June 2004Volume 5Number 5PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Legislative update

The Illinois General Assembly has introduced numerous bills to be reviewed this spring. The following is a list of those bills that are still being considered and that may be of general interest to government lawyers:

HB 4000-Creates the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act. Provides that if a State agency proposes a rule that may affect small businesses, then the agency must consider certain methods for reducing the impact of the rule on small business, and the Act provides an opportunity for small businesses to participate in the rulemaking process.

HB 4171-Amends the Illinois Procurement Code. Requires that electronic mail service providers take measures reasonably designed to provide service free of spam.

HB 2633-Amends the Counties Code and the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that requests for the refund of cash contributions paid in lieu of land donations must be filed with the county or the municipality within one year after the date of payment or one year after the date the funds are last used for any unauthorized purpose, whichever is later.

HB 3890-Amends the Counties Code and the Illinois Municipal Code. Authorizes certain municipal plan commissions and planning departments to implement a comprehensive plan by ordinance for the provision of public grounds for public libraries.

HB 4109-Amends the Illinois Municipal Article of the Illinois Pension Code. Provides that any person who is actively employed by a certain municipality on the municipality's effective date of participation in the Fund shall not be considered a participating employee under the Fund, unless the person files with the board within 90 days of the municipality's effective date of participation an irrevocable election to participate.

HB 4132-Amends the Plat Act. Provides that counties that are authorized by law to exercise land use control through a building/improvement permit process many deny the issuance of a building permit for building or other improvement to be constructed on a parcel of land subdivided contrary to the provisions of the Act.

HB 4247-Amends the Open Meetings Act. Requires public bodies to keep written minutes of closed, as well as open, meetings. Removes verbatim recordings of closed meetings from the requirement that the public body regularly review them to determine whether the need for non-disclosure continues. With respect to a civil action to enforce the Open Meetings Act, conditions the court's in camera review of verbatim recordings to determine whether a violation occurred upon the judge's belief as to the necessity of the examination.

HB 4280-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that, in addition to any other method authorized by law, if (i) a property owner is cited with a Code violation, (ii) non-compliance is found upon reinspection of the property after the due date for compliance with an order to correct the ordinance violation, and (iii) fines and costs for the non-compliance and reinspection remain unpaid at the point in time that they would become a debt due and owing the municipality, then those fines and costs may be collected as a special assessment on the property.

HB 4351-Amends the Property Tax Code. Requires the county clerks of each county in which there was an under extension to proportionately increase the levy of that taxing district pursuant to a court order if a court, at any time, enters a final judgment that there was an over extension or under extension of taxes for an overlapping taxing district.

HB 4705-Amends the Counties Code and the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that a unit of local government denied retailers' occupation tax revenue because of an agreement to share or rebate any portion of retailers' occupation taxes may file an action in circuit court against "only" the municipality or "only" the county that has entered into such an agreement.

HB 4929-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Authorizes a municipality carrying out a business district development or redevelopment plan to impose a retailers' occupation tax, a service occupation tax, and a hotel operators' occupation tax.

HB 5067-Amends the Counties Code. Provides that if a county owns a parcel of real property located in the county that (i) is vacant, (ii) is less than 2,000 square feet, (iii) has been exclusively maintained by an adjoining owner and his or her predecessors in the title continuously for at least 30 years, and (iv) has a fair market value of less than $1,000, then upon request of the adjoining owner and satisfactory proof of the status of the property, the county must quit claim its right, title and interest in the property to the adjoining owner for $1 in consideration. Further provides that the parcel must have been incorrectly recorded or omitted from the county tax rolls before the county must transfer the parcel of property to the adjoining owner. Provides that the county is not required to transfer the parcel if the adjoining owner is in violation of any county ordinance or is delinquent in the payment of any property taxes upon the adjoining property.

HB 6683-Amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934. Provides that in any township that has voted to prohibit the retail sale of alcoholic liquor, the township board may authorize the local liquor control commissioner to issue a special event retailer's license authorizing the sale of beer for up to seven days per year for up to 30 years at an agricultural show that is held on privately-owned property that is within the township, but is not within the corporate limits of a city, village, or incorporated town.

SB 2151-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that any contiguous territory not exceeding two square miles in a county with a population of not less than 187,000 (now, 300,000) and not more than 190,000 (now, 350,000) that meets certain requirements may be incorporated as a village if (i) any part of the territory is situated within 13 (now, two) miles of a county with a population of less than 38,000 and more than 36,000 (now, less than 150,000) and (ii) a petition is filed before January 1, 2005 (now, July 1, 2001).

SB 2175-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that the owner or owners of a split lot that is located in and governed by two municipalities or that is governed by a municipality and a county may disconnect a portion of the lot so that a single municipality or county governs the entire lot.

SB 2277-Amends the Counties Code and the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that, on and after June 1, 2004, neither a county board nor the corporate authorities of a municipality may enter into any agreement to share or rebate any portion of retailers' occupation taxes generated by retail sales of tangible personal property if: (1) the tax on those retail sales, absent the agreement, would have been paid to another unit of local government; and (2) the retailer maintains, within that other unit of local government, a retail location or a warehouse from which the tangible personal property is delivered to purchasers.

