Senate Bill 761, which has been dubbed in Springfield the "Wetland Destruction Act", died today after votes for it on the House Energy and Environment Committee evaporated in the face of strong opposition from environmental groups, local governments, the Blagojevich Administration, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan. State Representative Karen May worked tirelessly for wetlands as usual. SB 761 sponsor and Committee Chairman said the bill had been assigned to a subcommittee "for a future hearing...maybe" - Springfield-speak for the legislative recycling bin.
SB 761 faced long odds on the House floor in the face of this opposition, but its failure to even clear the House Energy and Environment Committee today was a surprising development. The Committee is ordinarily deferential to industry lobbyists, and many of the heaviest hitters in Springfield were leaning on members to advance the bill. However, by the end of the day, it was clear that no amount of clout could carry such a strongly anti-environment, anti-local government bill to the finish line.
The defeat of SB 761 is clearly a big victory for citizens across the state who made their voices heard in Springfield. However, it does not provide real protection for wetlands abandoned by the federal government in much of the state. For that, we'll need to craft a new proposal. But with the threat of SB 761 extinguished, we can move on to building consensus for a bill that provides real protection while respecting local authority.