McHenry Co. Board wants repeal of township dissolution law

The McHenry County Board will ask state lawmakers to repeal a law that makes theirs the only county in Illinois where residents can vote to dissolve a township.

The resolution, scheduled for a vote Tuesday, calls on state lawmakers to repeal the 2019 law, which county officials said has too many problems and needs changes. No township government has been successfully dissolved since the law was enacted, which county officials say shows the law is not necessary.

"Our intention is not to make a statement opposing government consolidation or take away the power from voters to choose how they are represented and taxed," board Chairman Mike Buehler said.

The 2019 law was introduced by former state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, an ardent supporter of allowing voters to eliminate or consolidate units of government. It has also been the subject of lawsuits filed by the Nunda and McHenry township road districts, which argue the state constitution prohibits legislation from applying only to a single county.

"This law is poorly written legislation and offers almost no guidance for how our county government would handle the assets, responsibilities, contracts and employees of an eliminated township," said Buehler, a Republican from Crystal Lake.

Referendums to consolidate townships have been on the ballot in some McHenry County townships recently, but none passed. Voters in 2020 voted overwhelmingly against dissolving Nunda and McHenry townships, and voters in April voted against abolishing the McHenry Township Road District.

County board members met with the county's state lawmakers last month to discuss the issue and ask them to support changes.

"We just want to make sure our voice is heard with regard to lack of fairness as far as I see it in the law," said board member Jeff Thorsen, a Republican from Crystal Lake.

While the county ideally would like to see the law repealed, the resolution states it also would be acceptable if the legislation was applied to all of Illinois' 102 counties with significant improvements.

"The Board requests that future legislation be enacted statewide to ensure that all voters are given the same opportunities and all counties are able to collaborate to deliver the best services to their residents," according to the resolution.

State Rep. Steve Reick, a Woodstock Republican, told board members last month he is willing to sponsor any bill on the issue the county board wanted. Reick did not vote in favor of the 2019 law.

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, a Republican from, told board members last month he doesn't expect township issues to come up next year ahead of the June primaries, especially proposals that might be controversial. The General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up the spring session in early April, about six weeks earlier than usual.

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