Legislative agenda discussed

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

The Peoria City Council has an extensive legislative agenda for 2010.

Allowing a test of concealed carry in the city tops the list, but is only one of several high priority items.

Peoria City Council members met with State Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria); State Rep. Don Moffitt (R-Gilson); State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) and State Sen. Dale Risinger (R-Peoria) Dec. 29 to discuss the city’s legislative agenda. State Rep. Jehan Gordon (D-Peoria) was absent.

At-large councilman Ryan Spain told the legislative contingent the city needs an extension of the state’s enterprise zone legislation.

State records show that of the 85 enterprise zones within the state, 72 are set to expire between 2013 and 2020.

Expiration would mean that for some of these government bodies, a five-year property tax abatement incentive could be offered only if it began no later than 2008. 

That, Spain said, could cause economic development harm to Peoria.

In Peoria the program would halt in just over three years, if no extension is granted.

Ardis brought up the desire to see legislation enacted to allow cities to add a fee to court costs for misdemeanor and felony arrests to defray the cost of police time devoted to making the arrest and transporting the subject to jail. Ardis proposes the fee be $20.

Also on the issue of public safety, Ardis said the city would like to see legislation increasing the pension amortization period for public safety pensions to 40 years.

“It’s breaking our backs. Pensions, going up the way they are, are going to bankrupt municipalities,” Ardis said.

Koehler told Ardis he understands, but until the fire fighters union and the Illinois Municipal League find common ground the issue will likely go nowhere.

Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard addressed his desire to see legislation approved allowing police to record audio of suspects in certain situations. The law now does not allow the police to record audio in undercover drug efforts.

“The law’s really broken when it comes to undercover drug efforts,” Settingsgaard said.

Neither does the law allow the police to record audio in hostage and stand-off situations.

Koehler said this might be a tough legislative item because such an effort will bring out those who complain this would curtail personal liberties.

Ardis was also concerned about some aspects of the state’s new Freedom Of Information Act. 

The state’s new FOIA law was revised to add greater inspection opportunity to the public with quicker response times for the public body to comply with a request.

“If it’s not the worst law to come out of Springfield, I don’t know what is,” Ardis said.   

Included in the revisions is the opportunity to request copies of performance evaluations from a public employee’s personnel file. 

A council memo to the legislator’s stated, “It is not a matter of public interest and its availability to the public, would surely limit the manner in which such an evaluation is done. The ability to inspect such a document may diminish the forthrightness of the evaluator and dilute the otherwise critical analysis that would have been provided to the employee, thereby devaluing the evaluation’s purpose and any benefit to the evaluated employee.”

Ardis said, that argument aside, the city would face hiring a full-time employee to administer FOIA requests in a timely manner.  

Ardis added the law, as written, makes an internal investigation by a law enforcement agency subject to disclosure. 

“The availability of the statement to the public, through the mechanism of a FOIA request, will have a chilling effect on the willingness of officers to give such statements and the law enforcement agencies’ ability to thoroughly conduct its investigations,” a memo to the legislators said.

After leaving the meeting Ardis said he is optimistic the priorities outline will receive attention from local legislators.

“The priority for us is the pension issue, the FOIA law and, frankly, getting the discussion started on concealed carry,” Ardis said.