Since at least the 1970’s, the Election Interference Prohibition Act has been on the books.
(As I was researching this article, I discovered that the language has either been repealed by P.A. 87-1052 or placed elsewhere in the Statue books, perhaps at 10 ILCS 5/9-25.1, where Illinois law expressly prohibits the use of public funds to urge electors to vote for or against any candidate or public question.)
It was sponsored by North Chicago Democrat John Matijevich.
If I remember his motivation, I think he was quite disturbed that his local school district had sent out a mailing supporting a tax increase.
Now Republican State Senator Michael Connelly has passed Senate Bill 914, which is quite a bit more specific.
Take a look at what the College of DuPage sent out right before the College Board election:
Here’s his press release:
Legislation to terminate taxpayer-funded fliers passes Senate
SPRINGFIELD, IL – A…bill..that will rein in taxpayer-funded abuses of office, thanks to the efforts of State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) passed the Illinois Senate on April 23.
“The Saturday before the local election I found in my mail a promotional piece touting the College of DuPage. The notion that a government body sees no issue with mailing a taxpayer-funded mail piece, a mere 3 days prior to this month’s election is absolutely ridiculous,” Connelly said.
“Taxpayer funds should never be used to either explicitly or implicitly influence an election.”
Senator Connelly successfully advanced Senate Bill 914, which bans all units of local government from sending any promotional materials from Jan. 1 to the date of the consolidated election. The measure is similar to already long-established bans that are in place for Illinois constitutional officers and legislators.
If local government officials, employees, or contractors engage in the behavior, they could face termination from their jobs and be charged with a Class 4 felony.
In her press release, State Senator Sue Rezen, a co-sponsor added,
This legislation is similar to a law already in place for Illinois constitutional officers and legislators.
At a time where every public body must do more with less, it’s imperative we hold every public entity accountable to taxpayers.
Here’s the language of the bill:
“Section 5. The Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act is amended by adding Section 5 as follows:
(50 ILCS 105/5 new)
Sec. 5. Ban on promotional materials.
(a) This Section applies to all units of local government, local officials, school districts, and public institutions of higher education, as that term is defined under Section 2 of the Higher Education Cooperation Act, which includes community colleges. This Section also applies to all employees of a unit of local government, a local official, school district, or public institution of higher education, and persons or contractors working on behalf of a unit of local government, a local official, school district, or public institution of higher education.
(b) No person or entity to which this Section applies shall use public moneys to send any promotional materials to residents, except those directly related to course offerings, programs of study, or certificate or degree programs, including information regarding tuition and expenses, during the following periods:
(1) For units of local government with offices elected at the consolidated election, during a period beginning January 1 through the day after the consolidated election.
(2) For all other units of local government, during a period beginning February 1 of the year of a general primary election and ending the day after the general primary election and during a period beginning September 1 of the year of a general election and ending the day after the general election.
(c) The restrictions imposed under this Section do not apply to bills, schedules of events, or course-related materials, including financial aid.
(d) Any person who violates this Section is subject to the penalties set forth in Section 4 of this Act, including termination of employment.
There is one problem with this well-intentioned bill.
It does not prohibit foundations associated with local governments, e.g.,
- the McHenry County Conservation Foundation
- the McHenry County College Foundation
from spending money to campaign for a tax increase.
Had this bill been law in 2007, my guess is that this complaint from those running for the Cary Village Board would not have been filed because the activities cited would not have taken place.
The problem of such a foundation promoting a tax increase is at least two-fold:
- the contributions probably were intended for something like scholarships or assisting in the tax district’s mission
- the contributions are deductible, while those spending their savings to oppose a referendum must do so after paying taxes on their income
The House sponsor is State Rep. Ron Sandack.
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Images of the College of DuPage mailing comes from Capitol Fax Blog.