Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DCEO Privatization Bill Passes w/o IHPA language

As the budget stalemate percolates in Springfield the Illinois House of Representatives today amended and passed a bill (HB 574) that would privatize some of the economic development functions of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The first amendment passed today (Amendment 2) replaced an earlier amendment that would have moved management of the state's historic sites from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency over to DCEO as part of a new division that would have included tourism, the Illinois Film Office and whatever would be left of IHPA after splitting off the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library into a separate agency.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it has to be approved before being submitted to Gov. Bruce Rauner. What will happen then is not known, but I wouldn't bet on it getting Rauner's signature.

Today's move on the DCEO bill was believed to be part of a trade that would involve giving Chicago Public Schools a temporarily reprieve on a massive pension plan payment that they can't afford. However, that bill failed to pass. With House Republicans generally voting present on the DCEO bill which normally they would support, it would seem that the governor has not signaled his support.

Meanwhile the ultimate fate of IHPA and the state's fiscally malnourished and neglected historic sites remains unknown. At the end of the spring session the General Assembly did pass a bill to make the presidential library and museum a stand-alone agency and move the Illinois State Museum's five sites over to IHPA from their current home in the Department of Natural Resources.

See my earlier post for details.

In other words, the standoff continues.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lawmakers Pass Bill to Split IHPA

Despite failing to pass a balance budget, take up pension reform, creating a new capital projects bill, dealing with state revenues or at least improving the job climate in Illinois, lawmakers did send pass SB 1728 over the weekend that would split the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from its parent Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Doug Finke and the State Journal-Register has the story.

Because the bill wasn't HB 574 which supposedly had the support of Gov. Bruce Rauner, but a Senate version without elements he wanted, we can probably expect a veto of sorts as well.

The spring session may have ended Sunday, but overtime will begin later this month. Until then, prepare for the fireworks in the forms of campaign style ads and mailers.

But back to IHPA. The bill that passed differed greatly from the one I wrote about last month. While House Speaker Michael J. Madigan got what he wanted in an independent presidential museum and library, it didn't offer the governor what he wanted.

First, it doesn't move what's left of IHPA to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity placing historic sites under a division that would also include state's tourism and film offices. Second, and more important to the governor's agenda, it doesn't include the creation of a new public-private partnership that would take over much of the state's economic development efforts.

One thing the new bill did do that I somewhat like is move the Illinois State Museum and its various components out of the Department of Natural Resources and added them to the smaller IHPA. There's a certain logic in that. The state museum which includes Dickson Mounds, a prehistoric archealogical site that has long been a part of a different agency from the one that operates Cahokia Mounds.

Without knowing the history of the state agencies it makes no sense. However, the state museum is basically a natural history museum, or at least that's been its roots. For a long time it was part of the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources, back when state parks and even historic sites were part of the old Department of Conservation. Historic sites got split off as their own agency under Gov. Jim Thompson. Later, a new Department of Natural Resources combined what was left of Conservation and the ENR agencies.

Under this new law Dickson Mounds would finally be under the same agency as Cahokia Mounds which does make sense. Even adding the main state museum in Springfield would be a good fit. However the other three state museum sites, the artisan centers in Freeport, Chicago and Rend Lake add a cultural twist that IHPA doesn't currently possess. I should note that under the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations those sites were already step-children to the agency brass in DNR, even going to the extent that the agency's public relations staff would not send out news releases as to what the centers were doing. That I experienced personally at some of the worst promoted book signings in which I have ever participated.

Rauner's people have already indicated he's likely to veto the new bill and Senate President John Cullerton has filed a motion to reconsider a vote, a technique used to hold up actually sending the bill to the governor. There are good points and bad when it comes to combining historic sites with tourism, but IHPA has been neglected for far too long. A combination of tourism, historic sites, the state museum and state artisan centers make sense too.