DuPage Republican Jeanne Ives (R, Wheaton), an outspoken critic of the college board, led off the press conference stressing the intensity of her constituents over the matter. “It’s distressing to again be forced to look to setting parameters on local government, but the fact of the matter is that the people of our area are demanding action,” stated Ives. ”We can’t sit silently by without bringing solutions to the table.”
Legislation ranging from capping severance payouts to enhanced public review was thrown out as possible items to prevent such flagrant abuses. Two newly elected neighboring lawmakers, Mark Batinick (R, Plainfield) and Grant Wehrli (R, Naperville), are both eyeing electoral remedies aimed at counteracting the lengthy six-year terms of many local public bodies.
Specifically, Wherli is looking to reduce the length of those terms to four years. “Shortening their terms seems completely reasonable, increasing accountability in these down ballot, low profile races.”
A Batinick proposal, who has been working through a recall provision of all non-home rule entities, strikes a chord both in this situation as well as towards the local park board for which the legislation was originally intended. “Locally, we had a board that has spun out of control, and clearly this situation seems to fit within those same set of concerns,” stated Batinick.
Similarly, the newly elected Will County Republican and former corporate lawyer Margo McDermed (R, Mokena) picked up an initiative of her predecessor and quickly realized the relevance of the initiative towards this particular situation. “The bill here was aimed at the 2013 Metra scandal looking to apply the FOIA act to any severance agreements that include public funds. Once again, we see transparency for severance agreements is still needed in Illinois," McDermed said.
Two other attorneys-turned-lawmakers are both looking to directly target the contracts themselves, with different focuses. Freshman lawmaker Peter Breen, (R, Lombard) is proposing what he calls the "Breuder Rule," which would forbid future severance agreements from exceeding one year’s salary and benefits. For current severance agreements of over one year's salary, the Breuder Rule would prohibit college boards from raising property taxes and tuition for the same number of years as the number of years' severance paid out.
“We need to cut this problem off at the source by capping future severance agreements for local government in Illinois,” stated Breen. “While we can't alter current agreements, we can make sure that homeowners and students don't pay for the poor decisions of community college boards. If these board members agree to extravagant golden parachutes, they can figure out how to pay them without putting the burden on our overtaxed homeowners and hardworking students."
Ron Sandack (R, Downers Grove), the Republican Floor Leader and a veteran of both chambers, will be proposing a state-focused approach by preserving local control while imposing harsh state financial deterrents in the event of large payouts.
“If these local boards proceed, there should be consequences to their state funding. It should be reduced dollar for dollar,” stated Sandack. “I don’t like the idea of tying the hands of duly elected local officials, but I have to say I’m inclined to believe they’d be far less likely to engage in these agreements if there’s a measured financial punishment equal to the payout of the agreement itself.”