Non home-rule municipalities can look to local hearings next year

Metro West: ‘No matter how big or small the town is – they know what’s best and should have same rights as large municipalities, as far as local control’

State Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, left, and state Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles.

Next year, non-home rule municipalities will be able to use local hearing officers to hear cases of speeding or parking tickets – and keep the fines, which is something home-rule communities have already been able to do.

The Metro West Council of Government, comprised of municipalities in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties, requested lawmakers to amend state law as part of its 2023 legislative agenda, said Lesli Melendy, Executive Director of Metro West Council of Government.

“Home rule can do it, non-home rule can’t do it,” Melendy said. “It’s a frustration for smaller towns, any town under 25,000 in population can only become home rule if they go to referendum.”

A municipality with home rule status can exercise any power and perform any function unless state law specifically prohibits it. By contrast, a non-home rule municipality may only exercise powers for which express authority is provided by state law. Illinois has 221 home rule municipalities, according to the Illinois Municipal League.

While it means more local revenue for these non-home rule municipalities, Melendy said the amendment is more about local control.

“It’s one way to offset many many unfunded mandates,” Melendy said.

But how much money it means to local non-home rule communities like Geneva, Elburn, Sugar Grove or Campton Hills, depends upon how many speeding and parking tickets are written, she said.

The process for an in-house hearing for a ticket or other infraction is called administrative adjudication – but all it means is that the municipality hires a hearing officer and has an attorney acting as prosecutor, Melendy said.

A person with a ticket can bring an attorney, witnesses and can cross examine, just like in a regular state court, she said.

But unlike state court, if a fine is assessed, it stays within that jurisdiction, she said. In state court, it is split among several sources, including the county.

“If they’re not happy with the judgment, they can request judicial review and appeal the ruling,” Melendy said.

“The underlying message here is, we are going to be working on legislation to chip away home rule vs. non-home rule,” Melendy said. “The underlying issues – no matter how big or small the town is – they know what’s best and should have same rights as large municipalities as far as local control.”

State Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles, sponsored Senate Bill 2320 and state Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, sponsored the matching legislation in the House, Melendy said.

“We just work through our legislative committee for what we want to bring up during sessions,” Melendy said. “Instead of reacting to legislation that is thrust upon us, we decided on our legislative agend and one of those things is home-rule, non home-rule. Sen. DeWitte agreed to carry the bill for us in the Senate, and Dan Ugaste did in the House.”

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said the city will be examining the amendment “in its entirety and will proceed based on what is afforded, expected and serves the best interests of the city.”

In a news release, DeWitte said that, “By permitting administrative adjudication at the local level, municipalities are able to retain all funds derived from these types of local infractions, lessening the reliance on property taxes.”

Senate Bill 2320 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

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