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.

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