By Josh Altic
The first measure of the year seeking a ban on hydraulic fracturing, which was also the first local measure ever in the state of Illinois on this issue, was defeated on Tuesday, March 18. This measure was an advisory measure asking voters the following question:
Shall the people’s right to local self government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health and safety?
If it had been approved, it would have put pressure on county commissioners to pass an ordinance prohibiting the contentious process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, within county boundaries in order to prevent harmful health and environmental side effects that anti-fracking activists claim are a byproduct of the process. Of the 8,452 registered voters in Johnson County, 3,825 actually voted on this question, yielding a voter turnout of a little over 45 percent. The results showed almost three fifths of voters saying "no" to the question:
County Commissioner Ernie Henshaw was very pleased with the outcome of the ballot measure. He said, "There was a lot at stake with this proposition. Had it passed, it would have threatened jobs, diminished farming, and tied our county into expensive legal knots."
Six more fracking ban measures have already been announced this year across four different states.
Illinois mandates school districts to hold elections issuing bonding for new construction and capital improvements, exceeding the property tax cap, or create a working cash fund. Since 2006, Illinois has had referendums over the property tax cap which is governed under the Illinois Property Tax Cap Act of 2006 which requires voter approval if a school district wants to exceed their property tax cap for up to four years. The other type of referendum is a Chapter 20 referendum. Under Chapter 20, a school district must have voter approval if the voters petition a school district to create a working cash fund to pay liabilities. Only school districts that serve a city, town, or village less than 500,000 in population can hold a Chapter 20 referendum.
In multiple areas in Illinois, local ballots have an advisory question about Pension reforms at the state level for public employees. Though the State General Assembly sees it as a much larger issue that cannot be easily fixed by a simple ballot question, especially one which has no power. The pension fund has suffered greatly due tot he recession and has become expensive to maintain. Lawmakers have proposed the idea of a bill to reform the system already, but outsiders feel that it still would not address the many flaws of the system. Similar measures to change how municipal pensions are funded was passed, but one addressing fire and police officers was not able to get through. Though members of both are hoping for positive results on the advisory question, hoping that the State government will get the picture that residents do what a comprehensive reform of the system to be undertaken.
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