Will County Council seeks feedback on proposed changes to County Government Act – Shaw Local


Members of the Will County Board of Directors have criticized the way legislation proposing changes to the way county government works was considered this week by state lawmakers.

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, the county executive, had been working with state lawmakers to draft legislation that would codify the process by which Will County filled county council vacancies. Bertino-Tarrant served in the Illinois Senate before being elected to its county office.

The issue stems from a lawsuit in Champaign County, which has the same form of government as Will County, where officials are at odds over how their board fills vacancies. The lawsuit forced Will County officials to change their procedure for filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Ken Harris, a Bolingbrook Democrat, in December.

State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, on Wednesday filed an amendment to SB 1015 that would clarify that it is up to the county executive to appoint, or essentially appoint, someone to fill a vacancy on the council. , with board approval. It’s the same process Will County had been following for several years until a ruling on the Champaign County lawsuit forced a change in the process this month.

But other board members expressed concern in a press release and at a meeting on Friday.

The Hastings Amendment also adds a provision to give the County Executive control of the “internal operations of the County Executive’s office and to procure the equipment, materials and services necessary to carry out the functions of this office”. This change could affect the way the Will County government conducted some of its business, as the board of directors traditionally had to approve operations and services such as hiring consultants.

The amendment would also eliminate a provision requiring board approval of hires made by the county executive.

“Current legislation is very alarming to want to take more power away from county council,” said R-Monee member Judy Ogalla.

Board members complained in the statement primarily about the timing of the legislation as it was introduced on Wednesday and passed by both a committee and the full Senate on Thursday night. The bill would still need the approval of the House of Representatives to become law.

“While we agree with some of the proposed improvements to the law, we believe the county council and the public deserve appropriate time to discuss the legislation and provide feedback,” council chairwoman Mimi said. Cowan, D-Naperville, in a statement. .

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Bertino-Tarrant told the Herald-News on Friday that as she worked with state lawmakers on a bill to clarify the county council nomination process, she was surprised when the bill was voted on in the Senate. She added that she was aware that the bills had to be passed by the committee before the deadline last week, but the rapid movement of the bill left little time to give council members notice.

“It’s unfortunate,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “I didn’t know it was going to the ground [of the Senate for a vote].”

Still, Bertino-Tarrant defended the proposed changes to how his role as the county’s executive functions. For example, she said new hires have to wait for approval from the full county council, which usually only meets once a month, slowing down the hiring process. She added that it would give the county executive the same hiring power as other county elected officials. The county council would still have the power to confirm the county department heads who are appointed.

“It’s not a power grab,” she said.

Both Republican and Democratic board members have consistently endorsed a change to their state legislative agenda to call on state lawmakers to vote against proposed changes to the legislation.

“We’ve had our differences of opinion on some issues, but the Republican and Democratic caucuses want to work together to get this legislation right,” Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said in a statement. communicated. “This legislation could have a significant impact on the future operations of the Will County operation, and we believe that state legislators should authorize the Will County Board, which has the most experience with this form of government, to give our opinion. The public should also be given the opportunity to comment.

As the future of the legislation remained uncertain on Friday, Cowan said board members would reach out to state lawmakers to raise concerns.

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