Illinois Municipal League introduces ‘wish list’ of legislative proposals

The Illinois Municipal League introduced a package of legislation they support.
The Illinois Municipal League introduced a package of legislation they support.(WGEM)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 3:55 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Representing the over 1,000 municipal governments of Illinois, the Illinois Municipal League introduced a slate of proposals they hope can win approval by the General Assembly this session.

“We presented the General Assembly with real issues that were of concern to local governments,” IML Executive Director Brad Cole said of last year’s slate of proposals. “Last year’s session was unique, every session is unique, but we’re looking forward to success this year.”

The supported legislation aims to help local governments govern better and more efficiently as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Cole and Decatur Mayor and IML President Julie Moore-Wolfe agreed.

Remote meetings

Since the onset of the pandemic, several local governments have relied on remote meetings to conduct their council and official business, including the Illinois General Assembly. Currently, this is only allowed because of the COVID-19 disaster declaration by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Legislation in action dictates that once the COVID-19 emergency order is lifted, meetings subject to the Open Meetings Act cannot no longer remotely conduct their business.

A introduced by state Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) would allow those meetings to continue to be remote, arguing they “increase the opportunity for transparency and public participation” according to information from IML .

“There would still be an allowance to participate in person, for those individuals that choose not to or cannot participate virtually,” Cole said. “The question is the same for those who cannot travel to a meeting, often also disabled, or cannot leave their children at home to go to city hall this would allow them to participate virtually. This allows for more citizen participation, not less, in all scenarios.”

The provision would also provide that the local governments themselves would determine when a virtual meeting was necessary.

Local government distributive funds revenues

Local Government Distribution Fund are funds allocated to local governments based on a portion of state income tax revenues.

According to IML, 10% of total tax income revenue was given to local governments, but the total percentage has been reduced to 6.06% in individual tax collections and 6.84% in corporate tax collections. The IML argues these funds are critical to running a municipal government. Without them, local governments resort to property or other tax increases.

“This is an issue every year for us, and it will be an issue until funding is restored and unfunded mandates are ended,” Cole said.

The proposed legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) calls for the restoration of funds to whole 10%. However, they say they are also supportive of measures that would increase the funds to 8%.

Pension fund adjusting

Under current law, municipal governments must have pensions for police or firefighters 90% funded by 2040.

ILM argues this isn’t feasible for many local governments.

“The current pension system is not sustainable - we can’t do it,” Moore-Wolfe said. “It is eating up more and more of the money we get from taxpayers, and in the city of Decatur we have utility, we run the water system, we have roads and bridges we have to take care of.”

Their proposed legislation, which is in both the Senate and the House, would reduce the required funding to 80% of the full pension amount, and push back the deadline by 10 years. They argue other Chicago-based pension funds are granted the same grace period. For example, Public School Teacher’s Pension and Retirement fund in Chicago has until 2059 to be funded at 90%.

Both versions of the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Maurice West II (D - Rockford) in the House and Sen. Donald DeWitte (R-St Charles) are awaiting assignment to committee.

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