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SPRINGFIELD – State Representatives Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor), Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein), and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) have joined with other elected officials from Lake and McHenry Counties to sponsor and pass legislation in the Illinois House to bring greater efficiency to county and local governments. Illinois has more layers of government than any other state in the United States, creating one of the most burdensome property tax scenarios nationwide. House Bill 229, which passed the House today, allows for duplicative bodies of government to be dissolved. This initiative has already been utilized in DuPage County to great effect.

“County officials and residents in both Lake and McHenry Counties have been frustrated by so many overlapping units of government for a long time,” said Wheeler. “We’ve seen how helpful this efficiency initiative has been in DuPage County and I’m very pleased we will now be able to benefit from it in Lake and McHenry Counties as well.”

HB 229 grants authority to Lake and McHenry Counties to pass ordinances, which may be ratified by referendum, to remove certain units of local government that perform the same duties as other units of local government, or lack appropriate accountability. The purpose of this is to increase efficiency in local government and help lessen the heavy tax burden already on the backs of families in Lake and McHenry Counties. In addition to being supported by a number of local leaders in both counties, it is also supported by the Better Government Association, Illinois Association of County Board Members, the Illinois Association of Realtors, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

“Efficiency in government has been a punch line in Illinois for a long time now,” said Sullivan. “The reality is that efficiency isn’t just a problem in Springfield, but throughout Illinois. While we still need to do much more, this effort has been working in DuPage County and now we have the chance to benefit from it as well. I want to thank Lake County Board Chairman, Aaron Lawlor, for encouraging our support on this measure, and also my colleagues who helped pass it.”

The State Superintendent of Education is the supervisor of public schools and publicly-supported charter schools throughout Illinois. Dr. Tony Smith has experience in educational management in both the public and the private sector. He is a past superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, operating public schools in one of the largest cities in California.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), a nine-member panel appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the statewide school board that oversees distribution of state school aid and compliance with state and federal educational mandates. Departing State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch was thanked for his 21 years of educational leadership at ISBE, particularly his advocacy for students affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Mandate Reform, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, continued to hold meetings this week dedicated to the cause of reduction of burden on Illinois local governments. At a hearing in Carbondale on Monday, April 13, Sanguinetti and her colleagues continued to learn that many of these burdens are caused by mandates imposed on local governments and school districts from Springfield.

The General Assembly may well be asked, before the end of the 2015 spring session, to look at specific legislative proposals aimed at reducing these burdens. These proposals could include not only mandate reductions, but also suggested changes on local governmental labor-management relations and the consolidation of specific units of local government into efficiency-sized units.

The two weeks in mid-April ending on April 24 are the weeks set aside for floor action and final passage of House bills out of the House of Representatives. In many cases, including the fourteen House Republican members who are serving their first full terms, this is a time of intense participation in the lawmaking process as final questions are asked and answered, a bill is debated on the floor, and the final roll call taken that decides whether the bill will survive and be sent to the state Senate for further action.

House members spent long hours on the House floor this week. 444 bills had been advanced from House committees and placed on the chamber’s calendar for possible final action. The Illinois House streams live audio and video feeds of its floor action to the general public.       

The 16th president was shot in the head by an assassin on April 14, 1865 in Ford’s Theatre, Washington, and died on the following day. Lincoln’s assassination, which took place less than one week after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army, marked the end of the Civil War and the start of a period of national mourning and reconciliation.

The Illinois House has a unique perspective on Abraham Lincoln; this legislative chamber was Lincoln’s first political home and elected position. The future President served central Illinois in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th General Assemblies, starting in 1835 and ending in 1842. These were key years in the history of Lincoln’s home town of Springfield, as the aggressive advocacy of Lincoln and his colleagues was decisive in the selection of the Sangamon River community to be Illinois’ permanent state capital. The “Old State Capital,” which still stands in Springfield’s central city, was built in response to Lincoln’s urgings. A legislator’s desk, believed to be Lincoln’s, has been re-installed in the chamber and is seen by tens of thousands of visitors annually.

HB 208 designates pumpkin pie as the official State pie of Illinois. The bill was approved by the House on Thursday, April 16 by a vote of 108-3-2.

In discussion on the bill, Representative Keith Sommer told his colleagues of the importance of the traditional American dessert to his home town. A canning plant or “cannery” in Morton, Illinois specializes in the washing, peeling, mashing, cooking, and additional processing of fiber-rich pumpkin pulp into the raw material for pie-making. The University of Illinois reports that this plant, combined with the work of area purchasers of whole pumpkins for transport and sale, mean that approximately ninety percent of the pumpkins grown in the United States for commercial sale are cultivated in the region of Peoria, Illinois.

Local soil that is simultaneously rich and sandy, washed down the Illinois Valley by melting glaciers, creates ideal farmers’ plots for pumpkins. The slogan of the Village of Morton is “The Pumpkin Capital of the World.”