many of these bills were technical measures designed to implement needed changes in legislative language or to move a legal process forward after agreements by a variety of stakeholders. Clerks have counted more than 660 bills passed by majorities in both houses.

Although some of the bills enacted by the General Assembly have already been signed into law – in particular, the horrendous State budget, the gerrymandered legislative maps, and the redrawn maps of the Illinois Supreme Court and its judicial districts – these partisan bills have already run into trouble. The budget has already had to be re-enacted after the first version was passed with numerous drafting errors. The General Assembly map faces litigation, and the Supreme Court has already placed a stay on the judicial map. At the same time, most of the day-to-day work of legislators in the first half of this year was not at all partisan and is slowly working its way through the process.

The University of Illinois to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination 

As part of their planning for the fall semester in 2021, the University of Illinois System is preparing to mandate that all on-campus students show proof of vaccination for COVID-19. The U of I System includes three undergraduate campuses in Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign. The System also includes medical campuses, institutes, and affiliated operations of scholarship and higher education located throughout the state. Other Illinois colleges and universities are putting similar rules in place. The U of I announcement followed the creation of near-universal vaccine availability for persons above age 12.  

Illinois’ Vaccine Lottery

The $10 million prize package for vaccinated Illinoisans includes $7 million in cash payouts and $3 million in Bright Start 529 college savings plans. Under the rules of the “All In for the Win” vaccine incentive, all of the residents who have received COVID-19 vaccinations are eligible to have their names selected. The prizes will be distributed in the form of cash payouts of $1 million to $100,000, and the college savings plan prize program will distribute twenty savings plans in amounts of $150,000 each.    

The COVID-19 vaccine lottery idea was first implemented in Ohio. Other states, including Illinois, have taken up the idea. The Illinois vaccine lottery will be funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Illinois Lottery will draw names each week starting on Thursday, July 8.