CHANGE Illinois testimony for the 2019 General Assembly session



HB2541 civics for formerly incarcerated individuals

Submitted on behalf of CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan, non-profit focused on achieving efficient, ethical and fair government and elections. Thank you for allowing our organization to submit this testimony to express our support for the Re-Entering Civics Education Act, HB2541.

The Re-Entering Civics Education Act would provide incarcerated individuals with nonpartisan civics education upon their release from prison. These classes would teach those leaving prison about the voting process, government, and current affairs within twelve months of their discharge.

With 30,000 people re-entering society from Illinois prisons every year, this bill would significantly help those citizens reintegrate into society, become more informed about the voting process and about registering to vote. No citizen should have to wonder if they’re allowed to vote or even if they can get registered to vote. In strengthening our democracy and encouraging participation, it’s possible that the civics program established through HB2541 also would lower recidivism rates.

Our organization long has pushed for key voting rights and ballot access laws, including Automatic Voter Registration and Same-Day Registration. We aim to support policies that will encourage voting and increasing voter participation. Common sense proposals like HB2541 will aid in this work to grow our participatory democracy. By educating people as they embark on their second chance in society and helping them learn about voting and elections, we can increase the number of informed voters participating in our democracy.

We ask you to send this bill to the floor without delay. Thank you.

SB90 drainage districts consolidation

Submitted on behalf of CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan, non-profit focused on achieving efficient, ethical and fair government and elections. Thank you for allowing our organization to submit this testimony to express our support for SB90.

The Comptroller’s office has counted that Illinois has more than 8,500 units of government; while the U.S. Census Bureau puts the count at 6,900 (the latter didn’t separate out sub-units such as highway districts etc.) Regardless of which number you use, either is far more than any other state in the country. And while we recognize that we shouldn’t wantonly consolidate government just to lower that number, we should encourage consolidation when it makes sense, eliminates duplicative services, and saves taxpayers money. Allowing for the dissolution of drainage districts is a commonsense way to combine government entities and duties that shouldn’t have been split up in the first place. These dissolutions will save taxpayers’ money by allowing the appropriations and funds previously allocated to the drainage district’s board and board members to be put to other uses in county government. SB90 also would give the county board the ability to adjust or dissolve any tax or levy imposed by a dissolved drainage district, again saving money for taxpayers.

Last year, Illinois enacted similar laws allowing for the dissolution and consolidation of mosquito abatement districts and eliminating an election board in DuPage County. DuPage County alone has streamlined and consolidated seven units of local government since 2013. If each of Illinois’ 102 counties did that we could consolidate more than 1,000 units of government.

Momentum for streamlining government is growing and SB90 is a good next step. We hope you’ll vote to send this bill to the floor for a full vote. Thank you for your time.

SB 1236 county good governance omnibus

Submitted on behalf of CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan, non-profit focused on achieving efficient, ethical and fair government and elections. Thank you for allowing our organization to submit this testimony to express our support for amending SB1236.

SB1236 is a commonsense policy package that will strengthen the public’s trust in government and increase transparency.

Eliminating the loophole that allows county board members to simultaneously collect both a pension and a paycheck for the same job at the same time must be done in order to rebuild trust among constituents. Holding elected office is and always should be a public service, not a means for personal gain. Allowing a county official to engage in double-dipping by earning a salary at the same time she or he is collecting a public pension check crosses the line. Pensions are for people who are no longer serving and this practice should be outlawed.

We also support adding language to address the removal of a county board chair. Both the U.S. Constitution and Illinois’ state constitution outline clear procedures for removing chief executives from office and county boards should have a procedure as well. These protocols were added as a necessary fail-safe to protect the public from wrongdoing, ineptitude, or other concerns that may arise in an executive office. This aspect of SB1236 (in house amendment 1) would apply this procedure at the county level, filling in a gap in the checks-and-balances system that is essential in our democracy.

The provision in this legislation that would require informing newly elected countywide officials about transitional audits and provide increased disclosure for state contractors are logical transparency practices we ask you to support. After our state’s recent budget crisis, we should be encouraging new county officers to look over the books to find ways to responsibly cut costs and save money. Audits will provide the necessary information to guide countywide officials to do their jobs and be fiscally responsible. Lastly, requiring disclosure of familial relationships before public contracts are agreed upon is a positive, necessary change to prevent and eliminate potential conflicts-of-interest and nepotism that erodes public confidence in government.

The measures in SB1236 will keep moving us toward ethical transparent government at the local level. Thank you for your time.