Thursday, August 3, 2017

Open Meeting/Municipal Law Questions

Following Q & A are from the website of:

March 2017
What happens if the agenda for an upcoming board meeting was not posted online in advance of the meeting, but was posted at the local government's principal office?

Under the Open Meetings Act, a public body that has a website that is maintained by full-time staff must post all meeting notices and agendas on the public body's website. The website posting requirement is in addition to posting notices and agendas at the public body's principal office or the meeting place if different than the principal office.  However, if a public body fails to post a notice or the agenda of a meeting on its website, that failure will not invalidate any meeting or actions taken at that meeting so long as the public body had properly posted the notice or agenda at the principal office or the meeting place, as the case may be.

October 2016

Can we require residents to remove election signs from their yards 7 days after the election?

Can we require residents to remove election signs from their yards 7 days after the election?

No. State law restricts the ability of municipalities to impose time restrictions on the display of political signs on residential property

February 2016
Can a unit of local government reimburse an elected official or employee for entertainment expenses incurred while at a conference?

No. The Local Government Travel Expense Control Act prohibits local governments (except home rule units) from reimbursing any official or employee for any entertainment expense unless the entertainment is ancillary to the purpose of the program or event. "Entertainment" is defined to include shows, amusements, theaters, circuses, sporting events, or any other place of public or private amusement.

January 2016
Can we limit the total time for public comment at our city council meetings to 30 minutes, and each commenter to 3 minutes?

Yes, so long as the city council has adopted rules for public comment. In a number of advisory opinions, the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General's Office upheld similar time limitations on public comment. The PAC cautioned, however, that in order to restrict public comment in any way, the public body must have approved public comment rules.  Having a long-standing practice of limiting the time frame for public comment is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of approved rules, according to the PAC.  So, if your public body has routinely placed restrictions on public comment (time limits, sign-ins, e

December 2015
Can a city council or village board require an individual to register 5 days in advance of a meeting to speak during public comment?

No, according to a binding opinion of the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General's office (PAC).  See PAC Op. 14-012 (Sept. 30, 2014).  Although the PAC acknowledged that the Open Meetings Act allows a public body to adopt rules governing public comment, it found a five day advance registration rule unreasonable because it "does not take into account the fact that the public has a statutory right to address the Board."  The PAC determined that the advance sign-up requirement "imposed substantial obstacles for those who wish to speak at the Board's meetings," particularly because the OMA does not require a public body to post agendas until 48 hours before a meeting. 

tc), it should adopt rules for public comment to incorporate those practices.

November 2015
Can a public body begin its meetings with a religious prayer?

Yes, but with limits. The United States Supreme Court has decided many cases on this subject but its decisions do not give clear guidance. If a public body wishes to include a prayer as part of its meeting, here are a few guidelines to follow so as to avoid conflicts with the First Amendment.

  • Seek out clergy from a variety of denominations and faith traditions to lead the prayer.
  • Include a statement at the top of the printed agenda which says that says that the government body "does not endorse religious faith. The prayer is intended to lend solemnity to the public meeting and invite an attitude of respect and consideration."
  • Request the cleric to speak in nonsectarian terms, not referring to any specific denomination or creed, nor advocating particular beliefs, emphasizing the purpose of the prayer as stated on the agenda. If the cleric does not abide by this request, don't invite him/her back.
  • Do not provide compensation to the cleric from public funds
  • Conduct the prayer before the roll call which begins the official meeting. Typically the Pledge of Allegiance is recited before the roll call; this would be the best moment for the prayer.

By: Paul Keller

October 2015
Are school districts subject to local zoning?

Yes.  The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that made it clear that school districts are not exempt from local zoning regulations.  In that case, a school district had installed bleachers at the high school football field that did not comply with the city's height and setback regulations. The school district argued that it was exempt from local zoning. The court disagreed, finding that although schools are exempt from local building codes, they are not exempt from zoning regulations and must, like other property owners, follow zoning regulations and procedures.

August 2015
A board has determined that closed session meeting minutes do not need to remain confidential any longer and wants to approve their release to the public. Must the board also release the tape recordings for those closed session meetings to the public?

No, the board can approve the release of closed session minutes without releasing the closed session tape recordings to the public.  Section 2.06 of the Open Meetings Act requires a public body to record its closed session meetings in the form of an audio or video recording. The OMA states that these "verbatim recordings" are not open for public inspection, except in an action to enforce an alleged violation of the OMA.  These recordings can be approved for destruction not less than 18 months after the meeting, so long as the public body has approved the closed session meeting minutes. 

