Whew! It was a hectic end to the 2011 spring session, as both the House and the Senate adjourned very late in the evening on May 31st after working throughout the Memorial Day weekend. And now, there are rumblings that the adjournment could be short lived and the General Assembly may be called back to deal with some budget issues—particularly the funding of the various construction projects scheduled throughout the state.
As we reported back in those cold days of February following the bill introduction deadline, a total of 6,229 bills were introduced for consideration this spring session; 2,479 Senate bills and 3,750 House bills. As the dust settled, a total of 632 had made it through both chambers. While that number may surprise you, it is fairly typical. The early months of session are devoted to a frenetic pace as proponents and opponents stake their positions and bills go through the committee hearing process.
In looking back at the session, foreclosure issues, government regulation of property owners and property tax related issues once again dominated our legislative activity. A sampling of issues:
- We spent a great deal of time this session on the issue of maintenance and securing of vacant property. This initiative (HB 1109/SB 16) was controversial and while IAR reached a negotiated agreement on the legislation, the bill was not called for a vote prior to adjournment. However, it is expected that this issue will be further refined over the summer and that the issue will be revisited in the fall session which begins in October.
- The General Assembly did NOT advance an IAR-opposed measure to allow for the creation of municipal land banks (HB 760).
- The General Assembly did create a new “Foreclosure Working Group” to be comprised of a range of constituencies and stakeholders (SJR 30) to monitor emerging housing problems and to make recommendations; oversee actions to prevent foreclosures and to mitigate their impact on local communities; oversee and provide insight about the rebuilding process caused by the housing crisis; and provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to the rebuilding process.
- We were able to stop the various proposals that we opposed to enable local governments to collect on liens for property maintenance and nuisance clean-up by putting the charges on an owner’s property tax bill (HBs 1384, 2848, 3407 and SB 1650) as well as stopping a bill to allow all municipalities to license and regulate all businesses (HB 1323).
- A bill we supported did advance to amend the eviction provisions for engaging in criminal conduct under the Code of Civil Procedure to give both local governments and landlords a more clear and effective tool to deal with tenants engaging in criminal activity and other disruptive behavior on the premises (SB 1766).
- A late effort by the Cook County Tax Assessor to add language to the Property Tax Code to authorize all counties to impose a tax lien and penalties for those who have been granted one (or more) erroneous homestead exemptions was stalled (SB 395). The IAR was opposed to this bill.
- We are pleased to report that our initiative to add a new section to the Property Tax Code to make null and void any deed restriction, restrictive covenant or similar provision that waives, prohibits or restricts the right to receive notice of a public hearing or the right to object, oppose or challenge the creation of a Special Service Area (SSA) the levy of any tax of a SSA or the issuance of bonds of a SSA received UNANIMOUS support in both the Senate and the House (SB 1804).
Greg and I spend many long days and weekends researching the various legislative measures and fortunately had IAR legal counsel, the expertise of the members who serve on the Public Policy and Governmental Affairs Member Involvement Group, and IAR leadership to review and establish positions on the thousands of legislative proposals. A successful and well attended Capitol Conference in April underscored our efforts. We do our best to keep you current on the activities in Springfield each week through the State Capitol Report sent each Friday that the General Assembly is in session. These reports are all available at the IAR Action Center (www.iaractioncenter.org) along with the “State Issues Tracker.” A more descriptive and comprehensive 2011 session report will soon be available.
I’ll continue to focus in on some other specific legislation that may be of interest to you in future blog posts and keep you apprised as to the Governor’s action on the more than 600 bills that were approved by both the House and the Senate. The Governor has the summer months to take action on the spring session bills. He has the power to sign the bill into law, make changes to the bill through his amendatory veto power OR he has the option to veto the bill in its entirety.