With just hours left in the legislative session, House Democrats called a bill for debate that would add three elected positions to Capital Township. Over 20 minutes of debate followed, ultimately resulting in the bill failing to pass. Under House Bill 826 pushed by state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, and Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, the
With just hours left in the legislative session, House Democrats called a bill for debate that would add three elected positions to Capital Township. Over 20 minutes of debate followed, ultimately resulting in the bill failing to pass.
Under House Bill 826 pushed by state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, and Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, the township would get its own supervisor, assessor and clerk. Those roles are currently handled by the Sangamon County officials.
The bill was defeated in a 52-46 vote with many Democrats voting present on the bill.
A 2018 referendum found township voters don’t want to expand their township government and would rather the township be consolidated into the county.
“If you guys vote for this bill, those 32,000 people-plus in Capital Township, you’re slapping them right in the face,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, to House members. “What you’re doing here is going directly against the will of my constituents.”
In November 2018, 74% of Capital Township voters voted in support of a referendum in favor of consolidating the township into the county — the opposite of Turner’s proposal.
Despite the referendum, Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, argued that township voters wanted Turner’s proposal and incorrectly said the referendum was voted on by the entire county. It was only voted on by township voters.
“The people of Capital Township do not want to be moved to the county,” Scherer argued. “You can look it up yourself. God is my witness. Everything I said tonight is the truth.”
In an interview Tuesday, Scherer said the issue was brought to her by several people in Springfield, including Springfield aldermen and Mayor Jim Langfelder. Julia Frevert, a spokeswoman for Langfelder, said the city was only made aware of the bill’s existence after it was introduced and Langfelder did not push the initiative.
Scherer also said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and his former state director, Bill Houlihan, who is chair of the Sangamon County Democratic Party, were in support of the bill. Houlihan and Durbin both visited the Illinois House Monday after hours before the vote.
Scherer said she had done a roll call with Democrats a few weeks ago on the bill and believed it had the support to pass. Just prior to the bill being called, Scherer was seen with Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, who spoke in support of the bill, going around the House floor talking to Democrats.
“It was just pushed so late and the budget was the focus,” Scherer said on why the bill failed. “It is an extremely complicated issue.”
Butler said the bill failed to get enough votes because he has worked with Democrats before on similar issues and has built trust a trust with many lawmakers that allowed them to take his arguments against the bill seriously.
“I think a lot of members know this is something I worked for before,” Butler said. “I pride myself on working across the aisle. They know who I am and know I’m a man of my word. This is what the institution should be about: building a relationship so you understand the issues.”
Butler had pushed his own bill earlier this spring that would allow the county to absorb the township into the county government. On Monday night, he said township government would become more inefficient and create higher property taxes under Turner’s proposal.
“If you pass this bill tonight, this is a sure-fire tax increase for everyone in Capital Township,” Butler said.
He said he pays $27.60 on his property to Capital Township and citied numbers in surrounding townships where some duties are not handled at the county level and said those taxpayers pay significantly higher property tax rates.
Scherer said Butler “left out the detail that currently the county clerk and treasurer are paid a stipend to do the work for the township. They aren’t being treated like every other township.”
Most townships in Illinois don’t share duties with county offices unless they have been consolidated. Capital Township’s agreement to share some duties with the county dates back over 100 years.
“(Turner’s bill) would be such a travesty and it would destroy the good government we have in Sangamon County,” said Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield.
Capital Township does not have many duties. The township’s roads are handled by the city of Springfield because it is entirely within the borders of the city. The township mostly handles property assessment and general assistance for residents.
The issue of lawmakers from outside of Springfield voting on a local issue was also problematic with Butler and Murphy.
“When it’s a local issue, I follow the lead of the members of the House of Representatives,” Murphy said. “I look up and see what the local people want and I deliver.”
Butler and Murphy were furious at the possibility of lawmakers from outside Springfield voting in favor of what they said was a bad bill that only impacts the people of Springfield.
“If you’re not from Springfield you don’t know anything about Capital Township,” Butler said.
Butler said he had spoken with Hoffman about striking a compromise between their two competing bills. In April, Butler gained attention after giving an angry speech because his bill on Capital Township was not being called by the Democratic leadership. Butler threw a calendar during the speech in which he said Democrats refused to call the bill for “political reasons.”
In Monday night’s debate, Butler said he believes Turner, who came to the House chamber to see if her bill would pass, would have squashed his bill had the House passed it on to the Senate.
Butler still believes Turner and Scherer are pushing the bill for political reasons. He also said Turner and Scherer have not reached out to him to talk about their proposal.
“I think that’s disrespectful,” Butler said.
Scherer said Democrats do plan to recall the bill at some point in the future, but was not sure when.
A spokeswoman for Turner said she was unavailable to comment.