Springfield, IL. – It was a busy week for lawmakers who were at the Capitol Tuesday through Friday. Senate action included the passage of a critical local government consolidation bill, which is now just a step away from becoming law. Meanwhile, a number of hot issues remain unresolved as the legislative session nears in scheduled last day. The Senate also got a visit from an Illinois Rock n’ Roll legend.
McHenry Consolidation Passes
I’m happy to report the Illinois Senate gave final legislative approval May 16 to House Bill 348 allowing townships in McHenry County to consider dissolution with voter approval.
Most importantly, the proposal contains taxpayer protection provisions that are essential:
- Ensures that counties or municipalities will receive the Motor Fuel Tax dollars dedicated to a dissolving township based on lane miles. It also protects local taxpayer dollars, preventing a dissolved township’s lane mile Motor Fuel Tax account from being redistributed state-wide.
- The assets of the dissolved township or road district, especially if liquidated, must be used solely for the benefit of residents of the geographic area within the former boundaries of the township. This provision protects taxpayers who previously paid the taxes allowing the township to acquire those assets; and
- Only the taxpayers within the dissolving township boundaries are responsible for paying any debt transferred to the county, which protects other county taxpayers.
Consolidation is a way to reduce the size of government in our lives, cut costs and deliver better government to the people. This measure also includes an important provision that gives voters the opportunity to act on consolidation through the ballot box.
The overall goal of government consolidation is to save taxpayers’ money, but it must be fair and equitable, which I believe HB348 achieves. The measure, which only needs the Governor’s signature to become law, was introduced in the House by Rep. David McSweeney.
Village of Lindenhurst
The Senate also passed a related government consolidation measure on May 17. House Bill 3369 permits the Village of Lindenhurst to dissolve the Lindenhurst Sanitary District Board and transfer the board’s powers, including taxing authority, to the Village.
This is common sense legislation. The village currently operates the district's equipment, and the sanitary district is largely coterminous with village boundaries, and there are no sanitary district users living outside village boundaries. I also commend the Village of Lindenhurst because it has been transparent with financial information and has expressed willingness to be good stewards of the duties of the sanitary district. Upon the retirement of the District’s debt, which stands at $10.8 million and is scheduled to be retired in 2032, then the village may finally dissolve the District itself and acquire all of its assets and responsibilities. HB3369 was introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Weber.
Controversial Cannabis Legalization Gets a Hearing
On May 15, supporters and opponents packed a Senate Committee hearing room to debate the economic, health and social implications of legalized recreational marijuana, as detailed in Senate Bill 7.
The subject-matter hearing before the Senate Executive Committee included nearly three hours of testimony, some of it rancorous as supporters and opponents weighed in on the plan. The Committee’s Hearing Room was closed after it reached maximum capacity.
Senate Bill 7 would make it legal for residents 21 years of age and older to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis or 5 grams of concentrated cannabis. However, concerns were raised that convictions for possession of up to 500 grams – a Class 4 felony that would remain even if the bill were passed – would be eligible for expungement. Critics questioned why the bill provides for expungement for crimes that would still be illegal if the bill were to become law.
Other concerns have been raised over what revenue legalization could generate, and how it would be allocated. In his Budget Address earlier this year, Gov. Pritzker included $170 million from recreational cannabis to plug a hole in his budget proposal. During the hearing, however, the bill’s sponsor gave an estimate of only $56-57 million in Fiscal Year 2020, most of which would be dedicated to other programs.
According to Senate Executive Committee records, 602 people have filed witness slips supporting Senate Bill 7 and 1,187 people have filed slips opposing the bill.
Much Work Remains on Key Issues
With just two weeks until the General Assembly is supposed to adjourn on May 31, a number of important issues remain unresolved.
Lawmakers have yet to approve a budget for Fiscal Year 2020 and there’s a pending proposal to overhaul Illinois income tax system from a flat tax to a graduated tax system. Other hot issues include the above-mentioned recreational marijuana, legalized sports betting and a massive infrastructure program that may include new taxes to pay for it.
It is important to note that millions in revenues for the proposed budget are linked to the passage of these programs, which runs counter to a provision in the Illinois Constitution that requires a proposed spending plan to be based only on revenue sources that are already in place.
Legislative committees have scheduled hearings on the issues in the coming days, but there is no guarantee that action will be taken on the bills.
A Rock n’ Roll Visitor
We get a lot of visitors to the Capitol on a daily basis, but not always a visit from someone famous. On May15, rock guitarist, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick met with lawmakers to talk about a casino license for Rockford (photo right).
In 2007, April 1 was declared Cheap Trick Day in Illinois. The band was founded in the early 1970’s in Rockford.
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