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Measure to eliminate delays in Cook County property tax refunds passes General Assembly

cunningham 031518SPRINGFIELD – Legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly today would eliminate long-term delays Cook County property owners face in obtaining refunds for flawed tax assessments and overpayments.

Senate Bill 1979 aims to provide property owners with the money they are owed in a timelier manner by increasing the yearly limit on the amount of property tax overpayments that may be refunded to $5 million from $2.5 million.

Each year, the current threshold is reached very quickly, which causes a long-term backlog in refunds that property tax owners are entitled to.

HB 1979 is sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley, Democrats representing parts of Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs.

“Property owners should not be put on a years-long waiting list to receive money that is rightfully theirs,” Cunningham. “This legislation would alleviate that backlog by doubling the amount of money Cook County is authorized to award each year for overpaid property taxes.”

In 2017, 402 taxpayers did not receive a refund for their overpaid taxes, according to research Kensington Research & Recovery, a firm that assists taxpayers with obtaining refunds.

There is currently an estimated $94.1 million in unclaimed tax overpayments, according to the Cook County Treasurer’s office.

Cook County’s current system for issuing refunds for overpaid property taxes is simply unsustainable. Based on preliminary data, hundreds of taxpayers are set to go another year without receiving their refunds,” Hurley said. “Senate Bill 1979 will accelerate the process in which the nearly $100 million owed to property owners is recovered.”

Under SB 1979, if payment of a claim for a refund would cause the total amount of taxes and interest for all claims to exceed $5 million for the given year, the refund will be paid in the succeeding year.

SB 1979 awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

 

Cunningham and Hurley move to streamline tax dollars to Chicago Fire Department, give firefighters a say in spending

cunningham 031518SPRINGFIELD – Rank-and-file Chicago firefighters would have greater oversight and control of funding intended for their department under legislation passed by the Illinois Senate today.

Sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham and State Representative Fran Hurley, House Bill 5197 would establish a Foreign Fire Insurance Board, an entity that will be entrusted with the expenditure of fire insurance fees collected exclusively from insurance companies whose corporate headquarters are located outside of Illinois.

Currently, the City of Chicago receives about $5 million in fire insurance fees, which are directly deposited into the city’s general fund. HB 5197 would transfer control of those funds to a newly-established Foreign Fire Insurance Board and require the City of Chicago to turn over fire insurance revenue to the board.

“The legislation streamlines the flow of tax dollars and allows the Chicago fire fighters to determine how revenue intended for their own department is used,” said Cunningham, a Democrat representing parts of Chicago and the Southwest Suburbs. “The funding will now go directly to fire suppression instead of being spread throughout the city budget.”

Advocates of the legislation say it will improve Chicago Firefighter’s safety and effectiveness through enhancements in their equipment and training. The funds will be used to purchase of items such personal protective gear, tools, fire apparatus, enhanced training and for firehouse improvements.

“This newly-created board will draw on the knowledge, experience, and expertise of the rank-and-file to purchase items that allow them to safely operate in the many hazardous situations they routinely encounter,” said Robert Tebbens, Director of Political Action for Chicago Firefighters’ Union. “It will also give their families confidence that they will return home safely.”

Under current law, the Chicago Fire Department is the only fire department in the state that does not have a fire insurance board.

The fire insurance board would consist of the department’s fire commissioner and six elected trustees.

HB 5197 now heads to the House for approval.

Cunningham measure to give local school boards final say on charter schools passes Senate

cunningham 030118SPRINGFIELD – Local school boards would have the final authority to approve or decline new charter schools under legislation passed out of the Illinois Senate today by State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Democrat representing Chicago and parts of the Southwest Suburbs.

The legislation, House Bill 5175, eliminates charter schools’ ability to appeal a local school board’s decision to deny or not renew a charter school. Under current law, a charter school applicant may file an appeal with the State Charter School Commission, who can reverse the school board’s decision.

“Local school boards are deeply invested in the communities they serve and ultimately know what’s best for their schools,” Cunningham said. “The State Charter School Commission shouldn’t be able to reverse decisions by local leaders elected by voters in that community.”

The legislation leaves in place a provision allowing charters to be approved by referendum if at least 5 percent of the voters in a school district petition the school board.

HB 5175 now heads to the House for concurrence.

Senate approves Cunningham’s plan to strengthen state college investments, apply funds to students with disabilities

cunningham 052418SPRINGFIELD - Illinois families using the Illinois Treasurer’s College Savings Pool would receive heightened safeguards on their investments and would be given the option to use the funds if unexpectedly faced with disability-related expenses under legislation passed out of the Illinois Senate today.

House Bill 4751, introduced by State Senator Bill Cunningham, would resolve discrepancies between federal requirements and the College Savings Pool administered by the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office. The State Treasurer administers college savings programs like Bright Start and Bright Directions, which allow Illinois families to save while taking advantage of federal and state tax benefits, allowing contributions to grow on a tax-deferred basis.

Senator Bill Cunningham

 Cunningham2014

Assistant Majority Leader
President Pro Tempore
18th Legislative District

Years served: 2013 - Present

Committee assignments: Energy and Public Utilities; Executive Appointments; Higher Education; Insurance; Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Vice-Chairperson).

Biography: Born July 21, 1967. Full-time state legislator and lifelong resident of the 18th Senate District. Graduate of Mt. Carmel High School; B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Former Chief of Staff and Director of Communications for the Cook County Sheriff's Office. Previously served as a State Representative (2011-13) and as an elected member of the Sutherland Local School Council. Resides in Chicago's Beverly community with wife, Juliana, and two daughters, Madeline and Olivia.

Associated Representatives:
Kelly M. Burke
Frances Ann Hurley