A slightly modified version of a township consolidation bill introduced by Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, last session was voted out of the Illinois House on Thursday.
The bill outlines a referendum process for voters to dissolve the 17 McHenry County townships. It also requires the abolishment of road districts in McHenry and Lake counties that maintain fewer than 15 miles of road.
Voters would be allowed to submit a petition of signatures – including at least 5% of the number of voters in a previous comparable election – requesting a referendum. Trustees of any township in the county also would be allowed to pass a resolution calling for a referendum asking whether the township should be dissolved under the measure.
“My legislation gives constituents in my district a voice and the ability to scale back their local governments and control costs,” McSweeney said in a news release. “There are legitimate concerns with township government, and they deserve an option to address that. Let’s put it to the voters.”
The bill also could offer tax cuts to residents of a dissolved township. Any taxes levied by the county for the township’s area could not exceed more than 90% of the taxes levied by the former township government.
McSweeney told the Northwest Herald that some technical changes were made, but all of the important components are the same.
“Illinois’ population continues to decline, but we still have the largest number of government units in the nation,” McSweeney said in the release. “If we want to curb rising property taxes, we need to pursue our consolidation options for overlapping and unnecessary levels of government.”
Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, said in a news release that affected county board members and township representatives were shut out of the process and their attempts to speak with McSweeney were ignored.
“In committee, when the sponsor testified on this bill, he was specifically told that his bill was to be held on second reading until after he had conversations with affected officials, i.e. the members of the McHenry County Board and the affected township officials,” Reick said in the release. “Those were conversations he was obliged to have, and according to everything I’ve been told as recently as [Wednesday] night, those conversations did not take place. On process alone, this bill should have failed.”
McSweeney said this was a lie and an amendment was filed by Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, in response to the committee discussion. McSweeney added that he and Yingling also notified township officials and other affected parties of the bill, which has the support of McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks.
The township consolidation bill McSweeney filed last year was passed in both legislative chambers but was vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in January in one of his last acts as chief executive of the state. One of Rauner’s recommendations was to offer a statewide expansion of the legislation’s terms.
The bill now will make its way to the Senate, where it will be carried by Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills.
“I’m confident that Link will get it passed, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law,” McSweeney said.