We advocate for the public interest in Springfield. This year there are hundreds of policies being discussed which could safeguard public health, protect consumers in the marketplace, transform our energy and transportation systems, remove toxic threats, stop wasteful spending, revitalize our democracy, and protect Illinois’ environment. Our job is to make sure that any decisions that get made during this remote legislative session are made in the public’s best interest.
As they legislate mostly remotely due to COVID-19, the General Assembly is entering uncharted territory, and its leaders are working hard to keep elected officials, staff and the public safe while conducting the people’s business in Springfield. During the remote legislative sessions – and always – it’s vital that when the bills and policies that could impact our common interests are being debated, those discussions aren’t conducted behind closed doors, or without citizen involvement. We know our leaders will be hearing from powerful interests, and their lobbyists, won’t be afraid to try and use their access and influence to push for decisions which benefit their narrow agenda, instead of what is best for the people of Illinois. That’s where we come in.
Illinois PIRG’s advocates closely monitor the public interest policies being debated in Springfield. We propose and analyze legislation, provide independent research, and expert testimony so that our leaders can make informed decisions. Our staff watchdog how our elected officials are leaning and what political calculations they are making. And we make sure that our leaders hear from the public, by bringing the voices of our members and Illinois residents into the meeting rooms, public hearings, or these days the Zoom calls, where critical public interest decisions are being made.
Illinois PIRG’s top priorities this legislative session include:
- Public Utilities for the Public Good: From the ways we power and heat our homes to the ways we work and communicate, public utility services are in a time of transformation. In the wak of the ComEd scandal, it is critical to restore effective regulation of public utilities and defend the public interest through meaningful policy reform.
- A Healthy, More Livable Illinois: In a time of pandemic and climate change, it’s time to reorient public policy and our economy to prioritize the health and wellbeing of Illinois residents.
- Consumer Protection: Consumers deserve fair rules of the road and an even playing field in the financial marketplace. Consumers should be able to buy products on the marketplace without concern about hidden fees, scams, safety risks, or privacy violations.
- Democracy for the People: 2020 was a stress test for our democracy. We should learn from it, and implement reforms to election administration and legislative ethics
We have an incredible opportunity to move the ball forward on these issues and others in Illinois. To ensure progress we need to give our public interest champions the support they need to to take bold action and reach out to those who could be swayed by the right facts, persuasive arguments and public opinion.
With the legislative session operating mostly remotely, we have new challenges ahead of us to stand up for the public interest in Illinois. And as we face the public health and economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, we must be vigilant and vocal in our advocacy.
And we can’t do it without you. Your support and attention help to keep our elected officials accountable.
State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG
Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG and is the PIRG Energy and Utilities Program Director. He is a lead advocate in the Illinois Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. He has co-authored multiple in-depth reports on Illinois utility policy and leads coalition campaigns to reform the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. As PIRG's Energy and Utilities Program Director, Abe supports PIRG energy and utility campaigns across the country and leads the national Gas Stoves coalition. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.