As Illinois prepares to enter its 11th month without a budget, it’s understandable that residents sometimes wonder why lawmakers would be concerned about anything other than resolving the state’s financial crisis.
Negotiating a state budget remains my No. 1 priority. That hasn’t changed.
But on this Earth Day, I would urge everyone to remember that even in the face of severe fiscal challenges, protecting the environment is a worthy pursuit for legislators, governors and community leaders everywhere.
The Earth’s delicate ecosystem — under attack by pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and unsustainable living — is too valuable to neglect and too easy to ignore when times are tough.
That’s why I continue to support legislation that seeks to protect Illinois’ wildlife, plant life and the environment at large through the creation of a clean economy, oversight of the use of harmful pesticides and protections for once-endangered wildlife.
Among the Earth-friendly legislation I’m pursuing in Springfield:
• Senate Bill 2965, the Saving Illinois Pollinators Act, would prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on public lands owned, or maintained by, the state of Illinois. Scientists have established a troubling link between the collapse of honey bee populations and the use of these pesticides. I believe Illinois can set a strong example for other states by barring their use on state lands.
• Senate Bill 2143 would prohibit trapping of bobcats and selling their pelts. Bobcats, a formerly threatened species in Illinois whose population is making a comeback, may be hunted legally in Illinois. But I am concerned the state may be creating a market for bobcat pelts when we lack a clear picture of the animal’s population numbers in Illinois.
• Senate Bill 1485, the clean-jobs bill, would strengthen energy efficiency policies in Illinois, expand the amount of energy to be created from clean sources, direct the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop a plan to comply with federal clean-energy guidelines, and create more than 30,000 clean-economy jobs.
By championing these initiatives, even in tough fiscal times, I hope to help more people understand the damage we inflict upon the environment every day and come to see that we all have a role to play in protecting the planet and our children’s futures.
I’m doing my part for planet Earth, and I hope you will get involved, too.
Senator Don Harmon is a Democrat from Oak Park and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate.