Recently, I suggested that what Springfield did didn’t matter.
Reading a bill that State Senator Pam Althoff introduced on February 7th has changed my mind.
The title of the bill is “An act concerning referenda” and, boy, does it.
It pretty much guts the already too weak Election Interference Act, sponsored by State Rep. John Matijevich (D-North Chicago) back in the 1970’s when a local school district spend taxpayers’ money to pass a referendum. That law is intended to keep public money from being spent to promote or oppose (fat chance) tax rate hikes or bond referendums.
The law is already too weak because most state’s attorney’s won’t prosecute unless the (usually) school district communication (usually direct mail) says, “Vote Yes.” School districts have learned not to be that blatant when they spend tax dollars to get you to vote yes.
Althoff wants to gut the Election Interference Law.
I have never inflicted legislative language on readers of McHenry County Blog, but, in this instance I am making an exception. Below are the changes in state law Althoff proposed in her Senate Bill 227, introduced on February 7th.
Here’s the new language she wants put in the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act:
Nothing in a governmental entity’s regulation of political activities shall prohibit the governmental entity’s corporate authorities from communicating to the public
(1) the reasoning for the corporate authorities’ decision to place a referendum question on an upcoming election ballot, even if that communication supports the referendum question or otherwise may constitute a prohibited political activity, or
(2) the reasons why the corporate authorities support or oppose a referendum question on an upcoming election ballot (regardless of how that question was placed on the ballot), even if that communication supports or opposes the referendum question or may otherwise constitute a prohibited political activity.
In any such communication, however, the corporate authorities must specify how they believe the referendum question directly affects the health, safety, or welfare of the residents of the governmental entity or otherwise pertains to the governmental entity’s government and affairs.
The exemptions from prohibited political activities provided by this subsection shall apply only to communications with respect to referendum questions and not to communications with respect to candidates for any public office.
Then, to make sure everyone knows that the intention is to gut the Elections Interference Act, there’s this change in that law:
Nothing in this Section prohibits the corporate authorities of a unit of local government or a school district from communicating to the public
(1) the reasoning for the corporate authorities’ decision to place a proposition on an upcoming election ballot, even if that communication supports the proposition or otherwise may violate this Section, or
(2) the reasons why the corporate authorities support or oppose a proposition on an upcoming election ballot (regardless of how that proposition was placed on the ballot), even if that communication supports or opposes the referendum question or may otherwise violate this Section.
In any such communication, however, the corporate authorities must specify how they believe the proposition directly affects the health, safety, or welfare of the residents of the unit or district or otherwise pertains to the unit’s or district’s government and affairs.
This subsection applies only to communications with respect to propositions and not to communications with respect to candidates for any public office.
Co-sponsors are Dan Rutherford, the 2006 Republican candidate for Secretary of State, and Democrats Mike Jacobs and Sue Garrett.
Should we be thankful for the small favor that Althoff doesn’t want local governments to spend money re-electing their officials…just to raise our taxes?
It appears that tax hikers like Huntley School District 158’s B.E.S.T. and Carpentersville District 300’s Advance 300 would not have to get huge contributions from developers and school vendors if Althoff’s bill were passed. Tax hike committees in districts like McHenry’s Grade School District 15 would not have to go to teachers’ unions for money to pass referendums to give teachers and administrators raises.
They could just take the money out of what they have already received from taxpayers in real estate taxes.
Don’t believe me?
Check it out for yourself.
Althoff was asked via email for her motivation for introducing the bill early last week, but has not yet replied. If she does, I shall be happy to publish her reason.