More Government Consolidation and Efficiency Efforts in Illinois

April 01, 2015

The Civic Federation has long supported sensible legislation aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations in Illinois. The purpose of this blog is to summarize briefly consolidation legislation and initiatives that have been proposed since our last update on this topic in September 2014.

Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force

One of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s first actions upon taking office was Executive Order 15-15, which created the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to “…study issues of local government and school district consolidation and redundancy, and to make recommendations that will ensure accountable and efficient government and education in the State of Illinois.”

The Civic Federation has written about the recommendations included in the final report of another commission on local government consolidation in Illinois, the Local Government Consolidation Commission. Public Act 097-0316, signed into law in 2011 by then-Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, established the earlier Commission. Similar to Executive Order 15-15 issued by Governor Bruce Rauner, Public Act 097-0316 charged this earlier Commission with studying the issues surrounding the consolidation of local governments in Illinois. More information on the Local Government Consolidation Commission can be found here.

The Executive Order issued by Governor Bruce Rauner names Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti as chair of the Consolidation Task Force and states that members shall be appointed by the Governor and represent public and private organizations with additional membership made up of representatives from local governments, school districts and members of the General Assembly. Governor Rauner announced the 24 additional members of the task force on March 13, 2015.

The Task Force is to make its recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly by December 31, 2015.

Dissolution of Coterminous Townships

Illinois State Representative Jay Hoffman recently introduced House Bill 3693, which would allow the dissolution of the township of Belleville via majority votes by the Belleville City Council and the Belleville Township Board. Belleville Township is coterminous with the City of Belleville. According to media reports, some Belleville Township officials have promoted the consolidation in order to improve efficiency.

The procedure in this bill is different from the referendum required to dissolve coterminous Evanston Township in 2014, as discussed on this blog. Senator Daniel Biss sponsored Senate Bill 98-127, signed into law in August 2013, which allowed Evanston voters to decide whether to abolish Evanston Township. Both Illinois State Senators Pamela Althoff and Daniel Biss are sponsoring legislation, Senate Bill 40, which would build upon efforts in Evanston by allowing any township in Cook County that is coterminous with a municipality to be dissolved via referendum, not just Evanston Township. Read more on Public Act 098-0127 and the dissolution of Evanston Township here.

The Dissolution and Restructuring of the Illinois International Port District

Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz recently introduced House Bill 3758, which would transfer authority over the Illinois International Port District from the current governing board to the Chicago City Council and would allow Chicago to transfer the District’s open lands to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and its golf courses to the Chicago Park District. Currently, the Port District is governed by a nine-member board of directors, five appointed by the Mayor of Chicago and four by the Governor of Illinois.

In a 2008 report, the Civic Federation analyzed the Illinois International Port District’s finances and activities, contrasting them with five comparable ports along the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway. As a result of this investigation, the Federation concluded that the District appeared to be focused on golf rather than shipping and port operations. Harborside International Golf Center is the Port District’s only major construction project since 1981. In contrast, the Federation found that none of the five other ports in the study focus their operations predominantly on recreational activities or entertainment facilities. Port authorities in the other cities derive most of their revenues from activities associated with the normal operations of a port, such as leases, rentals, contracts and grants. The Federation recommended that the District be dissolved as a result of its findings. Read the Civic Federation’s full report on the Illinois International Port District here.

The Civic Federation will continue to monitor the status of state and local legislation on this topic in the coming months.