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Quick legislative hits

Thursday, Mar 27, 2014

* The Daily Herald writes about how the state’s ultra-exclusive golf country clubs are working the system for huge property tax breaks

(I)f Medinah officials have their way, those schools and other local government entities will have to give back nearly $1 million to golf course operators, who say Medinah’s tax assessment was far too high for the past three years.

It would also shift that tax burden onto the private golf course’s mostly residential neighbors in the future.

In 2013, the country club’s property tax bill amounted to $391,554, according to assessment records from Bloomingdale Township. If the appeal is successful, the tax bill could shrink to $84,257, a 78.5 percent decrease. […]

Medinah officials are basing their appeal on the state’s disputed definition of “open space.” State law allows golf courses to be classified as open space for assessment purposes. Township assessors, county boards of review and the state’s Property Tax Appeal Board have always maintained that the open space designation only applies to golf course land that is either undeveloped or used for actual golfing.

Lawyers for the Onwentsia Golf Club in Lake Forest challenged that definition in 2006 and argued that land with buildings, parking lots and additional improvements helped conserve all the other open space and should be considered open space by proxy.

Legislation is now moving to address this. I doubt Medinah is gonna get its full break.

* Sun-Times

New regulations governing petcoke, as currently written, don’t appear to have the votes to get out of the Illinois House Environment Committee, according to vote counters on both sides of the issue.

Although Friday is the deadline for bills to get out of committee, in Springfield there are always ways to get around the rules. But there isn’t a way to get around a shortage of committee votes.

The legislation is being pushed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and has 40 listed co-sponsors. It would require minimum setbacks for coal and petcoke facilities; set limits on dust; regulate storage, loading and unloading; require new permits; and require monitoring and testing. The bill is separate from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to draw up new rules on petcoke storage. The IEPA has been talking to members of the industry, both refiners and bulk operators, and to the environmental community. Environmentalists say new rules are needed, while industry calls the whole effort a solution in search of a problem.

Even if this bill as written doesn’t get out of committee, a bill with new language that resolves legislators’ concerns could be placed on a shell bill, circumventing the Friday deadline.

I spoke to a gathering of the Illinois Petroleum Council this week. They claim there has been just one reported problem with petcoke storage in Illinois. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a talking point that they’ve been relentlessly hammering home with legislators. One problem shouldn’t result in a major regulatory bill. Again, you may disagree with that, but it’s the argument they’re using and it appears to be successful so far.

* AP

A proposal that would allow truck stops to have twice as many video gaming machines as other establishments is moving through the Illinois Legislature.

A Senate committee on Tuesday approved the measure with a 9-2 vote. It would allow truck stops to have ten video gaming terminals. Currently, establishments with video gaming can operate five machines.

State Sen. Dave Syverson is sponsoring the proposal. He says it will create more revenue from truckers who are often from out of state. The Republican from Rockford says it wouldn’t affect other gaming businesses because truckers already don’t leave truck stops to gamble.

Before legalization and regulation, some truck stops had dozens of poker machines. They were like mini casinos.

* Here’s an interesting piece of legislation

A plan to let Rosemont and three other Illinois cities apply their local cigarette taxes to cigars and other forms of tobacco won initial approval in the state Senate Wednesday.

The legislation from state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, would apply to Rosemont, Chicago, Evanston and Cicero, the four towns in Illinois that have local taxes.

The Rosemont tax, which is 5 cents per pack on top of state and federal cigarette taxes, will not be increased or decreased under Kotowski’s proposal. But it would be applied to other forms of tobacco based on weight.

Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno asked before voting against it: “If it’s good for these four communities, wouldn’t it be good for the rest of the state?”

* Other stuff…

* Ride-sharing crackdown advances in House: Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, said those steps contained in Zalewski’s legislation limited new upstart competitors to the taxicab industry too severely. “I voted against this bill because it unfairly locks out competing companies and limits choices for consumers,” Morrison said. Candice Taylor, a Lyft representative who testified before the committee, said the bill’s “burdensome” requirements would mean “the end of companies like Lyft and Uber in Illinois.”

* Bill at Statehouse would allow early release for older inmates

* Illinois gun ranges busy, trying to meet demand

* Illinois set to put major limits on charter schools.

* Unes Opposes bill to Assess ISBE Takeover of IHSA

- Posted by Rich Miller        


23 Comments
  1. - dupage dan - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    “I refuse to join any country club that would have me as a member”. Julius Marx


  2. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar” - Vice President Thomas Marshall


  3. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    “I’ll tell ya, country clubs and cemeteries are the biggest wasters of prime real estate.”

    Al Czervik


  4. - Upon Further Review - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:42 am:

    All hail Groucho Marx!

    As a golf enthusiast who plays quite poorly, I would note that many private golf courses fail on account of property taxes. In many instances, park districts and forest preserve districts end up owning the golf courses that fail, so a golf course that use to produce property tax revenues winds up costing taxpayer funds for the government to maintain and operate. Some examples include South Shore, Edgebrook, Robert Black (which is on the site of the former Edgewater C.C.) and Tam O’Shanter, all of which are in Cook County.


