The legislation imposes costly new burdens on cemeteries statewide, in response to a single incident at one cemetery in Chicago. It’s likely that private cemeteries will be subjected to millions of dollars in new fees and onerous regulations that could raise the cost of burials, making it more difficult for small cemeteries to maintain grave sites.
When the law takes effect March 1, cemetery owners, managers and customer service employees at private cemeteries will be required to be licensed throughout the state. The law also permits audits on cemeteries and imposes new requirements that extend from meeting certain grounds maintenance standards, to controlling traffic outside the cemetery during funeral processions. Failure to comply with these new requirements could result in a fine, criminal penalties and revocation of licensure.
Kudos to the faculty and staff of the Illinois Legislative Staff Intern Program (ILSIP), one of the premier legislative internship programs in the country, for providing opportunities for students to work in state government.
Each year, ILSIP provides 24 paid internships on different government staffs. Interns also earn eight graduate credits in political studies from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Applications are due in the ILSIP office by March 1. Selections are announced late in April.
For more information, students should call the UIS Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies at 217-206-6579 or visit the ILSIP Web site at http://ilsip.uis.edu .
A PLAN TO FIX PENSIONS?
A nonpartisan research institute is touting a plan that it says could fix Illinois’ pension problems.
The Illinois Policy Institute recently released a plan that it contends would allow the state to make required annual payments to the state’s retirement fund, and eventually pay off all pension debt by Fiscal Year 2024. The proposal relies on a state spending freeze that would begin immediately and continue for three years, at which point spending would be allowed to grow at the rate of inflation.
While Illinois’ overburdened—and underfunded—pension systems have been a source of concern for years, there are questions about the Illinois Policy Institute’s plan. The proposal relies heavily on borrowing with little emphasis on benefit reforms, such as reducing benefits for new employees. It also makes reversing Illinois’ pension problems the number one priority, at the possible expense of other areas of state government.
However, the proposal is expected to spark interest among some lawmakers, who note that the plan relies on a much-needed spending cap and would address Illinois’ massive deficit without imposing a tax increase.
A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR PENSION REFORMS
The last two years were devastating for financial institutions and personal investments throughout the world, and the Illinois pension systems are no exception. And it is unfortunate that corruption associated with the state’s five pension systems has only compounded the overwhelming financial issues.
The impeachment and subsequent conviction of Governor Rod Blagojevich in January 2009, as well as the federal government’s investigation of “pay to play” politics – better known as Operation Board Games – brought Illinois’ pension systems into the headlines.
As a member and former Republican spokesperson of the Senate Pensions and Investments Committee, and as former chairman of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, I have been working for many years to address Illinois’ pension debt and help restore integrity to the system.
Commonsense reforms to the state’s pension systems would ensure that the state’s investments are sound, taxpayer dollars are not being squandered, and state workers will receive the benefits they are due.