A proposed bill that would give McHenry County residents the power to abolish townships with a majority vote at the polls is on its way to the desk of the Illinois governor.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill, 33-16, with an amendment that would make the bill effective June 1. The House on Thursday voted, 78-23, to concur with that amendment.
State Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) said the bill clearing the General Assembly hurdle represents a "big win for taxpayers."
"It'll be sent to the governor," McSweeney said. He mentioned the infighting drama brewing inside Algonquin Township as an example of why voters should have the ability to abolish local governments. "It’s turning into a statewide embarrassment. They’re a bunch of children that are disgracing local government."
House Bill 4637 applies only to the 17 townships in McHenry County and would create a referendum process for voters to dissolve those townships at the polls.
A provision allows voters to submit a petition of signatures – including at least 5 percent of the number of voters in a previous comparable election – requesting a referendum. Another provision allows the trustees of any township in the county to pass a resolution calling for a referendum asking whether the township should be dissolved.
If a majority of voters select "yes" on the ballot, the township would be dissolved at least 90 days after the election. The duties and assets of the township would roll under the umbrella of McHenry County or neighboring municipal governments.
The bill includes a built-in 10 percent tax cut, McSweeney said. Any taxes McHenry County levies for the area where the township existed could not exceed more than 90 percent of the taxes levied by the former government body.
Sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link (D-Gurnee), HB 4637 includes another provision that could affect parts of Lake County. The bill requires townships in both Lake and McHenry counties to dissolve any road districts that maintain less than 15 miles of roads.
Opponents of the proposed legislation contend the bill is premature.
“House Bill 4637 does not specifically address the multiple issues that have been raised, and we have no guarantee they will be addressed in a trailer bill," said state Sen. Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry). "Residents should understand the implications to Motor Fuel Tax, General Assistance and assessment reviews before enacting this bill."
Wilcox said what concerns him most is that if voters decide to dissolve a township, the abolished government's "contractual obligations, including its debt, might be thrust onto the people of the entire county."
McHenry Township Supervisor Craig Adams said that although he is against getting rid of township government, he welcomes giving voters a chance to decide.
"I’d like to get it on the ballot as soon as possible," Adams said. "I’m confident the residents of McHenry Township see the value and [would] vote to keep us."
McSweeney did not give a definitive date of when he plans to send the bill to the governor.
Gov. Bruce Rauner's last day in office is Jan. 14, when he must relinquish his desk to Democrat J.B. Pritzker.
"I'll send it when I'm ready," McSweeney said.