overnor Bruce Rauner’s task force aimed at reducing the number of local governments in Illinois recently held its first meeting, and a major credit rating agency is reacting favorably to the effort.
In other news, the Governor announced he is teaming with nationally-known fitness expert Jake Steinfeld to launch a new campaign to promote youth fitness. And the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is reminding residents that spring is a good time to review severe weather preparedness information.
Also during the week, state lawmakers have resumed public meetings with local school officials and residents in communities across Illinois to discuss education funding reform. The meetings will build on the public forums Senate Republicans hosted last fall. The 2015 forums will focus on two new proposals, Senate Bill 1 (Senate Bill 16 in 2014) and Senate Bill 1403 (Illinois Vision 20/20 policy platform), and how they would affect school districts and property taxpayers, especially those in suburban counties.
Moody’s reacts favorably to local government consolidation
Moody’s Investors Service is reacting favorably to Governor Rauner’s local government consolidation efforts, according to an article in The Bond Buyer.
Governor Rauner created the Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force by Executive Order in February to find ways to reduce Illinois’ more than 6,900 units of local government. Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti is chairing the Task Force, which had its first meeting March 26.
In its weekly credit outlook March 26, Moody’s noted that Illinois has the most local units of governments – 6,963 – of any state. Its analysts noted: “Any reduction in the number of distinct local governments that provide similar services would lower the overall costs supported by Illinois taxpayers. Further, the governor tasked the commission with reducing unfunded state mandates on local governments, potentially resulting in greater fiscal flexibility for the sector.”
The Task Force has been charged with identifying ways to help local governments consolidate and eliminate duplicate governmental bodies, school districts and taxing authorities. Streamlining these services will help cut waste and use taxpayer dollars more efficiently. The Task Force has also been asked to find ways to reduce the number of unfunded mandates the state imposes on local communities.
While Moody’s considers the proposal a positive step, it does not impact the state’s A1 rating or its negative outlook.
Task Force members include State Senators Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington), Dale A. Righter (R-Mattoon), Martin A. Sandoval (D-Cicero) and Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), and State Representatives Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), Jack D. Franks (D-Woodstock), and Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Westchester), as well as representatives of local governments, local government advocacy groups, and education officials.
Helping children get fit
On March 30, Governor Rauner announced that he is teaming with fitness expert Jake Steinfeld and his National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils to help reduce childhood obesity in Illinois.
The Foundation recognizes innovation in youth fitness in elementary and middle schools. Three schools in Illinois will be selected by the foundation as “National Champion Schools” and will be awarded with $100,000 in fitness equipment. This includes strength training and cardio equipment and interactive exercise games, which will be installed within the school.
The organization accepts applications from public, and public charter, elementary and middle schools, and the evaluation committee reviews the nomination form to assess the school’s level of economic need, integration of physical wellness into the school curriculum, creativity in programs and community outreach. The nomination form can be found here.
In 2011, Steinfeld worked through public/private partnerships to create the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils to provide schools with real incentives for change, according to the Foundation Web site. Since its launch in 2012, the Foundation has opened youth fitness centers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Georgia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.
In 2015, Steinfeld’s Foundation is working to open the fitness centers in Illinois, as well as centers in Texas, Arkansas and Florida.
Severe weather preparedness
IEMA has joined with the National Weather Service (NWS) and local emergency management agencies to increase awareness of severe weather hazards.
IEMA and the NWS developed a Severe Weather Preparedness Guide, which provides information about tornadoes, severe storms, lightning and flooding along with recommended actions to take before, during and after each of these weather events. The Guide is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov or by calling 217/785-9925.
IEMA Director James Joseph said Illinois experienced 48 tornadoes in 2014, which resulted in two injuries and nearly $5 million in damage to homes and crops. In 2013, the state saw 54 tornadoes, including 25 twisters on November 17, a vivid reminder that tornadoes and severe storms can happen anytime of the year.