May 2015
Our city council meetings are held on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. Is the deadline for posting the notice on the Sunday before the meeting or must we post it by Friday at 6:00 p.m. since Saturday and Sunday are not business days? Also, if Monday is a holiday, does that mean we need to post the notice on the Thursday before the meeting?

The Open Meetings Act requires a public body to post an agenda and notice of a meeting at least 48 hours before the meeting.  So, if a public body meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., then the notice/agenda must be posted no later than 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday before the meeting, which is 48 hours prior to the meeting.  Because the Act references hours, and not "days" or "business days," you do not skip over the weekend or any holiday in calculating the time period.  A local public body could impose on itself a more restrictive deadline for posting agendas, but that is not statutorily required - the statutory deadline for posting the notice/agenda is 48 hours before the meeting.

April 2015
Can the majority of a quorum of a governmental body attend a conference without violating the Open Meetings Act?

Yes. So long as they do not meet as a group and discuss public business.

January 2015
What do I need to do to comply with the new law that requires us to post elected officials' email addresses on our website?

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly enacted P.A. 98-0930 amending the Local Records Act.  The new law requires all local governments and school districts to post on their websites a mechanism for members of the public to electronically communicate with elected officials.  To comply with the Act, a public body can post either a "uniform single email address" or the individual email addresses of the elected officials.  A "hyperlink" to the email address or addresses must be posted on the home page of the government body's website.  The law becomes effective January 1, 2015, but governments have 90 days to comply with the email posting requirement.

December 2014
Must a public body allow public comment at every meeting, including committee meetings?

Yes, according to the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office. In a number of recent opinions, the Public Access Counselor interpreted the Open Meetings Act to require every public body to provide an opportunity for public comment at every meeting open to the public. That includes all meetings of the corporate authorities (i.e., city councils, village boards, park boards, township boards, etc.), all committees of those councils and boards, plan commissions, zoning boards, electoral boards, and any other government board, commission, or body that falls within the definition of a “public body” under the Open Meetings Act. The public comment requirement applies to both regular and special meetings, according to the PAC.

June 2014
Are there prohibitions on elected and appointed officials and city employees accepting free items from vendors doing business with the city, such as tickets to ball games and events, fishing/hunting trips, use of condos during events/trips, etc.?

Yes, Article 10 of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/10 et seq., regulates the solicitation and acceptance of gifts by government officers and employees.  As a general rule, it is against the law for an elected or appointed official or a government employee to accept a gift from a "prohibited source," which would include a vendor that does business with the city.  The Act does contain a number of exceptions to the gift ban, including, for example, restaurant meals or refreshments that do not exceed $75 in value in a single day, political contributions, and gifts from one prohibited source during a calendar year that have a cumulative value of less than $100, among others.  An officer or employee can avoid violation of the Act by returning the prohibited gift to the prohibited source or giving the gift (or its equivalent) to charity.  Because violations of the Act can result in criminal penalties, officials and employees should consult with their municipal attorney if they have any questions about whether acceptance of a particular gift would violate the Act.  They should also review their local ethics code because some municipalities have enacted gift ban restrictions that are stricter than state law.

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program

The Hill logoThe Hill

The Hill

 By Max Greenwood

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program: report©

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program: report New York federal prosecutors subpoenaed Kushner Companies, the real estate development company owned by the family of President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, over its use of a visa program that offers green cards to wealthy foreign investors.

The subpoena was received by Kushner Companies in May, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, and regards the company's use of the EB-5 visa program to finance a development in Jersey City, N.J. called One Journal Square.

It isn't clear what potential violations the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office is looking into.

The EB-5 visa program offers green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. businesses that would create at least 10 permanent, full-time jobs for American workers.

The company launched a marketing campaign in Beijing and Shanghai in May seeking Chinese investors. That campaign promised green cards for as many as 300 people who invested the requisite $500,000 in One Journal Square.

Kushner Companies came under fire in May after Kushner's sister Nicole Meyer, a principal at the company, mentioned her brother's service in the Trump administration during a pitch to investors in Beijing.

The company later apologized for the remarks and said that Meyer's statement was not intended to use Kushner's work in the Trump administration to attract investors.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

America and the Foxconn Dream


America and the Foxconn Dream


Tim Culpan

July 27, 2017, 12:35 AM CDT

This package could buy an iPhone for everybody in the state.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Wisconsin is about to shell out as much as $3 billion for the privilege of luring Foxconn Technology Group. At $519 per citizen, it would have been cheaper to buy an iPhone for every man, woman and child in the midwestern state. 1

Let's be clear: The big winner isn't the taxpayer. It's Foxconn and its billionaire chairman Terry Gou. As I predicted several times, Foxconn would only come to the U.S. if and when his demands were met.

