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Mas Fines

Illinois’ state and local governments collect some of the most fines and fees in the country on a per capita basis, a new study shows.

The Reason Foundation found that Illinois is second highest in the nation, averaging about $50 per resident in 2020. That is compared to less than $3 per resident in Kentucky.

In 2019, local fines and fees revenue accounted for less than 2% of pre-pandemic general revenue in all 50 states. The year 2017 is the most recent year for which local revenue data is available. During that year, 28,159 U.S. cities, townships and counties reported a total of nearly $5 billion in revenue from fines and fees after excluding jurisdictions without sufficient data.

Data for the study was obtained from the Census Bureau’s annual survey of state and local government finances.

“In Illinois, local governments retain a fairly substantial portion of the revenue generated by citations and traffic tickets within that jurisdiction,” said Vittorio Nastasi, director of Criminal Justice Policy with the Reason Foundation.

Nastasi notes that fines and fees have turned many courts into revenue centers for state and local governments, creating what he calls undesirable conflicts of interest.

Read more here.

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Switzerland Davos Forum

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is making free college a priority in his second term. Tuition is driven up by pension costs, which Pritzker routinely ignores.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is making affordable college a priority in his second term, but so far he’s ignored the surest way to ensure it can happen: pension reform.

“It’s also our obligation to make college more affordable by removing financial barriers. That’s why we need to bring down the cost of higher education. Since I took office, we’ve increased scholarships by more than 50%. Now let’s focus on making tuition free for every working-class family,” Pritzker said.

The biggest barrier to affordable college in Illinois is pensions. Rising pension costs push up Illinois tuition, forcing students to pay the difference.

Pension Costs Education

It’s why Illinois has the fourth-highest in-state tuition and fees for public universities in the nation at $14,455 a year. Pritzker boasts increased scholarships, but scholarships are like a coupon: they help people but do nothing to change the price tag.

Other big states keep their universities affordable. Public colleges in California, New York, Texas and Florida all cost under $9,000 a year for residents.

Read more here.

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LCMC

Students are invited to apply for The Land Conservancy of McHenry County’s CLIP program for the summer of 2023. The program gives underserved high school and college students the skills to navigate the conservation field as a professional. (Courtesy of Kim Elsenbroek, The Land Conservancy of McHenry County)

Submitted by The Land Conservancy of McHenry County

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County has opened its Conservation Leadership Internship Program (CLIP) to applicants for the summer of 2023, which will be the third year of the program.

The application period is open now through Feb. 27. Students can learn more and apply at conservemc.org/clip/.

CLIP is a paid, hands-on learning experience designed to give students the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the conservation field as a professional.

No experience is needed to apply for CLIP, and it is open to high school juniors, seniors and college students. Participants must be able to work in extreme weather conditions and on adverse terrain.

The program takes place 40 hours per week from June-August 2023, and the pay is $15 per hour, or college credit.

The internship provides underserved communities such as women, BIPOC, first generation and LGBTQIA+ students/youth with hands-on professional training in the field of conservation.

Participants will gain experience areas such as: plant identification, land management, GIS/GPS training, prescribed fire training, herbicide use, rare plant monitoring, wildlife/stream surveys, sustainable farming techniques, land preservation techniques, field safety, scientific research/experimental design, art in the natural world, career development and professional networking.

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Eagle SearchFor the second time in as many years, Cathy Thurston of Crystal Lake found herself behind a spotting scope in search of eagles.

This year she only saw about 30 golden eye ducks scooting about the Fox River just south of the Algonquin dam.

Earlier in the morning two immature eagles glided up and down the river and then disappeared over the trees.

Thurston was with a small group of people braving the cold at Cornish Park during an “In Search of Eagles” program this Saturday.

The program, which happens every year at this time, took place at the McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville dams on the Fox River, and at the Williams Bay boat launch on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin.

Read more here.

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CC Refund

Overpaid property taxes will be refunded to more than 53,000 county homeowners starting this week and continuing for the next three months, the Cook County Treasurer’s Office said Wednesday.

Cook County homeowners who overpaid their property tax bill last year can expect to receive automatic refunds over the next three months.

More than $47 million in overpaid property taxes will be refunded to more than 53,000 county homeowners starting this week, the Cook County treasurer’s office announced Wednesday.

The automatic refunds are for property owners who overpaid on their 2021 first installment taxes, which were due in the first half of 2022.

Homeowners can check if they are getting a refund at cookcountytreasurer.com.

Read more here.

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JBP

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is in Switzerland for the 2023 World Economic Forum to tout his agenda. Some back home say the governor should be more focused on the state’s issues.

Pritzker is making his second trip out of the country during his time as governor of Illinois. He’s is one of 52 heads of state attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week.

During a panel discussion on domestic politics with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and members of the U.S. Congress, Pritzker touted his energy and social policies, including a gun ban and abortion expansion, and was asked about a possible U.S. recession.

My expectation is that it will not be a deep recession if there is one,” Pritzker said. “Business, though it may be moderating, we will not see a major dip.”

