In Memoriam: 13 good State bills that died in Illinois - Metropolitan Planning Council

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In Memoriam: 13 good State bills that died in Illinois

Some bills die a quick, dignified death, shot down on the House or Senate floor. Many more, however, suffer the long, slow fate of withering into obscurity

It’s a sad fact for a State bill: your odds are bad and your life expectancy is short. During the last session, the General Assembly passed a mere 12% of the 6000+ bills introduced.

These bills fail to move through the process at a quick pace, missing important procedural deadlines. They languish in committees until the end of the two-year legislative session, when they meet their official demise: session sine die (which is Latin for a cold, dead bill).

Here’s a list of the 13 best bills that are dead for now, but not forgotten.

School District Shared Administrative Service Agreements | SB1287 Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris)

In 2016, Illinois spent $1,105,435,000 on general administration expenses for school districts, making Illinois the only state in the country with more than $1 billion general administration expenses, despite serving the fifth most students. This bill would have allowed voters to direct superintendents to evaluate and pursue sharing superintendents and administrative staff with other districts if they pass a referendum. The bill stalled in the House after passing through the Senate.

Citizens Empowerment Act | HB307  Rep. David McSweeney (R-Cary)

This one is from our partners at Transform Illinois, and it aims to make it easier to dissolve a unit of local government (Illinois holds the dubious honor of most units of local government in the USA). The bill would have created a way to eliminate a unit of government through ballot referendum – essentially giving voters a greater say in how their government is structured. This bill struggled this session – it never made it out of committee to its Second Reading on the Floor.

Data Modernization Act | SB1379 Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields)

Accurate assessments mean fairer tax distribution. The bill would have allowed the Cook County Assessor’s Office to collect income and expense data for income-generating properties and other County boards to adopt the standard by resolution. By collecting data upfront, modeling will take current market rents, vacancy rates, and other market trends to guide the assessment process rather than market assumptions. The bill was not brought for a vote in the House after passing the Senate.

Human Rights in Real Estate | HB926 Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-Chicago)

Renters shouldn’t be denied housing based on the legal means by which they receive income. Yet we know that landlords regularly discriminate against one common source of income: housing choice vouchers. Rep. Tarver’s bill would have made it a civil rights violation for Illinois landlords to discriminate against renters’ source of income. The City of Chicago and Cook County each have their own versions of this rule; it’s hardly experimental, and it’s high time the State got with the program. This bill got buried in committees and never made it for a second reading on the House floor.

Tax Incentive for Lead Pipe Removal | HB2128 Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago)

Illinois has a lead pipe problem. Rep. D’Amico came up with a novel way to start addressing it: give a substantial tax credit to property owners who voluntarily replace lead service lines. Although we wish Rep. D’Amico would have extended the credit to rental property owners (it’s presently restricted to owners/occupants of single-family homes), we think this would be a good carrot to entice lead pipe removal.  Another bill buried in committee, never to see a second reading.

Seal Eviction Files | HB2299 Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago)

This bill would have limited the long-term damage that eviction proceedings can have on renters. An eviction filing can haunt renters for years, whether or not the tenant was ever evicted, and whatever the reason for eviction. HB2299 would have sealed court files on certain kinds of eviction proceedings – for instance, when a landlord evicts a tenant in order to prepare the building for sale – shielding them from public view. It passed out of the Commercial Law subcommittee, only to die in the Rules Committee.

Classroom First Act | HB3053 Rep Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan)

Aptly named, this bill would have created a School District Efficiency Commission to study the effects of school district consolidation across Illinois. The purpose of this bill is to examine how to we can restructure our districts to be more effective in delivering education services in the classroom, putting tax dollars in classrooms first. The bill passed the House and has stalled in the Senate.

Southland Reactivation Act | HB43 Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights)

An effort to remove barriers to real estate development in south Cook County. Property tax rates in some Southland communities are staggeringly high, stifling real estate development. This bill would have extended a property tax break to developments on qualifying vacant land, giving a shot in the arm to economic development. Despite bipartisan sponsorship and unanimous committee recommendation, this bill didn’t make it out of the House in time.

Local Infrastructure Loan Program | HB884 Rep. Mike Marron (R-Danville)

HB884 would have created a new State program to extend low-interest loans to local governments for infrastructure projects. It would have worked a lot like the State Revolving Fund, providing much-needed funding for road, sidewalk, streetlight, or other infrastructure projects.  The bill languished in the Sales, Amusement, and Other Taxes Subcommittee.

Transportation Benefit Program | HB2533 Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago)

This bill would have required medium-large employers (20+ employees) to provide their employees with access to the Transit Benefits Program. This program allows workers to use pre-tax income to pay for transit fares and other commuting expenses. Participants can save up to $1000 a year, reducing barriers to mobility and incentivizing transit use. This is another bill is buried in an obscure subcommittee: it was never voted on in the Job Growth, Preservation and Training Subcommittee.

Local Government Services Division | SB532 Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park)

Local governments need funding to engage in meaningful, long-range planning activities. SB532 would have required the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to establish a one-stop shop for technical assistance: the Local Government Services Division. This Division would have collected data, provided technical assistance, and distributed grants to low-capacity communities.  This Bill did not pass the Senate and was referred to the Assignments Committee.

Mileage Tax | HB2864 Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago)

Illinois needs a boatload of cash to fix its roads and bridges. And although the legislature just this year raised gas tax fees and pegged them to inflation (a win!), it’s only a short-term fix: as electric vehicles become more prevalent and cars become more fuel efficient, gas taxes will fund less and less of our transportation infrastructure. Rep. Evans’ bill would have created a pilot program to explore an important new transportation revenue source: mileage based user fees. These fees charge road users for the number of miles they travel. If we don’t get serious about new transit revenue sources like a mileage tax, we better be prepared for more cracked bridge beams. Rep. Evans tabled this bill.

Wetlands Protection Act | SB1352 Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview)

Trump’s EPA is trying to roll back regulations on critical watershed features. SB1352 would have shored up relevant protections at the State to blunt the effect of the federal rollback. Too bad: we kind of like scientifically grounded water management policies. Oh well, we can always un-fill a wetland, right? SB1352 never made it out of the Environment and Conservation Committee.

What’s dead may never die

Although these bills failed to get passed this spring session, it’s early yet to call them truly dead. Any of these bills might get resuscitated in fall veto session or next spring.

We think all of them are good bills. We hope they get the care they deserve to bring them back to life.

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