February 24, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Why not let local governments set, suspend their own hiring rules?

We believe in local control. Until we don’t.

That philosophy seems to pervade Statehouse officials of any political stripe, depending on the issue, but for today’s discussion the topic is Senate Bill 2622, which would clarify that only state government can suspend municipal hiring residency rules.

State Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, filed the bill in October. In January, it landed in the Senate’s Local Government Committee.

According to the State Journal-Register, the Springfield City Council paused its ordinance in November, hoping to draw new employees from a larger pool. Turner was on the council (and voted in favor) when it adopted the rule in 2016, so her support is consistent. But the proposal would forever strip local governments of the right to suspend local rules, including by negating any suspensions already in effect. Local governments could only vote on outright repeals.

There is plenty of room for debate on the utility and practicality of residency rules, but they all stand aside the larger concern over revoking local control in service of political goals. (See: counties telling townships they couldn’t restrict sites for solar and wind farms, at least until the state took the power away from counties.)

Zooming out on Turner’s plan, it arguably would impede local residency requirements. If a village doesn’t currently have such a rule, would it be wise to enact one knowing it could only be paused by asking state officials to intervene? Better to leave it off the books altogether and retain some degree of autonomy.

If lawmakers must enact this change, they should first demonstrate why they’re better suited to make such choices than hometown officials.

HOLIDAY WEEKEND? Illinoisans of a certain age will always remember Feb. 12 as the birthday of 16th President Abraham Lincoln because school was never in session. Although the state School Code still designates the day as a legal school holiday, and districts that close on Presidents Day must code it as a regular nonattendance event, there are generations of students in recent vintage who don’t celebrate Lincoln as once was the standard.

Similarly, memorization and recitation of the Gettysburg Address seems to have declined in ubiquity. But perhaps that’s not all bad if resulting in a chance to focus on Lincoln’s countless other profound words, such as these sentences from his second inaugural address in March 1865, not six weeks before his assassination:

“It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on X @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.