Pritzker also spoke about bipartisanship within American politics.

“Certainly, if you asked the public if they think Congress or the state should work in a bipartisan fashion, the answer is yes,” Pritzker said. “What they really mean, in my view, is that they want to get things done.”

Before Pritzker’s appearance, state Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, criticized the governor’s travels.

“For him to fly his private jet, go over there and sit with all the elite globalists of the world and tell us how we should live our lives is completely hypocritical,” Niemerg told WMAY.

More here.

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Barn

Fifty to 60 years ago, when today’s older farmers were growing up, there were many more bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks and Henslow’s sparrows in northern Illinois.

The disappearance of pastureland and the decline in hay fields accounts for the sharp decline in the grassland bird populations.

John Strauser, a farm researcher, studied livestock grazing when he was in graduate school at the University of Illinois. Strauser told The Center Square that grazing cattle and dairy herds on pastureland restores habitat that the birds need.

“Cattle grazing and dairy-cow pasturing create desirable habitat conditions for various kinds of birds,” Strauser said in his graduate school study Returning Marginal Lands to Forage Production.

Birds need a complex landscape that has short grasses and long grasses and different species and different fauna and flora, Strauser said.

Farmers are aware of the disappearing numbers of birds, and they are enthusiastic about doing what they can, he said. Strauser has found that farmers are open to discussing the benefits of grazing and foraging.

Read more here.

Related:Bison grazing for grassland bird habitat,” “Grant helps fund Bison grazing area upgrades

Editorial note: Would Horizon Farm be a suitable candidate for populating a small quantity of bison? 

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Charging

Union-tied research group pushes for mileage tax to shore up road-building funds

Despite Illinois’ efforts to smoothly integrate electric vehicles into the state’s economy, a new report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute is warning of a potential steep decline in transportation revenue as the process of electrification accelerates.

The primary issue is motor fuel taxes, which will see a significant drop as more electric vehicles make their way to the road and fewer people fill their cars with gas.

Since motor fuel taxes make up the backbone of state funding for road and bridge projects, ILEPI, which has strong ties to organized labor, warned in its report that new revenue sources will have to be identified to ensure the state’s 10-year capital improvements plan remains on track.

“There’s absolutely a benefit to having EVs but it will ultimately have a strong impact on transportation funding,” Mary Tyler, the author of the report, said in an interview. “It’s something that I don’t think is talked about enough.”

Motor fuel tax is the state’s leading source of transportation funding and makes up 52 percent of Illinois’ total transportation revenue and 82 percent of its contributions to the federal highway trust fund.

The report’s main policy recommendation is implementing a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, fee which would replace the existing motor fuel tax with a fee determined by the number of miles a car travels on Illinois roads.

Read more here.

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Sheriffs in approximately 80 Illinois counties say they will not enforce the state’s “assault weapons” ban, to which Governor Pritzker has responded by saying the sheriffs are guilty of “political grandstanding.”

It is now illegal to buy or sell more than 170 semi-automatic firearms in Illinois.

Those who owned such guns before the ban went into effect Tuesday — when the governor signed the measure — must register them with Illinois State Police by January 1, 2024.

There is also a ban on long gun magazines of more than 10 rounds and handgun magazines of more than 15 rounds.

Sheriffs and state’s attorneys from across the state say they will not enforce the ban and registry.

“The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people,” said Iroquois County Sheriff Clinton Perzee.

“I, among many others, believe that [House Bill 5471] is a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution,” Perzee said.

Perzee said he will not use his jail to detain individuals exercising their civil rights.

“[N]either myself nor my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State, nor will we be arresting or housing law abiding individuals that have been arrested solely with non-compliance of this Act,” Perzee said.

Read more here.

Related:McHenry County sheriff calls ‘assault weapons’ ban unconstitutional, says his office will not enforce it

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Ed Zimel

Algonquin Township Trustee Ed Zimel, left, then a candidate, talks with a Fox River Grove resident during a 2021 meet-and-greet event at Cary Ale House. (Matthew Apgar/Shaw Local News Network)

A case that will decide whether an Algonquin Township trustee with a 30-year-old felony can stay in his role will move forward after a McHenry County judge denied a request to dismiss the suit on Thursday.

Judge Joel D. Berg on Thursday said while state election code does not state that the specific crime Trustee Ed Zimel committed in 1990 precludes him from holding office, Illinois township code is more wide-ranging than the election statutes, meriting a deeper look into the case.

“What a magnificent issue. I mean, it’s a very complex issue,” Berg said. “The township code is different than the election code. And it’s clearly different.”

Zimel was convicted in 1990 of felony intimidation in Cook County and sentenced to three months of home confinement and 30 months of court supervision.

State election code holds that a person becomes ineligible for office if they have been convicted of an “infamous crime,” which both sides on Thursday agreed did not include intimidation.

However, an Illinois township code provision states that a person is ineligible to hold office if they have “been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury or other felony.”

Read more here.

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