Government Consolidation in Illinois: An Update

May 08, 2014

The consolidation and dissolution of local units of government has been the subject of much discussion recently in Illinois. The purpose of this blog post is to briefly summarize a recent report released by the Illinois Local Government Consolidation Commission and other relevant legislation aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations by streamlining the procedures for annexing, consolidating and dissolving units of local government in Illinois. 

The Local Government Consolidation Commission is a bi-partisan commission created through legislation and signed into law as Public Act 097-0316 on August 12, 2011. The Commission is comprised of 17 members: 12 members of the Illinois General Assembly and 5 members representing various units of local government appointed by the Governor. The Commission was charged with three main functions:

  1. Study all laws governing the organization, powers, jurisdiction, and functions of local      governments;
  2. Study the inter-relationships of local governments to each other and to federal and state governments; and
  3. Formulate specific recommendations for legislation or constitutional amendments that address the efficiency and effectiveness of local government operations, reduce the size and scope of local governments and reduce the barriers to cooperation amongst local governments.       

Over a two year period the Commission met more than 10 times, reviewed reports from other states and met with experts and government leaders. They compiled their findings into a report laying out a series of recommendations. The recommendations include:

  1. Identify the differences between possibly duplicative local governments;
  2. Investigate which districts and authorities in Illinois are authorized to establish and maintain police forces;
  3. Make consolidation and cooperation among local governments easier;
  4. Standardize state statutes governing sanitary districts;
  5. Amend the state statute governing certain special districts to allow for the annexation, disconnection, or dissolution of the units of government;
  6. Monitor the progress of Public Act 098-0126 to see if DuPage County can be used as a model for how counties can promote consolidation statewide;
  7. Explore how the state can encourage cooperation by providing information and resources; and
  8. Review all state mandates to ensure that they are not an unnecessary burden on the various local governments and the taxpayers. 

State Representative Jack Franks, who was a member of the Commission, introduced House Bill 5785 on February 14, 2014. The bill is substantially similar to a recommendation made by the Local Government Consolidation Commission that calls for amending the state statute governing certain special districts to allow for the annexation, disconnection or dissolution of the units of government. HB5785, which passed the House on April 10, 2014, would allow local governments throughout the state different avenues to annex, consolidate and dissolve various units of local government. Part of the legislation requires that the rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, indebtedness, obligations, bonding authority, taxing authority, and responsibilities of the former district be transferred to the local government assuming the functions of the former unit of government and that the receiving government must agree by resolution to accept those functions. Additionally, the legislation includes language to protect employees of the former district by assuring that their rights and responsibilities will not be diminished by the unit of government assuming responsibility.

The Civic Federation previously wrote a blog post about the topic of government consolidation after voters in the City of Evanston overwhelmingly approved a non-binding referendum to dissolve its coterminous township. Since that time, Evanston’s leaders worked with Senator Daniel Biss and other legislators in the Illinois General Assembly to pass legislation allowing for the voters of Evanston to decide whether the municipality of Evanston should assume all duties and functions of its coterminous township. Public Act 098-0127 was signed into law by Governor Quinn on August 2, 2013. A referendum was held on March 18, 2014 and voters of Evanston Township approved the dissolution by a margin of nearly two to one. Township operations officially ceased in Evanston on April 30, 2014. Following Evanston’s lead, State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch introduced HB4425 in early 2014 to allow for voters in the Village of River Forest to dissolve its coterminous township. However, this legislation is currently stalled in the Rules Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.

The Civic Federation has continued to support sensible legislation aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations in Illinois. One of the goals of the Civic Federation’s Legislative Agenda for 2014 is to allow voters across the state the option to dissolve their township government through a referendum. 

The Civic Federation will continue to monitor the status of state and local legislation on this topic in the coming months.