Meet them is exactly what Wisconsin did, with an offering of tax credits, training grants and infrastructure improvements. In return, Foxconn said it will invest $10 billion and create 3,000 jobs.

Let's take a look at those figures: Wisconsin is paying as much as $1 million per job, which will carry an average salary of $54,000. The state's economic development corporation is selling the project to taxpayers with a claim that it will create 10,000 construction jobs for building the facility and another 6,000 indirect positions. It's expecting $3.3 million of investment per employee from the Taiwanese company.

Politicians, lobbyists and Foxconn can make the figures work by being generous with the facts. For example, if every one of those jobs came to fruition, they can claim 29,000 positions for $3 billion, or $103,000 per job. But that's not going to happen.

Foxconn has factories in China and another dozen countries globally, yet that stated $10 billion investment is more than the group's publicly traded flagship -- Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. -- has devoted to capital expenditure over the past five years combined.

There is potential for the payroll to climb to 13,000 in the future -- a figure crucial to Wisconsin justifying the expense -- but I wouldn't bet your 401(k) on it. That's because if Gou really does dish out $10 billion on this facility, the only way to make it viable is by keeping staffing low and leaning on automation to boost productivity. This LCD factory will be either labor intensive or highly automated. It can't be both.

Foxconn's plans for U.S. manufacturing take cues from Tesla Inc.'s Fremont, California facility, a highly automated factory that Gou has visited more than once. There, Elon Musk is reported to have more than 160 specialist robots to supplement the labor force. Expect Foxconn to be even more automated, because it will be making displays -- a standardized product -- whereas Tesla custom-builds its vehicles with a lot more human intervention.

It's important to keep in mind that investment pledges dished up in press releases don't always equate to the final reality.

Three years ago, Gou signed a deal with the government of Jakarta, Indonesia's capital and its biggest city, to invest $1 billion and employ local workers to make electronics. That never happened. Neither did a $30 million high-tech factory in Pennyslvania that was announced a year earlier.

Just this past year, Foxconn is reported to have pledged investments of $5 billion in India; $3.65 billion in Kunshan, China; and $8.8 billion in Guangzhou. It's too early to know if those sums will ever be spent, but including Wisconsin, the tally now stands at $27.5 billion of commitments. That's more than Hon Hai has spent in the last 23 years.

Terry Gou didn't get where he is today by blithely spending money on huge factories. Instead, he's learned to entice leaders into thinking big, and then letting them pay.

Wisconsin shows that Foxconn isn't building the American Dream -- America is building the Foxconn machine.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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Boone County Food Pantry




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Sunday, July 23, 2017

What Trump can do to cripple ObamaCare


By Nathaniel Weixel - 07/23/17 08:16 PM EDT 217


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What Trump can do to cripple ObamaCare

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If Congress isn’t able to repeal ObamaCare, it’s likely that the Trump administration will follow through on the president's vow to let the law fail.
President Trump regularly asserts that ObamaCare is dead or dying, and the administration has already taken steps to undermine the law while congressional Republicans struggle to enact healthcare legislation.

The administration has broad authority over the implementation of ObamaCare, giving officials the power to limit the law's effectiveness even without congressional involvement.
Here are four ways Trump could cripple the law.
Stop the cost-sharing subsidies.
The biggest thing the Trump administration can do to hurt ObamaCare would be to stop making key subsidy payments to insurers, known as cost-sharing reductions (CSR).
Should the subsidies stop, the insurance markets would likely be thrown into chaos, which could bolster claims from Senate Republicans and the White House that ObamaCare is failing.
Trump has publicly waffled on whether he will continue the payments. At times he’s threatened to withhold them, let the ObamaCare markets collapse and then blame Democrats. At other times, he’s acknowledged the political risks and said the payments would continue.
“We pay hundreds of millions of dollars a month in subsidy that the courts don't even want us to pay,” Trump said during a lunch with Republican senators Wednesday. “And when those payments stop, it stops immediately. It doesn't take two years, three years, one year — it stops immediately.”
The White House made the payments for July, but has not made a commitment beyond this month. Insurers have called the payments critical, saying that without them, they would have to massively increase premiums for 2018 or exit the individual market.
Many insurers blamed uncertainty surrounding the payments for proposed double-digit rate increases for 2018. 
Stop enforcing the individual mandate.
ObamaCare requires everyone in the country to have health insurance, or pay a penalty. Trump can’t unilaterally abolish the mandate, but he can instruct the IRS to stop enforcing it.
Trump hinted at such a move on the first day he took office, issuing a vaguely worded executive order instructing federal agencies to waive or defer any part of ObamaCare that imposed a “fiscal burden” on states.
But despite the threats, the mandate is still the law and people are still supposed to pay a penalty for lacking coverage.
Insurers are worried that if the Trump administration eases up on the mandate or creates more exemptions to it, it would create a “death spiral” in the ObamaCare markets.
The mandate helps bring in healthy enrollees to balance out the sick ones, with the goal of preventing premiums from spiking. If the healthy people don’t buy insurance, only the sickest will, and premiums will skyrocket.
The mixed signals from the administration about the mandate are spooking insurers. They don’t know what to plan for, and that’s showing in their filings.  

