What Is Homerule?

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Rockford mayor Larry Morrissey made the return of home rule for the city one of his major goals after his election last march, a decision which has brought much controversy.

The issue involves how the mayor and city council can pass laws to run the community. Rockford has been without this autonomy for more than 20 years; back in 1983, voters ditched home rule. Under the Illinois’s 1971 constitution, every Illinois city with a population of 25 thousand or more can have home rule. This means significant flexibility in approving rules and regulations which impact all aspects of the city. Voters must approve home run to put it back in force.

Tonight the city council is expected to decide if that home rule should go to the voters. If voters say "no" to home rule, the state legislature must remain the source for any changes in many laws impacting the operation of the municipality.

Laws regulating the protection of public health, safety, morals and, welfare while having the right to license, tax, and approve the city incurring debt.

Supporters of home rule feel the city elected leaders will be able to govern more efficiently and responsively, especially in the area of economic development. They also feel it sends a message that residents can trust their local leaders.

Opponents are concerned that any tax increases should be voted on through referendum. Home rule can make it on the ballot in two ways...the city council can pass a resolution to put on the ballot, or supporters of home rule can get enough signatures on petitions; opponents feel the petition is the best option because it is more fair, and they also want the vote to be delayed until November to allow more discussion.