  5. - DuPage - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    One thing a lot of these golf courses is provide a flood plain where water runs during heavy rains. If they are forced out of business and developed, it will increase flooding problems (and costs) in nearby areas. I saw something like that in Elmhurst, where houses that had NEVER flooded in 100 years suddenly began flooding.
    Unintended consequences.


  6. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    I had never heard of this golf club scam.

    Yeah, golfers pony up $85K to join Medinah, then pay annual dues, for the open space.

    Geez, these guys can work it.


  7. - Dee Lay - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    “But getting back to low-cost housing, I think I might have solved this problem. I know just the place to build housing for the homeless: golf courses. It’s perfect. Plenty of good land in nice neighborhoods…”

    - George Carlin


  8. - dupage dan - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    === I would note that many private golf courses fail on account of property taxes ===

    It all comes down to perception. Few folks really pay attention to the facts. They just scream Koch brothers and 1%ers and ignore the truth. Same goes for the other side, of course.


  9. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    –As a golf enthusiast who plays quite poorly, I would note that many private golf courses fail on account of property taxes.–

    No, no, no. Miscalculation of supply and demand.

    Golf course construction boomed in the 80s and 90s in anticipation of more golfers as the Baby Boomers retired.

    Not happening. Millions of fewer golfers than just a few years ago. And the decline continues.

    Golf ain’t cheap.

    http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2013/jun/05/citylights1-golf-in-rough/


  10. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    - 47th Ward - for the Win…

    “State Representative Tom Cross, opposes any Bill hindering golf courses, especially Medinah Country Club…”

    ===The legislation from state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, would apply to Rosemont, Chicago, Evanston and Cicero, the four towns in Illinois that have local taxes.===

    Rosemont, Cicero, Chicago… I get that. Evanston? Evanston must be the “Phillip Green” of this Crew.


  11. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    Here is a bill that caught my attention, SB 2682, that mandates the teaching of labor history in all public schools, as part of American history.

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2682&GAID=12&GA=98&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=78337&SessionID=85


  12. - A. Nonymous - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    Re Illinois Petroleum Council - one incident in Illinois is hardly a good reason to avoid action.

    What about neighboring states?

    There was a big spill into Lake Michigan from a Wisconsin processor a couple years back. The lake circulates south straight to Lake County, IL and Chicago.

    BP confirmed this week that their Whiting, Indiana processing plant has also spilled in Lake Michigan.

    Again, that could impact Chicago directly.

    Regulate fossil fuels to the hilt and use any fines and fees to support Illinois’ clean energy industry - solar, wind, geothermal.

    We’ve got to ween ourselves off of Big Oil.


  13. - Darienite - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Wordslinger is generally correct. Actually the number of golfers remained flat in the 80s and 90s while the number of courses increased. As developments were required to provide open space, they thought a golf course could also generate revenue.

    Also remember members could write off dues and expenses on their income tax. The good ole days.


  14. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    Can our friends in Indiana and Michigan start taking a little more personal interest in their jobs to ensure that BP and Enbridge aren’t dumping oil into Lake Michigan — you know, the closed drinking water supply for 10 million people?

    That BP refinery is a dog. And four years later, they’re still cleaning up the Enbridge pipeline spill — if you can call a million gallons of crude into the KZoo River flowing into the lake a “spill” — at $810 million and counting.

    Or is that “bad” regulation?


  15. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:03 pm:

    == Before legalization and regulation, some truck stops had dozens of poker machines. They were like mini casinos.==

    So the same truck stops that were engaged in illegal gambling now get to double their legal machines, with no violation of the rule that licensees be of good character?


  16. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    Anon, pretty much every tavern in the state had those video terminals before legalization. C’mon.


  17. - a drop in - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    I think Edgewater CC failed due to a deal gone bad. I remember an alderman, Paul Wigoda, going to jail over it.


  18. - The KQ - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:01 pm:

    Medinah has 640 acres of land and they want to pay $84,000 and change for property tax? The KQ bought a 1400sf townhome in NW burbs (cook county) with 7,000sf of land and my first tax bill was $10,600. Talk about working it. This just makes me nuts!


  19. - DuPage - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    @Anon12:03=the same truck stops that were engaged in illegal gambling=
    If they were like the ones I saw, they were legal, they were “for amusement only” and didn’t pay out money if you “won” they just gave you more games for free.


  20. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:45 pm:

    If I were the GA I would also allow vets clubs and fraternal organizations to double up to 10 machines


  21. - dupage dan - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    A. Nonymous - NEVER!


  22. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    == would mean “the end of companies like Lyft and Uber in Illinois.” ==

    Come on. If Bogota, Riyadh, Bangkok and Moscow can figure it out, so can we.

    Any outcry coming against companies like Uber and Lyft is mainly coming from companies who don’t want competition or the lawmakers those companies donate to.


  23. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 27, 14 @ 2:15 pm:

    –Come on. If Bogota, Riyadh, Bangkok and Moscow can figure it out, so can we.–

    Nothing against Uber, but I don’t really want to roll like those cities in any way, shape or form. America, democracy, rule of law and all that.


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