SB 2278-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that, if suit is filed for violation of certain municipal ordinances and the court finds that the defendant has engaged in certain prohibited activities, the court shall allow the plaintiff to recover a reasonable sum of money for the costs of litigation, including the services of the plaintiff's attorney.

SB 2442-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that an ordinance to vacate a street or alley shall (now, may) reserve to a municipality or to a public utility owning any public facilities on the parcel to be vacated, any property, rights of way, and easements that the corporate authorities of the municipality judge to be necessary or desirable for continuing public service and for the maintenance, renewal, and reconstruction of those public facilities.

SB 2659-Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that (i) if a municipality annexes part or all of the territory in which a township operates a sewerage system that includes a sewage treatment plant or plants, the township is responsible for that portion of the sewerage system within the annexed territory and any user fees attributable to the annexed territory shall remain with the township and (ii) if a municipality annexes part or all of the territory in which a township operates a sewerage system that does not include a sewage treatment plant or plants, the corporate authorities of the municipality are responsible for that portion of the sewerage system within the annexed territory and, beginning upon the date of annexation, any user fees attributable to the maintenance and operation of the sewerage system shall be collected by the corporate authorities of the municipality.

SB 2683-Amends the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act. Adds to the list of State employees who must file statements of economic interest those who negotiate, assign, authorize, or grant naming or sponsorship rights to State property or assets.

SB 2820-Creates the Illinois Residential Building Code Act. Provides that a contract to build a home in any municipality or unincorporated portion of a county that does not have a residential building code in effect must include, as part of the construction contract, the applicability of a residential building code that is agreed to by the home builder and the home purchaser. If a residential code is not stated then the plumbing code promulgated by the Department of Public Health and the International Residential Code shall be adopted, by law, as part of the contract.

SB 2968-Amends the Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Law. Provides that, upon approval of the governing body of a city, village, or incorporated town, after it complies with notice, hearing, and other requirements, the general real estate taxes on the improvements on real property of a neighborhood redevelopment corporation or its immediate successor in that city, village, or incorporated town shall be abated for a period not in excess of 10 years after the date upon which the corporation becomes owner of that real property. The tax on that property, however, exclusive of improvements, may continue to be imposed and collected but shall be frozen at the amount of taxes owed, or that would have been owed, for the property as unimproved in the year prior to the year it was acquired by the neighborhood redevelopment corporation. For the next ensuing period not in excess of 15 years, general real estate taxes on the property shall be abated in an amount not to exceed 50 percent of the taxes imposed by each taxing district.

The full text of these bills may be found on the General Assembly's Web site at <http://www.legis.state.il.us/>.

News you can use

University of Illinois student loan assistance

As we have been reporting, the ISBA's Committee on Government Lawyers has been following closely federal legislation aimed at assisting new attorneys working in public interest with their school loan debt. In a related matter, it was recently reported that 93 percent of the University of Illinois College of Law student body approved a referendum to financially support a Loan Repayment Assistance Program. Students would contribute $12.50 per semester to a trust that would help graduates repay educational loans. The program, known as the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (or LRAP), would aid students who accept public interest jobs upon graduation. Apparently, a key factor for student votes was that the average starting salary for public interest lawyers, according to the American Bar Association, is approximately $33,000. With skyrocketing tuition increases, the ABA has recommended that law schools prioritize the creation of LRAPs to make public service work financially feasible for graduates. The proposal is now before the dean.

Department of Justice student loan assistance

The Department of Justice offers a program called the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP). DOJ Attorneys compete for up to $6,000 in loan repayments for qualifying student loans. Established in 2003, the ASLRP is an incentive program designed to recruit and retain highly qualified attorneys. To determine if you qualify, review 5 U.S.C. §5379, as implemented by the regulations of the United States Office of Personnel Management (5 C.F.R. Part 537). Forms for applying for repayment assistance may be found at: <http://www.usdoj.gov/oarm/aslrp/aslrpforms/fy04Service%20Agreement%20_Case-by-case%20basis_.pdf>.

Electronic communication by public bodies

The Virginia Supreme Court recently held, inter alia, that ordinary e-mail messages between members of a public body do not violate the open meetings provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Beck v. Shelton, 593 S.E.2d 195 (March 5, 2004). The mayor of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and several members of that city's council exchanged e-mails concerning their official business. The plaintiff alleged that the e-mails were to avoid public scrutiny and circumvent the law. The supreme court held that the e-mails "did not involve virtually simultaneous interaction, . . . [but] were more like traditional letters sent by ordinary mail, courier, or facsimile." The court also held that the e-mails were public records under FOIA, but that no "meeting" had occurred under the open meetings provisions of the FOIA. The court noted a similar conclusion reached by the Virginia Attorney General in a non-binding opinion that indicated that "transmitting messages through an electronic mail system is essentially a form of communication," but not a meeting.

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