There’s no doubt 2017 was a rough
year for taxpayers across Illinois. The General Assembly voted for a state
budget that included a massive income tax hike with no real reforms, which hit
the pocketbooks of millions of Illinoisans.
Despite this, some of the bills that passed the General Assembly and were signed
into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017 will help move Illinois in the right
direction. Here are a few examples:
House Bill 418: Under HB 418, retired police officers cannot double dip in
pension funds if they return to the force as a police chief or return to service
with a different municipality. Retired officers who return in either of those
capacities will be able to enroll in a 401(k)-style plan, but not a second
House Bill 3122: This new law requires local officials to work a minimum of
1,000 hours to qualify to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
This ensures that a participant in the retirement fund is working at least in a
Senate Bill 701: Under SB 701, unused vacation time paid out in the final three
months before retirement cannot count toward pensionable salary. The law also
excludes vehicle allowances from being considered pensionable earnings.
Senate Bill 3: This new law is a small step toward reducing the number of units
of government in Illinois, and potentially saving tax dollars. SB 3 creates
various ways in which township officials may initiate consolidation of their
unit of government. This bill also expands the process for government
consolidation currently available in DuPage, Lake and McHenry counties to all
counties across the state.
House Bill 607: Under this law, township boards can submit a resolution for
residents to vote in a referendum to determine whether a township road district
should be abolished and the duties taken up by another unit of government.
House Bill 303: This new law reforms civil asset forfeiture, a practice in which
law enforcement is able to seize and profit from property without proving the
property is connected to a crime. This measure addresses the standards that
govern law enforcement’s confiscation of property and imposes some
transparency-related requirements to rein in abuse and incentives to profit from
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House Bill 2373: HB 2373 removes the lifetime ban preventing many
ex-offenders from petitioning a court for the opportunity to prove
rehabilitation and have their records sealed. It does this by
expanding the eligibility provision of the criminal record sealing
statute to allow those with previous felony convictions to apply to
have their records sealed from view by the general public. (Certain
kinds of felonies, such as sex offenses and domestic violence, are
excluded from sealing eligibility.)
House Bill 3817: This measure expands protection for juveniles by
providing for automatic expungement of juvenile arrest records that
do not result in delinquency. (“Expungement” means wiping a criminal
record clean.) And in other cases, records of delinquency can be
expunged two years after the juvenile’s case is closed, so long as
that juvenile has no other criminal cases pending against him or her
and no subsequent delinquency proceedings. Certain offenses are
excluded from expungement eligibility, such as sex offenses, most
violent crimes and other serious crimes such as residential
burglary. Juvenile records that are not expunged are sealed from
view by the general public. The law also acts to prevent a juvenile
adjudication from disqualifying a person from certain things, such
as holding public office one day.
These bills are small steps in the right direction. However, these
do not go far enough. Illinois’ pension system is still in need of
major reform. The state still has the highest number of local
governments in the nation, which means Illinoisans have to pay more
in property taxes to fund all those layers of government. And
Illinois’ state budget is still unbalanced, despite a massive new
income tax increase.
The General Assembly needs to get serious about implementing
meaningful reforms, especially regarding Illinois’ crushing property
tax burden. Illinoisans should not have to continue putting up with
financial mismanagement from state and local governments.
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