Capitol Briefs: Republicans sue over law banning legislative candidate slating

Capitol Briefs: Republicans sue over law banning legislative candidate slating

Report says natural gas prices could triple in next 10 years without state action

Capitol News Illinois

One week after Gov. JB Pritzker signed an elections-related measure that his fellow Democrats quickly muscled through the General Assembly, Republicans sued over the new law, alleging the majority party is blocking ballot access to would-be legislative candidates.

The law , passed early this month as the legislature’s spring session ramps up to its scheduled May 24 adjournment, bans the long-running practice of political parties slating candidates to run if the party didn’t put up a candidate in the primary.

The practice has been used by both Democrats and Republicans for decades when the winner of the opposite party’s primary election is deemed beatable. Until Pritzker signed the new law, state statute allowed parties to designate a candidate within 75 days of a primary; this year, that date is June 3.

Read more: Democrats muscle through changes to ballot access, advisory questions

Four would-be GOP candidates are plaintiffs in the case, filed by the Liberty Justice Center, a libertarian outfit behind lawsuits intervening in state law and politics – including one that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down so-called “fair share” union dues in 2018.

According to the filing, “at least a dozen people” were set to be appointed to the November ballot through the slating process. The four plaintiffs on the suit were all designated by their local parties in March and April, but none of them filed their nominating petitions before the law went into effect.

One of the four – Republican Daniel Behr of Northbrook – attempted to file petitions the afternoon before Pritzker signed the bill into law, and ended up filing them just six minutes after the governor’s signature was recorded on the bill the morning of May 3.

The suit cites but doesn’t name another candidate – Jay Keeven of Edwardsville – who was able to turn in his nominating petitions the day before Pritzker signed the law. Keeven is challenging Democratic Rep. Katie Stuart, also of Edwardsville.

The filing claims the timing of the law’s passage is unfair and undermines “free and fair elections.”

“The state has an interest in providing free and fair elections, and enacting legislation in the middle of a well-established process for candidates to appear on the ballot, allowing some candidates to access the ballot and prohibiting others, is clearly contrary to the interest in providing free and fair elections,” the suit said.

But the Illinois State Board Elections is still accepting nominating petitions for slated candidates until June 3 and will still go ahead with the one-week petition challenge process thereafter.

“We are honoring the deadlines and procedures as defined before this bill was signed into law,” Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich told Capitol News Illinois, acknowledging the petitions will likely end up in court one way or another.

Natural gas prices

Consumer natural gas bills could triple over the next 10 years without state intervention, according to a report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition and Groundwork Data.

The report attributes much of the potential increase to the fact that most utility infrastructure spending is going toward technology that’s likely to be phased out anyway. The report's authors argue the need for a “managed” transition away from natural gas as more builders and homeowners choose to use electricity for building heat, as opposed to traditional gas-powered options.

“An ‘unmanaged’ transition will be far more expensive and far more inequitable, and it's proven in large part by how much it costs to maintain the gas system,” Dorie Seavey, the report’s author, said last week.

The Building Decarbonization Coalition is backed by utilities, such as California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, as well as companies like Google, Salesforce and LG, according to the coalition’s website. The head of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board, a consumer advocacy group, applauded the report last week.

“The crippling cost of heating bills has already caused a financial emergency for many Illinois families, and this new study shows that current conditions represent only a fraction of the fiasco to come if spending by gas utilities is not held in check,” CUB Executive Director Sarah Moskowitz said in a statement.

The report’s authors presented their findings to regulators, advocates and industry representatives last week as part of the state’s ongoing “Future of Gas” proceeding, aimed at identifying how best to regulate the fossil-fuel reliant industry as the state continues to transition to clean energy.

The city of Chicago is considering mandating electric heat in some new construction and Illinois lawmakers proposed incentivizing electrification earlier this month.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Hannah  Meisel

Hannah MeiselHannah Meisel

Hannah has been covering Illinois government and politics since 2014, and since then has worked for a variety of outlets from NPR affiliate stations to a startup newsletter. She’s a graduate of both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U of I’s Springfield campus, where she received an M.A. through the Public Affairs Reporting program and got her start reporting in the Capitol.

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