Proposed bill would allow counties to streamline stormwater management
Legislation proposed by Republicans in both houses of the General Assembly seeks to create stormwater commissions in every Illinois county.
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) and Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) have introduced similar bills that would amend the County Code to allow for more streamlined management and mitigation of urban flooding with stormwater drainage improvements. The bill would greenlight counties to adopt stormwater management plans that emphasize “nature-based” solutions to flooding.
Rezin told the Sangamon Sun commissions like these have helped urban communities in her district avoid flooding incidents and reduce cleanup costs.
“This bill allows additional counties in the state to form a stormwater commission that would take a comprehensive approach to stormwater management and flood management,” Rezin said. “The County Board would have to approve the commission. These commissions would develop a stormwater management plan to present for approval to the county board.”
The legislation comes in response to recommendations made years ago by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) on the issue of urban flooding. Many of the recommendations would be fulfilled if it passed.
“The legislature directed the Department of Natural Resources to undertake a study related to urban flooding throughout the state," Fortner told the Sangamon Sun. "It produced a report and it had about more than two dozen recommendations. One of those recommendations was that there should be legislation to allow counties who have urban flooding to be able to form county stormwater commissions.”
The Illinois Policy Institute’s Vice President of Policy, Ted Dabrowski, argues that the intent of the bill must be examined carefully.
“Control of stormwater is certainly an important governmental activity because it is cross-jurisdictional,” Dabrowski told the Sangamon Sun. “Having county oversight is very important. That said, I think we really need to be careful about how these commissions are structured around the money they spend and how the execute their plans. Illinois is already the most taxed in the nation when it comes to property taxes, so any bill like this deserves a lot of scrutinies to ensure that we are not empowering counties to spend even more money.”
Existing stormwater management frameworks at the local level would be integrated into a county-wide structure. Counties that consolidate into a county-wide commission would be allowed to request a property tax increase capped at 0.2 percent to fund its programs.
Increases and decreases to taxes would be subject to referendum, according to the state’s Property Tax Code. Such questions can appear on the ballot during any election cycle.
The legislation would allow a county commission to resolve existing stormwater management plans in order to supersede the authority with a county-wide one.
Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced similar legislation. Though Steans declined to comment for this story, her staff said she withdrew her bill and signed on to Rezin’s bill.