“With open enrollment for 2018 only three months away, our members and all Americans need the certainty and security of knowing coverage will be available and affordable for them," the BlueCross BlueShield Association said in a statement.

Pennsylvania’s five insurers, for example, filed premium increase requests averaging nearly 9 percent. But that increase could be hiked up to 36 percent without the individual mandate and the cost-sharing reduction payments.

Stop advertising and outreach.

The Obama administration used each open enrollment period to heavily promote exchange signups. Administration officials would appear in ads online and on TV.
The Trump administration has taken the opposite approach.
Shortly after Trump took office, the Department of Health and Human Services said it withdrew about $5 million of advertising that was intended to encourage people to sign up for insurance through ObamaCare.
HHS has also shortened the annual open enrollment period from three months to six weeks, and the agency churns out anti-ObamaCare charts, studies and graphics on a regular basis.
HHS Secretary Tom Price has also been producing swaths of ads showcasing “victims” of ObamaCare to promote the law’s repeal.
According to an AP report, the administration recently cancelled contracts with two companies that helped facilitate ObamaCare signups in 18 cities.
Advocates worry that without outreach from the government, Americans who need insurance won’t know they can sign up. Lower signups generally mean higher prices, which has been one of the most consistent Republican critiques of the law.
There’s also no indication that the administration is doing anything to convince insurers to stay in any of the “bare” counties across the country without an ObamaCare plan to buy.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama played an active role in enticing insurers back into the markets, but the Trump administration has taken a more hands-off approach.
Use administrative flexibility.
HHS Secretary Tom Price has enormous flexibility within the law to redefine some of its parameters. The powers given to the HHS secretary were meant to help implement ObamaCare, but Price has indicated he’ll use them to dismantle the law.

"Fourteen hundred and forty-two times the ACA said 'the secretary shall' or 'the secretary may,' " Price said during his confirmation hearing in March.
Congressional Republicans have urged Price to use every regulatory lever possible.
“There are a lot of things that can be done with regulations, that people don’t see happening on a daily basis,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told The Hill recently.

For example, Price could change the rules requiring how much insurers would have to cover under the category of essential benefits. While the administration can’t repeal the requirement completely, they can change the definition.
Many congressional Republicans would like to either eliminate the essential health benefit requirement, or at the very least, let states and insurers opt out, so long as they also offer plans that comply with the rules.

If ObamaCare repeal fails in Congress, Republicans will be looking for Price to do the next best thing.

Tags John Barrasso

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Belvidere leaders hope business registration will control crime


Posted: Thu 6:47 PM, Jul 20, 2017  |

Updated: Thu 6:49 PM, Jul 20, 2017

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- The city of Belvidere is keeping a closer eye on local businesses after four massage parlors are shut down for illegal activity.

So much so he opened Vintage 815 last year.

However, he feels some city ordinances are halting the freedom of businesses like his.

"I think it's important for the police and the fire department and the city to know who owns a particular business just for emergency reasons,” says William Hajdys.

After September’s shut down of four Belvidere massage parlors, including the Executive Relaxation Spa, the city is now cracking down on all businesses in the area.

Requiring them to register annually and consent to being shut down for 30 days during a hearing if the city suspects any illegal activity.
"I just have too many questions that aren't answered," says Belvidere Alderman Wendy Frank.

She says she supports punishing businesses for illegal activity, but she thinks requiring business to register with the city may be ineffective.

"On one hand I’m for that, but I don't think this is the right way. I don't think that we have a lot of power in that piece of paper," says Frank.

Hadjys and Frank both say they believe criminals should be stopped, but this is not the way to go.

"It’s almost like he's penalizing people to just take care of 1 or 2 small businesses, and everyone's paying for it," says Hajdys.

Those in support of the ordinance say it will give the city a chance to know what every business is doing and keep better tabs on activities. The ordinance passed City Council 5-4 and should go into affect in 9 days.

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